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updated: 2/22/2013 6:25 PM

Patrick Smith: Candidate Profile

Cary Park Board (6-year Terms) (Independent)

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A



City: Cary

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Cary Park Board (6-year Terms)

Age: 42

Family: Yes

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Illinois State University, 1992; Juris Doctorate, Southern Illinois University School of Law, 1996.

Civic involvement: Illinois Regional Water Supply Planning Group Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

The cost of operating the Park District and its impact on Cary taxpayers. In my opinion, the approach of the current Board of Park Commissioners is informed by their experiences during Cary's boom years, where explosive growth meant a regular supply of new taxpayers and impact fees which, in turn, allowed the Park District to embark on an aggressive land acquisition program, fueled by increasing tax levies and a willingness to over-borrow. Unfortunately, those days are long gone and not likely to return anytime soon. The ramifications, though, remain in big taxes. Not a single Cary resident I've spoken to realizes that the Park District's share of their property taxes is nearly TWICE as high as the Village of Cary's share. With the Village providing necessary living services the residents use every day and the Park District providing ancillary services, this distinction is important and ought to be addressed. It is for this reason I categorically oppose the Park District acquiring Chalet Hills Golf Course unless the voters direct the district to buy it in a public referendum. As a single Park Commissioner I may not be able to reduce the levy alone, but I certainly can and will try; and meanwhile, I will advocate for providing the maximum benefit of every dollar we extract in taxes.

Key Issue 2

Because of past expansion efforts, the Park District owns substantial assets - land and otherwise. To my way of thinking, it is not enough to simply own a lot of land. To meet the District's mission, we must make that land usable and accessible. Therefore, before we spend another dime on new parks or new land, I believe we should improve that which we already own, especially when doing so would cost relatively little. The Park District has been planning, for years, to install wide bicycle/pedestrian paths that would allow citizens to access all of that park land they've paid for with their taxes. And yet we're no further toward that goal. A serious effort should be made to work with the Village to formulate accessibility plans. You shouldn't have to load your kids in the van to drive them 10 minutes to the park so they can play outside.

Key Issue 3

I would like to see more attention focused on recreation offerings for our senior citizens. Today we are aging in place and remaining physically active longer. While Canasta Club will always remain of interest to some of our seniors, we need to also offer more physical recreation opportunities and lifelong learning classes. There are a number of nationally recognized senior centers in Northern Illinois. As close as Des Plaines, we can find a center which follows an active senior model, and while we probably will never have the need and means to do what they do, still we can learn from them how to bring our service offerings to a contemporary level appropriate to our senior census and needs.

Questions & Answers

What programs aren't paying for themselves? Would you keep, eliminate or change them? How and why?

This is a tricky question; Park Districts, like all units of government, are not for-profit service enterprises. The District and its programs should never 'pay for itself' the way a private business does. Rather, it should, at a cost, provide necessary and desired services and opportunities to enrich life. Had the question been phrased this way: "What programs are not providing benefits worthy of their cost? Would you keep, eliminate or change them?", I would say: I suspect there are a number of programs in which participation or interest is so low that it does not make sense to allocate limited resources to maintain them. The Park District Board makes no effort to discuss this level of detail directly in open meetings. Vague references indicate that participation is low in certain planned trips and sports league offerings. I would advocate for eliminating programs with high per-participant cost or very low participation.

Is there any additional open space the park district needs to acquire? Please describe.

There is no additional land I believe the Park District should acquire at this time. Once we have made use of the assets we have, then we can begin to examine potential new acquisitions - if the cost of doing so is low enough and our constituents agree on the premise.

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?

Major capital projects should not be undertaken until sometime after our economy improves. Minor capital projects that I support, including access and interconnectivity improvements for our existing parks can and should be budgeted as ordinary improvements. Grading and blacktop are not expensive relative to other planned improvements to our parks, and therefore some of this cost can be met by deferring improvements to less critical areas. And since the interconnectivity issue requires that we work with the Village of Cary and the McHenry County Conservation District, certain components would be paid by those units of government. Because of the way the Park District and its current Commissioners operate, it is difficult or impossible for any outside citizen to ascertain if the District is over-employing. Therefore I would advocate for a hiring freeze (even with regard to attrition vacancies) and a staffing level resource review to determine if adjustments can be made to reduce operational overhead.

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?

I absolutely believe that collaboration is advisable and necessary. From the mundane - like bulk purchase of office products by several units of government to realize an economy of scale - to more complex - such as seasonal demand vehicle sharing - I think there are a number of ways savings could be achieved. I have been asked by a constituent if I would be in favor of the Cary and Fox River Grove park services combining, and while I don't know that the citizenry of both Villages would desire this, as a Park Commissioner I would be open to considering even that if it resulted in better services for lower cost.

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 have been a heavy user of Park District Services for years, and frequently thought that the District could provide better for the amount of taxes I was contributing. When the board's negotiations to buy the Chalet Hills Golf Course became public, I was put off that we were focusing on expansion while failing, in my mind, to make the most of what we already had. And as I followed those negotiations and became an advisor to tax payers who opposed it, I developed the opinion that the current Park Commissioners were not operating enough in the sunlight and that they were less responsive to the will of the electorate than they should be. Some of this I attribute to entrenchment, and some of this is habit. The average tenure of my opponents on the Cary Park District Board is something like 20 years. So much has changed in Cary in the last few years that the experience our commissioners claim from the 90's can hardly be considered an asset. I believe that, as well meaning as our Commissioners are (and this I believe to be the case), it is simply time for fresh perspectives and new ideas and that those ideas need to grounded in the reality of our current economic situation. I believe our Park District can become better without becoming bigger, and I would like to be a part of moving it in that direction.