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.
City: Hoffman Estates
Office sought: Hoffman Estates Park Board (4-year Terms)
Family: My wife Nazneen and I have been married for 15 years. We have 4 wonderful children ages 5 through 12. We are surrounded by a very large family in Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, Streamwood and South Barrington.
Occupation: I am an attorney, and my work is focused on criminal justice policy. I work on legislative issues, research and analysis of criminal justice programs, and on state and federal grants. I regularly work with all facets of public safety.
Education: University of Iowa - B.A. in Political Science, 1991; The American University - Washington College of Law - J.D., 1994; University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business - Certificate Programs in Negotiations and in Executive Leadership - 2010.
Civic involvement: I volunteer with Team Red White & Blue, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing civilians and returning veterans together to help veterans re-integrate into civilian life, and to help civilians better understand the issues and concerns of veterans. As a volunteer I participate in endurance events to raise money and awareness. I also serve on the Interfaith Committee of the Chicago Bar Association (this is just the most recent interfaith effort; I've been involved in several such efforts over the last 15-20 years). In past years I've served on the Hoffman Estates Plan Commission. I am active with my children's youth sports, and this year I am volunteering some time as an assistant coach for one of my children's soccer teams.
Elected offices held: Serving as a Park Commissioner on the Hoffman Estates Park District Board will be my first elected position.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
I applaud the men and women from the professional staff and the elected board who have worked hard to make our park district a very good one. As an active member that uses many aspects of the park district, I know there are also some things we can do better, and that there are additional experiences and expertise that are needed to make the board more effective. My number one issue is expanding the base of residents who use the our parks and recreation services. Studies/research in our community reveals that there are some folks who report being too busy to participate (of those who said they don't use the parks and recreation services/facilities, 40% gave this reason), but there are quite a few others who are using neighboring park district facilities or feel that what's being offered doesn't work for them (of those who said they don't use the parks and recreation services/facilities, 45% gave these reasons). These are areas that merit more focus. I don't think there is an easy answer, but that's hardly a reason to not make it an issue. I will contribute my ideas, my personal research (vis-a-vis being highly visible, very approachable and connected via social media and email), and the feedback I get from the community with my colleagues on the board and with our professional staff to continually work to improve the overall usage rates of the parks and recreation services offered by the Hoffman Estates Park District.
Key Issue 2
My second issue is as important as my first one, and that is maintaining thorough oversight of the park district's finances. A lack of proper oversight can be cited for many of the financial crises across the country and across the globe. A committed, knowledgeable and independent board can do much to ensure that we remain fiscally sound. My approach to good stewardship of park district finances includes striking the right balance between maintaining cost-effective programming and services on the one hand with ensuring that key facilities and resources are assessed on more than just their impact on revenue on the other hand. Part of the oversight function is also looking for efficiencies and revenue opportunities. As I mentioned earlier, a good number of residents are not bringing their recreation and health/fitness dollars to the park district. Our programs and facilities, generally speaking, do not appear to be operating at maximum capacity. If we can attract those residents who are looking to the next best alternative because something is, at least in their view, missing with our park district, then it makes sense for us to try to bring them to the park district where their participation will help the bottom line and further add to the social cohesion of our community.
Key Issue 3
Youth sports and an active lifestyle for all residents is very important to me. I see the value of an active lifestyle as it impacts kids and adults of all ages. My family is, by and large, an active one, and from our kids to their grandparents, we are active. A lot of that is thanks to park districts. With kids, however, I see limited opportunities for exercise in the cold weather months. This is not to say that the park district hasn't done some things to help get kids more active, but I think there is a need to do more. And with the shrinking physical education opportunities in some of our public schools, and with the growing number of kids being home-schooled, there is a vacuum that has to be addressed. I'm short on quick fixes, but I have some ideas on what we can do in the intermediate term to address these issues. I want to work on even more intergovernmental cooperation in our community. It's already happening, I know, and it's something we need more of in the future. There may be some collaboration that can happen between the local school districts, our park district, neighboring park districts, the forest preserves and the municipality to create more opportunities for physical activity. Personally, I love jogging and participate in lots of races. I'm pleased to see the park district working with Alexian Brothers and the Village of Hoffman Estates, along with a range of other private partners, for the July fitness fair featuring a variety of endurance races including a 1/2 marathon. That's great! But that shouldn't be limited to the middle of the summer. A spring and fall event would be great too, and it would help generate revenue for our H.E. Parks Foundation! And, with a partnership with the local schools, it could attract more young people, and with the right planning, it could bring out seniors and everyone in between as well!
What programs aren't paying for themselves? Would you keep, eliminate or change them? How and why?
Sound fiscal management is vitally important to the long-term success of our park district. At the same time, however, everything cannot be decided solely on what revenue impact it has. The park district is a public service and the quality of the parks and recreation in our community has an impact on our quality of life, and this, in turn, has an impact on our property values (among other things). I am very mindful of this. That said, I know that our outdoor pool - Seascape - may not pay for itself. It's a popular recreation destination in the summer. Our family enjoys going to Seascape throughout the summer and on most days that we visit, whether it's after work on the weekdays or all day long on the weekends, it's busy. So, how is it that such a busy facility doesn't pay for itself? The fees charged, which for a family of 6 (like mine) can be quite onerous, still doesn't cover the expense of the extensive safety personnel deployed during its operation. I believe this is an area where the value of making a key recreational facility accessible, and the necessity of using high, evidence-based, safety standards are the the right things to do even if it means the outdoor pool ends up being something of a "loss-leader".
Is there any additional open space the park district needs to acquire? Please describe.
Approximately 38% of the park district's properties consist of natural areas, and these areas require varying degrees of investment for maintenance. I support the park district's commitment to "reclaim, enhance and develop natural areas." Adding additional open space means adding more expenses to the park district's budget. I also recognize that there are certain sections of Hoffman Estates with multi-unit dwellings where there may be limited open spaces available for use/development by the park district. I am committed to connecting with owners and residents in these parts of our community to better understand the needs that are not being met. Maintaining adequate open space in a community is important. There will, of course, need to be a balancing between the need for open space and the economics of meeting the demands for housing and for retail shopping to those residential areas already developed. And again, not every case will turn exclusively on the cost.
Are there any unmet recreational needs? If yes, what are they and how would you propose paying for them? Or, should they wait until the economy improves?
There are sporting events that we need to look at such as archery (this is but one example, but one that I happen to be very interested in, and which I think is worthy of further consideration). Given the large open spaces we have with the forest preserves, and with a potential corporate sponsor like Cabela's right here in town, I think there is a great opportunity to bring a sport to our town which will attact lots of residents (kids and adults) and which will attract lots of residents from surrounding areas as well. There are grants to fund such programs and there are organizations that have promulgated standards and best practices on how best to implement archery programs. Archery is a sport that can be taken up by individuals with disabilities that preclude them from participating in more traditional sports like soccer and basketball (and it's a sport that people can participate in together regardless of certain disabilities). It's a sport that teaches focus and can be valuable in ways that go beyond the activity itself. Archery is one idea. There may be others that we can initiate in a strategic way while leveraging the resources that currently exist (fields, courts, etc) to minimize the developmental expenses. I believe that a well-thoughtout plan in each instance is critical. If the park district has unspent funds in reserve that go above and beyond amounts that are considered prudent for a fiscally responsible municipal unit of government, and the new recreational activity can reasonably be forecasted to become at least revenue-neutral within an acceptable time frame, then I would say it's financially viable (but subject to other considerations of course). Identifying unmet recreational needs is an ongoing process that will help us bring more people into the park district. I do not support rash financial expenditures, but when money is thoughtfully invested along side corporate sponsorships, and when possible, with intergovernmental cooperation that further reduces costs of the planned for program(s), I may be able to give such an investment my support.
Would you support sharing/pooling resources (i.e. printing, vehicles) with other local governments (school districts, village, etc.)? If so, what areas would you consider combining or merging to save money or improve efficiency?
Intergovernmental cooperation is an important, if under-deployed, strategy in Illinois. Our state constitution allows for it, as does a state statute. I support resource sharing as described in this question, but I'm not sure that "merging" is the right term. Resource sharing can be undertaken without merging local governmental bodies. It's a contractual arrangement entered into by partners (in this case municipalities and other levels of government). Maintaining independently viable units of local government is important, and my commitment to intergovernmental cooperation ends where the creation of bigger forms of bureaucracy begins.
If you are a newcomer, what prompted you to run for the park board? If you're an incumbent, list your accomplishments or key initiatives in which you played a leadership role.
I wanted to do something to give back to the community. I wanted it to be something I could feel good about too. It needed to be something where I could make a real difference, and it needed to be something within my wheelhouse of skills. My wife and I talked about it and the park district was the obvious choice. We're already heavily involved in the park district (youth sports, the parks, fitness facilities, indoor and outdoor swimming, the pre-school, summer camps, skating and on and on). Taking a leadership role in the park district was a natural extension of where I was spending a lion's share of my time anyhow, and this would be something I could give 110% to while remaining completely involved with my family. I recognized that this would be something that could use my unique insights (I see things from the point of view of an adult fitness user, a parent with kids involved in many activities, etc) and which could benefit from my unique qualities as an energetic, social-media and technology savvy individual who is connected and committed to maximizing social media and technology to reach more people. And lastly, I felt that my legal experience in legislation, public policy, government budgeting and open government laws (Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act) would be a valuable addition to the Hoffman Estates Park District Board.