Brian Matza: 2021 candidate for Park Ridge Park Commissioner

Five candidates for four 4-year terms


Hometown: Park Ridge

Age: 40

Occupation: Vice president of a recycling business

Employer: Fortune Metal (Midwest), LLC

Civic involvement: Veteran of the Illinois Army National Guard, Park Ridge Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Volunteer, Veterans of Foreign Wars (Life Member)


Q. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?

A. I am passionate about fiscal responsibility, sustainability and local politics. I believe a strong Park District has the capability of generating revenue to help relieve the burden that falls on the taxpayers of the community. The Park District has an obligation to the community to offer the best services and programs while controlling expenses and large capital projects. I have spent the last 18 years running a successful recycling business and my knowledge in areas of managing budgets and the environment would be an asset for the Park District. One project in particular is the Oakton Park renovation. I would like to see it prioritized again, finalized and brought up for public referendum.

Q. Did your park district continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.

A. The Park District has followed Cook County health recommendations within Region 10. Programs and indoor usage have fluctuated during the pandemic to offer as many services as possible within those guidelines. Affiliates put together sports programs as best as they could so there were always a variety of things to do such as Basketball, Soccer, Baseball and other team sports with mitigation safety rules in place. This gave the community a resource for families and individuals to utilize some of the Park District's amenities while prioritizing safety.

Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?

A. I believe the new cleaning regiments should be a permanent policy within all indoor spaces. Until herd immunity is reached within the community, face masks and social distancing protocol should remain for all employees who come in contact with patrons of the Park District. Transmission rates of COVID-19 and other annual illnesses like flu have dropped drastically because of these precautions. There is a positive health benefit for the community and staff to continue these safety procedures.

Q. How has the pandemic affected the park district's offerings and use of facilities? Are there other ways the park board can fulfill the mission of a park district during these times?

A. Indoor programs and pools have been hit the hardest during the pandemic. Offering programs outdoors and limiting participants helps to mitigate the risk of the pandemic and should continue to be the way the Park District operates. During the holidays, drive-through events were very successful for the community as well. Some events have even turned to virtual platforms such as art classes. The Park District staff has done a great job remaining flexible with programs they can offer the community.

Q. How has the pandemic affected the park district's revenue? How has that been addressed on the expense side?

A. The Park District revenue from programs was down over 50% from 2019. Tax revenue collected was very close to 2019 numbers. With the decrease in programs, the expenses were also down a good amount. The Park District had at one time over 200 part-time employees who were either furloughed or laid off to balance the decrease in programs. Many of the capital projects slated for 2020 were delayed to offset the decrease in expected revenue. Overall the Park District stayed very close to balancing the budget for 2020 due to staff adjustments during the pandemic.

Q. What other issues need to be addressed?

A. With optimism of the pandemic ending, the Park District needs to be proactive in ramping up programs and amenities coming into the summer months of 2021. The next board will be charged with overseeing policies and capital projects that were delayed because of the pandemic. The Oakton Park major renovation, which should have gone to public referendum in the fall of 2020, was postponed and needs to be reevaluated as we return to normalcy. Being proactive as we emerge from pandemic life can help the community realize the importance of a healthy Park District and the value it brings to everyone.

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