Vanessa Bell-LaSota: Candidate Profile
St. Charles Park Board (4-year Terms)
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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.
City: St. Charles
Office sought: St. Charles Park Board (4-year Terms)
Family: Married to Leon, one daughter, Leigh 22 years.
Occupation: Public Relations Consultant; Independent Image Consultant-Mary Kay, Inc.; Fine Artist & Art Teacher, Writer
Education: Bachelors of Science, Art Education; Graphic Design, American Academy of Art
Civic involvement: Co-Founder/President, Concerned Coalition for Sensible Spending of St. Charles, Inc; Vice President, Near West Neighborhood Association; Co-founder & Coordinator, Near West Area Neighborhood Watch; St. Charles Arts Council volunteer; 2012, 2013 Pride of the Fox Steering Committee; RiverFest Dragon Boat Races volunteer 6 yrs; Downtown St. Charles Partnership St. Charles Fine Art Show Steering Committee & volunteer 5 yrs; Downtown St. Charles Partnership -St Patrick's Day Parade, Electric Light Parade volunteer; RiverWalk fundraiser artist/volunteer; St. Charles Sesquicentennial Celebration Magazine designer; Citizens Police Academy graduate 2012; resident member, Chamber of Commerce
Elected offices held: None yet!
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Sensible, informed use of our City's fiscal and physical resources for smart, well-informed support and management of Park District programs and development of new resources within our Community.
Key Issue 2
Increasing community awareness of local historic resources and creative new ways to explore families connecting more with the rich texture of our past. For example, having learned so much in-depth information about St. Charles' connections to the horse racing industry through my volunteer landmarking activities for a farm on Red Gate Road, I have found most residents I have spoken to are unaware of those lively, living, present connections and what they might learn and enjoy themselves, if they had access to the info and to experiencing the property. I have spoken to the owner about a "St. Charles Day" on her farm... of stunning world-class Saddlebred horses, 11 original structures built by Colonel Baker ... one renovated by a world-renowned architect with incredible results using historically-sound materials ... and that may be a future possibility.
Key Issue 3
Preserving opportunities for adding bike paths,expanding connections between bike routes and providing for those options in future development. Making sure St. Charles City government is mindful of the "whole picture" as decisions are made regarding public use on new or infill development in our neighborhoods, such as bike routes, parks and walking/running/exercising trail sand the quality and maintenance of features.
What programs aren't paying for themselves? Would you keep, eliminate or change them? How and why?
As a new commissioner, I will use due diligence and take personal responsibility for learning the background on any issues. At this time I have no comment. I have been following, attending our Comprehensive Plan Task Force meetings over the past 16 months, listening as they incorporate, provide for, protect ( by suggestion) community assets into the 20-year Plan, and I continue to attend Plan Commission meetings as they address their recommendations for the document.
Is there any additional open space the park district needs to acquire? Please describe.
As I said in my remarks above, we need to be mindful of new opportunities. For example, our two largest land parcels, the Charlestowne Mall, at the East Gateway to St. Charles will be ultimately redeveloped, and as the property owners of the former St. Charles mall property at the Western Gateway bring their new proposal to the City, we have opportunities to suggest, incorporate features for community use, connection, synergy. This could include open space, trails, paths, parks, community art, outdoor structure like open theaters, pavilions meeting places, etc., dynamic "destination" outdoor/indoor art and water features which would beautify the developments and create reasons for residents and visitors to frequent them. Bringing new energy to forgotten, languishing land parcels. Of course, we do not own them, but we can watch carefully and work proactively as they are developed, with an ear to what the community might want.
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?
Our Park District has fabulous programs and staff. The website is user-friendly, and my encounters with staff have been excellent. All I have are positives. Recently I attended the Grand Opening of Riverside Park-and , wow! That collaborative effort between Park District, Forest Preserve District, County, City, local and state government officials and the residents within surrounding community with the help of resident Chuck Ingersoll, was a model effort. The results are spectacular.
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?
That has been done successfully in the Chicagoland area, and I am interested in knowing more about all the parameters, before I would give an opinion. It sounds smart-and communities can flow from one to the other, all supporting one another-in recreation and in economy.
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.
My love for St. Charles- the community, its rich resources, which includes land features, both recreational, educational and historic. My recent activities as historic consultant and co-nominator for the landmarking application of Seven Oaks Farm in St. Charles has been a rewarding experience. The Kane County Office of Community Reinvestment has worked with me and the land owner throughout the process-and in the course of my work with them I have researched and studied the backstory of many facets of our community. I am a teacher/artist by degree,a writer/researcher by experience and family influences, a community activist and volunteer because of my home, St. Charles. I found that I have a strong interest, a loyalty, to our land assets and community programs. I wish to have more of a role in enabling good growth in these programs with sincere respect for our land and a goal to give our residents the best programs and facilities for their enjoyment, family and personal enrichment.
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