John F. "Jack" Corkery: 2021 candidate for Villa Park trustee
City: Villa Park
Occupation: Security Guard at Securitas Inc.
Civic involvement: I have been involved in a volunteer capacity with local children's theater company St. Genesius Productions for many years. I have also volunteered for numerous state and national pollical campaigns.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A: I believe in democratic control of government, and want to make the village more transparent and accessible to residents. That being said, it is vitally important for the well-being of our communities that scientific guidelines be adhered to. It is essential for government officials to reject baseless conspiratorial thinking, no matter how popular it may be.
Q: Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: The Village responded well by canceling events that pose a risk of spreading COVID-19 in response to the pandemic. However, it did little to assist residents with the increased disruptions and strains caused by the pandemic. Generally I would like the village to be more responsive to the needs of the community, providing funding and building a volunteer support network -- especially for our sick, elderly, and otherwise disadvantaged residents.
Q: In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A: As a village board trustee, I would seek to coordinate with county and state public health officials to ensure scientifically backed guidelines are put in place and enforced uniformly by the village. It is important that any public health response be equitable and ensure that those who are especially vulnerable are not left behind by the state response. I believe that volunteering and community engagement is a key part of any disaster response and would like to expand that capacity in the Village of Villa Park. When the County Board placed an advisory referendum regarding PPE stockpiles on the ballot this past November, voters in Villa Park (like voters across DuPage County) overwhelmingly voted in support of building up material stockpiles to ensure readiness. I would like to see the village implement similar policies as well, to ensure local readiness.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: I plan to cut back on punitive fees and fines in the village of Villa Park. Many of our residents are struggling financially, were struggling before the pandemic, and may not recover from it for many years. Villa Park should not become a town that finances itself through fines and fees like the city of Chicago. The appeal of small suburbs like Villa Park is the affordability that they offer for all residents, and the village should not engage in punitive financing, nor should it be enacting austerity measures that cut vital services in this time of need.
Q: What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
Anyone who resides in Villa Park knows that for many years it has had a major problem with the quality of its roads. While the Village has made strides in recent years -- thanks to the referendum overwhelmingly passed in 2014 to finance road repairs -- our streets are still lacking. To ensure the financial health of the town, a vital factor to enable improved infrastructure investment, I propose that we aggressively expand our tax base by welcoming new small business [and smart residential development] to town and ensuring that the board does not needlessly stand in the way of new and existing businesses investing in our community.
Roads haven't been the only thing the village has failed to properly maintain. In recent years, the lack of investment in maintenance forced the demolition of Lufkin Pool. Because Villa Park doesn't operate its green and recreation spaces as a separate park district, the village board must invest in maintaining our existing parks infrastructure so this doesn't happen again. Given economic uncertainties and constraints, however, that may not be possible without some combination of new, voter-approved revenue (for which a referendum was rejected in 2019), state or federal funding, or even the creation of an independent parks district for Villa Park.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: I think it's the responsibility of the village to ensure compliance with state law.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I was glad to see the Village approve a recreational marijuana dispensary in town. I was dismayed, however, at the amount of reluctance many board members displayed during the planning and approval phase. The dispensary has become a great source of badly-needed revenue the village, and, as part of my commitment to expanding our tax base, I plan to welcome additional interested businesses to our town.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I have long been devoted to the arts and believe they enhance quality of life for our citizens, both socially and economically. I would like to see the Village undertake more public art initiatives. Such efforts provide support for the livelihood of local artists, draw visitors to our town -- where they'll also patronize our local restaurants and bars -- and make Villa Park a more unique, desirable and beautiful place.