Karen Sienko: 2023 candidate for Elmhurst City Council Ward 2


Town: Elmhurst

Age on Election Day: 52

Occupation: Reference librarian

Employer: Oak Brook Public Library

Previous offices held: I have spent the last several years serving as a parent leader in District 205, specifically as PTA co-president in 2019-2021 and currently as PTA secretary. I am also currently representing the Dual-Language Parent Advisory Committee as a co-chair for the District 205 PTA Council. I have also served on the board of the Elmhurst Neighbors and Newcomers Club in various board and committee chair positions and am still a member.


Q: What is the most serious issue your community will face in the coming years and how should the city council respond to it?

A: I believe that overall, the city is in a pretty good place, but we can always do better financially. High property taxes are always a concern for homeowners, as is general affordability for those that want to move to Elmhurst and those that want to stay in Elmhurst. We need to find ways to make Elmhurst more affordable for everyone that chooses to live here.

Q: How would you describe the state of your community's finances?

A: Currently the city is doing pretty well, despite the economy and the $13 million in debt due to flood remediation. The city manager and staff do a great job of finding resources, such as grants, for special projects and overall, the finance committee uses conservative accounting practices and decision-making processes.

Q: What should be the three top priorities for spending in your community during the next four years?

A: Public infrastructure. Maintenance of public buildings and parking structures are ongoing costs.

Public Safety. Overall Elmhurst is a safe place to live. However, there needs to be an assessment of how we deal with the current rise in property crime lately.

Flood remediation. This is an issue that gets a lot of discussion and will continue to do so until all of the areas from the original comprehensive flooding plan storm sewer system analysis of 2012 have been completed. At this time, roughly half of the projects have been completed.

Q: Are there areas of spending that need to be curtailed? If so, what are they?

A: Based on what I know of the city finances, I don't think that there are areas of excess. I believe that each department within the city does a good job with the budget that it has.

Q: What do you see as the most important infrastructure project the community must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what project(s) can be put on the back burner?

A: The ongoing costs of flood remediation. We need to find creative solutions that will assist the remaining flood remediation areas sooner rather than later. In the original comprehensive flooding plan storm sewer system analysis, there were 25 original projects, as of 2021, there are 12 that remained unfunded.

Between 2021 and 2022 there were some small fixes applied to a few of the projects as stop gaps, but none have been fully completed.

Given the current $13 million debt and a lack of funding available for additional remediation projects, these will likely continue to be put on hold. As alderman of the 2nd Ward, I would recommend that we are more transparent with homeowners on the costs, priorities of remediation, and the timing for future project completions.

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage local government? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions with your city council.

A: Working in a group is about finding agreement, even if there isn't any to begin with. I will do my own research, ask questions, and strive to bring people together to work collaboratively. This doesn't mean that we will all agree, but strive to find a resolution. In the end, we should all be working toward the same goal; making Elmhurst stronger and better than we started.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: I am approachable and a great listener. I also believe that our similarities outnumber our differences, if we just take the time to find them. And, I will take this approach when working within city council, as well as with the people of the 2nd Ward and the City of Elmhurst. We all have something in common, especially when we start with the same goal of making Elmhurst better.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?

A: Resource and information sharing across government departments, agencies, and social/charity groups. We have so many very engaged residents in Elmhurst, working within so many wonderful organizations throughout the city. However, we could do more to help promote them.

A central database or program to share resources and promotion ideas would be great places to start. There are also likely other residents that would like to become more involved, but just do not know where to begin.

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