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Article updated: 3/8/2013 5:40 AM

Several Fox Lake candidates struggle with diversity question

By Lee Filas

Fox Lake trustee candidates collectively stammered when asked how to better meet the needs of the village's diverse population, answering in ways that are not likely to engender support among segments of the community.

Five of six people seeking three village board trustee seats in the April 9 election were asked a routine diversity question during a Feb. 27 candidate endorsement interview with the Daily Herald's editorial board.

Fox Lake's demographics have changed in the last decade. In 2010, the village had a population of 10,579, with more than 12 percent claiming to be black, Hispanic or other, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Bernice Konwent, a 72-year-old retired planner, said it was a hard question to answer, before adding she was not aware of any discrimination in Fox Lake. She followed up by saying she didn't know many "Spanish" people, but she knew a few "coloreds."

"You have to be careful when dealing with different races," she added.

Incumbent Jon Mumford, a 45-year-old firefighter, said the problem with a changing demographic is it leads to more rental properties, adding people of other cultures often live "two-to-three families at a time" in a single rental unit.

"Unfortunately, with rental properties, it leads to a higher police response," he said. "The police department has a crime free program in place that targets landlords to control those problems."

Jeff Jensen, a 45-year-old contractor, admitted he didn't have many ideas except to go "door-to-door with a social worker" to determine if culturally diverse residents needed assistance.

In addition, Jensen said offering an English language class at the library would be a good idea, but that he was "willing to hear good ideas" about the topic.

Incumbent Kevin Burt, a 50-year-old golf course owner, said he was interested in getting "all voters involved," not just nonwhites.

"I think it's more important to get all voters involved in the community," he said. "If people want to be involved, then they get involved."

Ron Stochl, a 52-year-old distribution manager, agreed somewhat, but added it was more important to target Americans, not just voters.

"We need to get more Americans involved in the process," he said. "When you get people together, there is nothing they can't accomplish."

Incumbent Val Griseta, a 43-year-old executive sales administrator, said via email the village needs a more diverse retail base.

"Also, by providing more activities through the village parks and rec department that meet the needs and interests of these diverse groups, we will begin to see increased interest to get people out and active in the community," she added.

Jensen, Stochl and Konwent are from the Common Sense Party, while Mumford, Burt and Griseta are members of the Focused on Fox Lake party.

A seventh candidate, newcomer Robert Hoffman, did not respond to requests to be a part of the endorsement process.

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