Streamwood park candidates debate value of conferences
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Upper from left, Adriana Armstrong and Rick Brogan, and lower from left, Marion Janiec and Thomas Keating.
The four candidates vying for three positions on the Streamwood Park District board have different takes on the value of spending taxpayer money to send board members and staff to the annual Illinois Association of Park District conference.
Marion Janiec — wife of current park Commissioner Richard Janiec — is challenging the incumbent slate of Adriana Armstrong, Rick Brogan and Thomas Keating for a chance to serve alongside her husband on the five-member board.
But though Marion Janiec has accompanied her husband on some prior trips to the conference, she said too many board members and staff attend without any expectation they share what they've learned afterward.
She argued that this annual event, with staff attending at the park district's expense, is a waste of taxpayer dollars for what essentially proves to be a social occasion.
While she says the conference isn't completely without value, Janiec suggests the Streamwood Park District would benefit just as much, and more cost-effectively, by sending no more than two board members and two staff members who then could report back to their colleagues on all they've learned.
Brogan strongly disagreed with Janiec's assessment of the conferences, pointing out that her husband regularly attended them until last year.
From the conferences, board commissioners learned how to apply for grants that have benefited the residents of Streamwood and staff members have updated their knowledge on a variety of subjects, such as turf management, he said.
"How do you think people find out the best practices if they don't go to things like this?" Brogan asked.
Armstrong said she could personally attest to the value of the conferences as someone who — like most members of park district boards — began her term as a nonprofessional in the recreation industry.
She concedes, though, that the board and staff could do a better job sharing what they learn with each other.
But Armstrong defended the value of having as many as 18 staff members attend in prior years, as it keeps each on the cutting edge of his or her own area of expertise.
"Any company that wants to move forward is going to invest in education," Armstrong said.
Keating agreed with Armstrong, saying the conferences are of immense value to both commissioners and staff, but that their newfound knowledge should be shared more than in the past.
"I'm kind of old-fashioned. I like tangible, hard-copy stuff," Keating said. "Should there be a session to debrief? Certainly, I'll give (Marion Janiec) that. But this isn't wasteful."
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