Malcolm Chester: Candidate profile
Name: Malcolm Chester
City: Des Plaines
Office sought: 6th Ward alderman
Previous elected offices held:
Incumbent: If yes, when were first elected?
What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
There are many. First, is the change in the real estate market from ownership to rental. In my ward, as a result, single family homes have become rental properties which present several challenges. More residents and cars per home translates into greater school demand, more service needs, and parking problems for a street system designed for single family units. For example, the street parking has become so bad on our 26 feet wide streets that residents often cannot get out of their own driveways. One elderly disabled woman had to drive down the sidewalk until she found a driveway that would allow her onto the street. As to the street issue, we are trying to issue more tickets for people parking too close to driveways, fire hydrants and corners and failing to show a Des Plaines sticker but this is only having a minor impact. We really need nighttime parking restrictions to clean out the car and truck inventory on the street but there is little public support for this policy in the city council which has refused in the past to consider this alternative. Somewhat related to this problem is speeding. I receive constant complaints. Once again we have limited options: Speed platforms, narrowing streets or more law enforcement. Narrowing streets when we have parking problems makes little sense as do speed platforms which draw resident and fire and police opposition. For example, driving an ambulance with a heart attack victim inside over a speed bump can cause some serious problems. We do sometimes put out portable flashing lights which help a little but then when they are removed the problem recurs. As to enforcement the police say they do not have the resources to write all those tickets. At the end of the day, we may need to restructure the police department a little to beef up our parking and speeding enforcement. Second, we need to gain more equity in the Nighttime Fly Quiet Rotation which at the moment recommends that 22R, which bisects the 6th ward, take one quarter of the nighttime flight traffic. 22R/4L is the shortest runway at the airport and also bisects two runways, the only runway of the airport's 8 runways that does so. O'Hare has spent billions of dollars to create an east/west runway configuration that avoids runway bisection but because the east west runways create a great deal of political opposition, particularly so for nighttime flights, the city has decided to shift the nighttime burden on the 6th ward. I have helped organize other communities (Park Ridge Glenview, Elmhurst) to make joint statements on this situation and have managed to place myself on the Fly Quiet Standing Committee which Park Ridge and Glenview has so far failed to do. Third, The Oakton Street Corridor east of Lee, which borders the north part of the 6th ward, needs help. I have been an early advocate of the Oakton Train Station as part of the Revitalization of this street which also includes A Pace Bus Station, Municipal Parking, and a new or redone 62 Fire Station. The Oakton station has been recommended to the Metra Board where we already have built some support. Fourth, I have been very active in opposing gaming expansion, which would greatly reduce Rivers revenues and thus our local share money. In this year, when it may not be possible to stop gaming expansion, I am already working on changing some of the deals which have resulted in Des Plaines only receiving a 1/3 of the local share money from Rivers to which the law entitles us ($8 mm instead of $24mm). We are already showing some progress on this front. 5. I have been active in bringing new businesses to the town, some 400 over the last 4 years. By applying some pressure, I helped persuade the city to replace our community development coordinator with a new much more aggressive and successful coordinator. In the 6th ward, I strongly supported the city's efforts to relocate Hart Schaffner & Marx to western Des Plaines saving 400 jobs and replacing their plant with a new Rocky Mountain Data Center which will pay the city as much as $1.6 mm in new taxes and add 50 new jobs to the city. Also, in the 6th ward, I have been involved in the new hotel, restaurant, and fueling station development at Higgins and Mannheim, redeveloping a dormant piece of property and creating many new jobs. There are many more issues I can cite but this is a good start.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I have the educational background, the years of government experience working at the local, state and federal levels, and the track record to get things done for the residents of the 6th ward. I recently put out a list of accomplishments and easily identified 12 specific instances where I made a difference. I plan on greatly expanding on this list in the four years ahead.
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.
I set policy goals I would like to achieve and then collaborate with other members of the city council to get things done. One of the best measures of my success in this area is my level of support from other council members in this election. 6 out of 7 Des Plaines Council members have endorsed my re-election and the 7th has chosen not to endorse anyone in this election. Many of these aldermen served with my opponent. Incidentally, while at Kent Law School, I won a Cali Award for my skill as a mediator.
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?
Our budget condition is excellent Over the last four years, we have reduced city debt by 48%, maintained a fund balance of 25%, maintained a Aa2 bond rating and opened over 400 new businesses, but we still have challenges. Our pension obligations increase by high single digit amounts, far in excess of inflation and our special fund for the water department shows deficits in each year. For the first time in many years we increased property taxes in 2019 by 1.75% to fund the pension increases but I voted against the increase because I felt our excellent fiscal condition would allow us to absorb the increases. Still, these issues will continue to challenge us financially. We are particularly concerned over the effect gaming expansion will have on the revenues we receive from Rivers Casino. Elgin's casino lost almost 50% of its revenues when confronted with new heavy competition. If Rivers were to lose this kind of revenue, our local share dollars would decrease dramatically.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
For many years I was the Chairman and one of the founders of Keep Chicago Beautiful, the largest and most successful Keep American Chapter in the country. I won a Call to Service Award from President Obama in 2012 for my efforts. At one time, Des Plaines formed a chapter but was unable to keep it going. I would like Des Plaines to take another shot at forming and running a chapter. KAB chapters organize litter clean up programs, work on solid waste policies, engage in beautification programs like the Mayor's Curbside Challenge, and provide environmental curriculum for our schools. The way our community looks has a great deal to do with our ability to attract homeowners and businesses to our city.