John Baar: Candidate profile
Name: John Baar
Village: The Village of Oak Brook, Illinois
Office Sought: Village President
Age: 66 yrs.
Family: Married to Janet 30 yrs.
Occupation: Retired Teacher and Assistant Principal
Education: B.A. The University of the South, M.S. Biology and M.S. Teaching of Math UIC, M.Ed. Administration UIUC
Civic Involvement: Oak Brook Fire and Police Commission Chair (2003-2009, 2011-2013) and Member (1996-2003), Oak Brook Civic Association President (1997-1999), VP (1996-1997), and Member (1995-Present), York Woods Community Association President (2011-2013) and Board Member (2010-2018), Oak Brook Village Caucus Member (Previous and 2009-2012), Oak Brook Historical Society Board (2012-2013), Oak Brook Park District Blue Ribbon Panel for the Family Recreation Center (1997), Oak Brook Park District Aquatic Center Advisory Council (1994), Grace Episcopal Church Vestry Member (2004-2007, 2012-2017), Friends of the Oak Brook Public Library, Oak Brook Historical Society, Graue Mill, Mayslake Hall, and Fullersburg Historic Foundation.
Previous Elected Office Held: Village Trustee 2013-Present
*What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
With McDonald's leaving, we have an opportunity to redevelop its three separate properties to fit Oak Brook's vision of having a balance of residential, commercial, and open space. In keeping with that vision, I supported our successful Park District Referendum to buy the 34-acre McDonald's soccer fields, preserving them as open space. The Village is also working with the Hines Corporation in redeveloping the McDonald's Corporate Headquarters as mixed use. This redevelopment will buttress our core retail commercial district in an era where brick and mortar stores are threatened by online retail. Intelligent, appropriate, and high-end redevelopment will allow the Village to evolve with the times.
Like most villages, Oak Brook is facing massive increases in pension costs for Fire and Police, an obligation rising from $4 million to $8 million in the coming years. With General Revenue Funds generally flat at $25 million, the pension obligation must be funded. A food and beverage tax of 1 penny on the dollar, sunsetting when the pension liability is paid off in 2040 or sooner, is the answer. We have reduced personnel and outsourced operations, and there is not much more that can be done unless we reduce Village services.
*What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I have a depth of experience and leadership in the Village from the ground up. I have been VP and President of the Oak Brook Civic Association, which covers the entire Village and, in my time, sponsored the Snowflake Ball, the Winter Carnival, the Athlete of the Year, a Village Calendar, and a newsletter that continues to this day. I have been President of the York Woods Community Association, so I know firsthand what works and what doesn't work for our homeowners. As a 15-year member of the Oak Brook Fire and Police Commission, including eight years as Chair, I, along with two others, hired, disciplined, and promoted personnel in both departments. Now, as a Village Trustee for the past six years, I have greater opportunities to learn from and work with our Village staff to further the work of the Village in bringing outstanding Village services to the residents. I have completed the Citizens Fire and Police Academies, and I volunteer regularly for Village events. In every Village position I have held, I have demonstrated leadership by working to improve our community, and I will continue to be a leader for the citizens of Oak Brook.
*Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing actions and decisions with your village board or city council.
As a longtime educator, I know how to work with people, set clear expectations and goals, and inspire people to reach their fullest potential. As a leader, I will bring people together, residents and staff, to find solutions to the issues facing Oak Brook and to continually find ways to improve the quality of life in our fine village, not only for our residents, but also for our daytime workers and visitors. As a leader, I think it's important to view the Village globally, understanding that Village operations, the many school districts, the Park District, and the residential and commercial areas are all woven into the fabric that creates our community. Making Oak Brook work takes a coordinated effort on the part of all stakeholders. As a Trustee, I have hiked the entirety of the Sports Core and have worked with the staff to improve this great open space and recreational facility. I have met with each department head numerous times to educate myself, encourage them, and congratulate them and their staff for jobs well done. For as much as I have done as a Trustee, I know I can do more as President to lead Oak Brook.
*How would you describe the condition of your community's budget, and what are the most important specific actions the town should take to assure providing the level of services people want?
Oak Brook is in excellent financial condition at the present time. We have held Village expenses down and found ways to economize, but we also have deferred maintenance and other proposed projects. We have financial reserves; however, those reserves will be depleted with these projects and the looming increases of the Fire and Police pensions. Oak Brook has options. One option I will never support is a municipal property tax. Oak Brook needs to remain business friendly, and low taxes attract and keep new businesses. However, a 1 penny on the dollar food and beverage tax to fund our increasing pension obligation, expiring in 2040 or sooner, when the pensions are fully funded, is a responsible and reasonable tax. This tax would be paid almost entirely by nonresidents and is a small price to pay for Police and Fire departments that are sized to accommodate our retail and dining establishments. For a recent $90 dinner at one of Oak Brook's restaurants, the tip was $18. The proposed food and beverage tax would be 90 cents. Would this tax hurt the restaurant? No. Would I miss it? No. Would I pay this to support outstanding Fire and Police protection? Yes!
*What is one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
I believe that a world-class village such as Oak Brook should be a leader in adopting the best operational practices. I would like to see the Village adopt a Green Infrastructure Ordinance. This would mean that when we replace a parking lot, we use permeable surfaces. When we replace lighting, we use smart lighting that can be controlled and dimmed according to ambient light. It would also mean increasing stormwater retention requirements to protect residential and commercial areas from flooding and controlling all Village HVAC systems by computers and smartphones to control energy waste. This would also include the adoption of Backlight, Uplight, and Glare (B. U. G) lighting standards to reduce light pollution from the new LED lights being installed in the Village. A best practice example of this lighting is at Christ Church of Oak Brook.