Zachary Wilson: Candidate Profile
Lombard Village Board District 3 (4-year Term)
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Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: Lombard Village Board District 3 (4-year Term)
Family: Married 25+ years to wife Mary. Daughters Haley 19 and Morgan 17; Son Cooper 11
Occupation: Attorney in Private Practice
Teacher/Coach -- Glenbard South High School Mock Trial Team
Education:Loyola Law School - JD;
Loyola University Chicago - BA Cum Laude, Communications
Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Police Staff and Command - Graduate
Illinois State Police Academy - Graduate
Civic involvement:York Township Committeeman / Mason / Former Member Lombard's Community Relations Committee / Baseball Coach Lombard Park District
Elected offices held: Lombard Village board District 3.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain:
Key Issue 1
District 3 in Lombard is completely south of Roosevelt Road. It is unique from the other districts in the sense that it has a much higher concentration of commercial and retail property with the residential areas mixed in. Of late, the issue that is getting the most attention in this district is any potential development of Ken Loch Golf Course. Since that it was is currently most important to the residents in District 3, that is what is most important to me. Since the Daily Herald has a specific question regarding this issue, I will answer it in greater detail in that area of this questionnaire. Aside from the Ken Loch issue, the most important issue is the financial stability of the Village and being able to meet our short and long term obligations. Many of the families in District 3 are coping with very high property tax bills due to being a more newly built area of the Village. The difficult economy and high property taxes have teamed up to exacerbate real hardships among many of the residents in this area of our community. I have worked very hard with my colleagues to ease that burden at the Village level as best we can. Two of my colleagues and I have been working extremely hard to review our budget on a line item basis. We found a half million dollars in savings and eliminated our village vehicle sticker. Those reduced taxpayer burden by one million dollars. There's more to do, but this is a good start in eliminating a cost and saving a huge nuisance for our residents. My platform has been and will always be to run government more efficiently.
Key Issue 2
There are a handful of neighborhoods in District 3 that are still experiencing flood issues during significant storm events. We have to continue to work on flood relief consistently. As we construct and repair streets or develop the area, it's vital that we separate storm water and sewer systems which create greater ability to handle more storm water and ground water. Because of the strong commercial presence in our area; Yorktown Mall, many restaurants and commercial spaces, our area is a major contributor to the sales tax and property tax in our village. Those properties also tend to bring with them heavier traffic flow. I'm always on the lookout for upgrades to be made to our infrastructure through our Capital Improvement Plan. Some projects have been completed under budget based on lower costs. As we move up projects to take advantage of the lower costs, I'm working to make sure the key areas in our district that need upgrades can get them as soon as possible. We share a lot of areas with state and county roads as well as with unincorporated neighbors in District 3. It is important to continue ongoing communications with the State, County, and Townships. We all must examine ways to coordinate our projects and create some synergy with public improvements and relief for the residents here.
Key Issue 3
We have some short and long term financial obligations to get straightened out. The Westin Hotel and Conference Center in District 3 is a source of concern for developing a financial solution to make sure it doesn't deplete its reserves and begin to rely on village operating funds for sustenance. There needs to be a refinancing of debt to make this occur and the bondholders need to realize that the residents of this village are not their safety net. Development is a prospective business and when bond houses decide their interested in the longer term profit opportunities; they need to assume the associated risks. I'm proud of my colleagues for voting with me in demanding the bond houses first use their reserves to meet the financial obligations of their bonds rather that allowing the village to go down the path of having to provide a million dollars per year to prop up an agreement that the bond holders considered workable. I will maintain that view as we go forward and look for alternative solutions that further protect the residents. Another long term obligation we have to get our arms around is our long term pension liabilities. Our employees are entitled to the benefits they have negotiated for in past years. However, our pension liability is growing much faster than our ability to keep up. We need to look at every option available to keep them from turning into the fiasco going on in the State of Illinois. We've started to make some progress in this area, but we need to study more and look at progressive ways to catch up on the contributions and keep the growth of these liabilities from growing faster than our village can manage to fund them.
Should the Ken-Loch golf links remain open space or be developed? Why?
Of course I would like to see green space remain open and usable, and a public asset if that is at all possible. For me, this is a complex issue with multiple levels. I also think it is important to consider every alternative. The Plan Commission submitted to the Village Board of Trustee a plan that allowed for up to 25% development. I agree with the dissenters who voted against the 25%. If Ken Loch is to remain open space, the Park District or the Forest Preserve would need to be involved. After all, their purview is recreation and open space. We should never forget that Ken Loch is privately owned. It is outside the corporate limits of the Village of Lombard and is unincorporated DuPage County. The owners of the land should get fair market value for their property. Most of the neighbors I've spoken to would prefer not to have it developed, but I understand the owner's property rights are important too. While the quality of life of our residents and the desires of the surrounding neighborhood and village as a whole are vital here, the private owners of this property need to be dealt with fairly. I agree with the ken Lock owners that encumbering the land with idealistic zoning is effectively confiscating their land. The community has been very much involved in this process and discussion and we are fortunate for that. Moving forward we should continue to keep this dialogue as open and transparent as it has been. Traffic is an issue in that the neighborhood east of Ken Loch cannot handle any additional or "cut-through" traffic and any additional traffic on Finley Road must be dealt with appropriately. While flooding is also an issue in the adjacent heretofore mentioned neighborhood, it is also a problem at Cove Landing. It's probable that some infrastructure that could help abate flooding in both those communities under any development circumstance.
Village government in Lombard has been sharply divided and the board has been deadlocked on several key issues since Bill Mueller's death. How will you help unify the board so it can better address Lombard's needs?
When President Mueller passed away, Illinois State Law required the six members of the board to choose one from among them to serve as President. Since the vacancy was now permanent with the passing of the President, there was no longer a President Pro-Tem, a position established to deal only with temporary absences. Our charge was to choose the most qualified among us to fill the remainder of the term. While that process might be subjective, we had an obligation to make the choice. It might have been easier to simply choose someone based on tenure, but in many of our views, we owed the village a choice based on ability. This may have caused more 3-3 ties than before, but generally we were able to work together and move things forward. I was offended when Trustees Giagnorio, Ware and Gron left a meeting in progress when we were discussing succession. That action violated the very ordinances they swore to uphold. It embarrassed all of us and it was a dereliction of duty to the residents they serve. Even worse, it was premeditated and not just a spontaneous lapse in judgment. Since that time, it appears these same three Trustees have been reluctant to make any decisions, consistently citing the upcoming election since November of 2012, and how a new board would be more suited to deal with these issues. This has been frustrating to say the least and does not serve the residents well. We are there to make decisions. Where we can, we look at ways to break ties in the best interest of the village. I have maintained communication with my colleagues the entire time. I have made, and will continue to make, every effort to find consensus, but not at the risk of moving forward bad policy.
Given the delicate balance between the need for revenue and over-taxing local businesses, what is your opinion of your community's present level of local sales taxes? Is the tax just right, too low or too high? Explain.
I think most people would tell you all of our property taxes are too high. In the case of sales tax, the best measurement is probably how ours compares to the other municipalities around us. In that area, we have lower sales tax than most places, especially towns that have a mall. Our sales taxes are the key to our operating budget. Since we're still in the mode of looking for savings, it's doubtful we could look at any reduction in sales tax in the foreseeable future. Anyone who knows my history on this board would tell you no tax or fee is safe unless we absolutely need it. We eliminated our village sticker after reviewing our budget line by line. When we found the savings, it was important to me that we give the people back their hard earned money. We did. Since sales tax comes from sources outside of our community as well, people are more sensitive about user fees and local taxes that affect them more directly. On a comparative basis, our sales tax level is probably at the appropriate level. Hopefully we can consider lowering it in the future.
Talking with your friends and neighbors, what seems to be their biggest public safety concern? Explain the concern as you see it, and discuss how you think it should be addressed.
I'm the Chairman of the Traffic and Safety Committee. Our biggest safety concern of late has been the crosswalks in town and how motorists and pedestrians, and bicyclists alike perceive the rules at these crossings. The crossing at the Prairie Path on Main Street is the most discussed area, along with Wilson at the ballpark and the newer crosswalk on St. Charles Road downtown also a concern. Our committee has been working with the police chief on a public education campaign to make everyone aware of how these crossings are to be observed. We will be more public with this effort in the next couple of months as we move toward the hiking and biking season when the path is heavily used. People have suggested that we are dealing with more petty crime and property damage than we have in the past. On the whole I believe our Police force does an excellent job of patrolling without being so obtrusive as to be uncomfortable. My background is in law enforcement and I understand the delicate balance. I have not had anyone tell me that they feel for their personal safety. Our committee structure gives us ample opportunity to deal with any of these issues promptly. I take safety very seriously. If there's an issue, I would encourage people to call the village or call me and we will put that issue on the very next agenda.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
I have two good ideas to better the community.
The first, a Homeowner Association Co-op: This Co-op would not be an arm of the Village or Village-run but a Homeowner Association Co-op could adopt the rules of the Village as its own and consolidate with other associations to pay less in dues, insurance, maintenance, etc. The Village may assume the role for oversight and/or as the final arbiter in any dispute. The numerous Associations could have one representative and maybe have a representative on the Community Relations Committee. Many of the existing HOAs in District 3 complain about the high costs of membership and see little return for their investment. Most of the associations exist simply to maintain detention or retention ponds. Many have questioned me about the possibility of disbanding and turning over control of the ponds to the Village. One homeowner association went out of business and left an adjacent association with an eyesore of a pond behind their homes with little or no ability to rectify the problems. That association has had many communications and meetings with the Village for insight and guidance on how to solve their specific situation. I don't know yet exactly how it all would work but I would like to get the discussion started.
The second good idea is dashboard cameras for police cars. These cameras will:
• Protect police officers from allegations of abuse by defendants;
• Gather recorded evidence for prosecution at trial or to influence guilty parties take a plea agreement and save the Village prosecution expenses;
• Maintain or increase, and ensure professionalism by police officers; and,
• Protect the public from rogue officers.
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