Steven Leopoldo: Candidate Profile
DuPage Forest Preserve District 3 (Democrat)
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.
Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve District 3
Family: Married, one child.
Occupation: Public Opinion Researcher.
Education: A.B. - Cum Laude Political Science, Minor Economics, Rollins College, 2004. M.A. Public Administration with Survey Research Methods concentration, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2015 (Expected).
Civic involvement: Precinct Committee Person in Downers Grove Township, Former Vice President of the Villas of Deer Creek Homeowners Association, active member of the League of Conservation Voters, the International Crane Foundation, and The Wilderness Society.
Elected offices held: Current Precinct Committee Person, Downers Grove Township. Former Vice President of the Villas of Deer Creek Homeowners Association.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: Never arrested for or convicted of a crime.
Key Issue 1
Ethics Reforms We want our tax dollars going toward our preserves, not fraud, waste and mismanagement. There are several ethical problems at the Forest Preserve District. My opponent voted to authorize nearly a half a million dollars of our tax dollars in allegedly fraudulent contracts. The District is now defying the Attorney General?s orders to release these payment records to the public until after the election and is currently under FBI investigation. I will organize an ethics committee to prevent the District from ever authorizing nearly a half a million dollars in fraudulent contracts. Other instances of extreme waste and imprudent behaviors have resulted from the District?s questionable interpretation of the Professional Services Act, not bidding contracts and giving insiders sweetheart deals at taxpayer expense. I propose that all contracts over $5,000 be competitively bid and a truly independent ombudsman review all agreements.
Key Issue 2
Full-Time Commissioner The Forest Preserve has serious problems that can only be solved by leaders working full-time. Even though the Commissioners are accepting full-time taxpayer-paid benefits packages of over eighty thousand dollars, they only serve as part-time Commissioners. I will refuse the taxpayer-funded pension that comes with being a part-time Forest Preserve Commissioner and pledge to work as a full-time Commissioner. I will work the end hostile eminent domain takeovers by the Forest Preserve, to organize an ethics committee to ensure contracts are properly bid, and to stop animal abuses at Danada Equestrian Center and volunteer harassment. I will continue to expose waste, fraud, and abuse in local government while fighting to protect our preserves and quality of life in DuPage County.
Key Issue 3
Reforming Danada Equestrian Center Current commissioners refused to fire managers or staff at Danada Equestrian Center when they learned of horses being physically abused and neglected and female volunteers being harassed by management. Instead of addressing the problem, commissioners voted to add additional staff to the taxpayer-funded payroll to do the job of existing staff and management, and whistleblowers were fired. Ensuring animals entrusted to the District receive proper care and reestablishing a healthy volunteer network where the volunteers are safe, appreciated, and respected are among my top priorities.
Do you support continuing the effort to acquire County Lakes Golf Club in Naperville? Why or why not?
I do not support efforts to acquire County Lakes Golf Club in Naperville. The operation of golf courses is outside of the conservation and restoration mission of the DuPage Forest Preserve. Acquiring a privately run golf course though a costly eminent domain battle does not make financial sense. An operational audit conducted at the request of the FPDDC by AECOM Economics and delivered February 2011 showed that only one of the three golf courses has turned a consistent profit in several years. The audit also showed net operating income before debt / capital totaled a loss of over a half million dollars for all three courses combined. Directors are consistently eliminating positions at a District golf courses due to declining use. The proposed eminent domain action to take over the privately owned Golf Club has been estimated to cost in excess of $20,000,000. This is not an appropriate use of our tax dollars.
Should the district be in the golf course business? If so, please explain the benefit. If not, please detail why. Should the district consider selling any of its holdings?
The FPDDC?s own audit shows, in financial terms, that it cannot successfully operate golf courses. The audit shows a steadily declining bottom line and their golf courses operated at a net loss of over a half million dollars in 2010. If this were truly a business, it would soon be bankrupt. The FPDDC cannot continue to subsidize these courses under the guise of flood control and at a significant loss to taxpayers. There are better means of controlling flooding and managing flood plains. I would consider several options for the existing golf courses, including their sale.
Comment on the forest preserve's current land acquisition policy: Too aggressive? Too passive? Just right?
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has been slow and steady in the acquisition of land. The FPDDC has a unique challenge in the area of land acquisition because most of DuPage?s lands are in private hands. The District should focus on land acquisitions that would connect preserves, provide for trails, and acquire wetlands and land in floodplains. Targeted acquisitions today will better prepare DuPage for future economic growth by providing enhanced flood control and a more desirable place to live. Our Preserves enhance DuPage?s quality of life, an important consideration of both homebuyers and employers. A long-term strategy for the FPDDC?s land acquisition must include conservation easement agreements, bequests, and working with land and watershed protection organizations like The Conservation Foundation.
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