Kenneth Vanko: Candidate profile
Name: Ken Vanko
Office sought: Batavia Public Library District Trustee
Family: Wife (Karyn), Daughter (Laney)
Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Ohio State University (1994); Juris Doctor, University of Illinois College of Law (1997)
Civic involvement: Feed My Starving Children (Aurora), pro bono legal services
Previous elected offices held: None
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? No.
What are the most important issues facing your library district and how do you intend to address them?
The most important issue facing the Batavia Public Library District concerns the recent tax swap referendum narrowly approved by voters. As a result, we have redirected a tax on now-retired construction bonds to the library's operating levy. The current plan would use the new tax revenue to finance a 20-year, $5.1 million capital improvement program. I intend to address this challenge by being an active, but productive, voice in ensuring that the tax revenue is spent wisely and consistent with the needs and purposes of a public library. Where possible, we should engage in outreach to increase gifts and donations. If feasible, we should abate tax revenue not needed. Batavia residents are overtaxed by a variety of separate taxing districts. Our family derives great use from the library and tries to maximize the $600 in taxes we contribute annually. However, the trustees must understand that many residents have lost their appetite for further tax increases. As a small-business owner, I understand the importance of budgeting and would exercise prudent oversight over the use of new tax money.
Why are you running for office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what is it?
Two principal issues motivated me to run. First, the result of the tax swap referendum has revealed sharp division within the community over the Library District's capital improvement plan. As discussed in the previous question, I intend to be a very active participant in ensuring the trustees spend only what is necessary and explore ways to abate the revenue back to the voters. As a partner in a six-member law firm, I have been successful in evaluating differing points of view and working toward consensus in decision-making. This business experience will contribute to a healthy, respectful debate among all trustees on important mattes impacting our residents and their tax dollars. Second, I view serving as a way to give back to Batavia and engage in important public service. The library conducts many great events and programs. It serves as both an educational and social hub for the entire community. I would like to play an active role in ensuring that our library remains relevant, evolves to adapt to changing technology, and continues to be accessible for all Batavia residents.
If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of important initiatives you've led. If you are a non-incumbent, tell us what contributions you would make.
I am not an incumbent. My prior answers reflect my priorities, the reasons why I am running, and the contributions I would like to make. I would approach the trustee position with the hopes of effectively applying my administrative, management, and finance skills.
Do you have a library card? How long have you had it? How often do you use it?
I obtained my library card shortly after we moved to Batavia almost 10 years ago. We try to visit the library at least a few times each month. Now that our daughter is an emerging reader, we try to make visits a regular and meaningful event for her. We also have participated in programs the library offers.
What impact have economic and technological changes had on libraries? How does a library remain relevant? How should its role in the community change?
Technology has impacted libraries because students and emerging readers consume content digitally, rather than through traditional books and magazines. Libraries thus need to adapt and replace stacks of books with areas to access digital resources. Libraries can use this extra space to create work and study spaces, digital labs, classrooms, and extra seating. The library's role in the community generally shouldn't change because of technological innovation. The principal purpose of a library always will be to offer a space for residents to access reliable and relevant information free of political editorializing. Economic disruption also is of little relevance to a public library. However, a library can and should serve as a meeting space for residents to learn new skills and network with their neighbors. To that end, the library can serve as an important community resource in periods of economic decline.