Communications a hot topic of civil Glenview trustee forum
If these were the folks competing in a hotly contested political race for positions on the Village of Glenview board of trustees, bring 'em on.
We want more.
A remote forum hosted by the Daily Herald brought together candidates representing the Glenview Next ticket -- Paul Brancky, Sheri Latash and Cathy Wilson -- and their opposition from the Unite Glenview party, Gina DeBoni, Tim Doron and Adam Sidoti. A fourth member of Unite Glenview, current trustee Mike Jenny, runs unopposed for board president and will succeed departing two-term President Jim Patterson.
These candidates put the civil in civil servant.
No sniping. No name-calling or abuse. No discrediting of opinions or platforms.
Credit was given not only to running mates but to opponents. They offered solutions, not accusations. The candidates often praised another's position, independent of party, before stating their own case.
And other weird things that happen in a perfect world, like Wilson hoping for the chance "to work beautifully with Mike and the current trustees" for the betterment of Glenview.
They touched on issues such as affordable housing, the mixed-use plan for the former Bess Hardware Site, the Willow Creek Shopping Center proposal and, before the board reinstated its operation, Fire Station 13.
Mostly, though, even comments on those items came in service to another topic. It was one that each of the candidates cited as the reason they were running for trustee.
"For me, the biggest issue is of community engagement," DeBoni said. "I think it's a common theme probably amongst all of us."
Right she was.
"For me, the biggest issue is to rebuild public trust," Brancky said. "I think there's a lot of people in our community who are upset with the village board, specifically with the issue of transparency."
Latash sounded in lockstep with her opponent, DeBoni.
"It's a common theme, civic engagement, or public engagement -- how does the board interact with the public, and the public interact with the board?" Latash asked rhetorically.
With that cue, the candidates did take some exception.
"I think right now a lot of people feel that they go in front of the board or in front of the commissions and they aren't listened to," Wilson said.
"I think there's a better way to do it, and it's not that the village board doesn't want to listen," Doron said. "Issues have become so complex that we have to do a better method of communicating with (people). And that's not a 200-page consultant report distributed for people to look at and digest when they have busy days with their children or going to work and then come to a commission and testify.
"I think it's incumbent upon us as the new trustees to find a better way to communicate these complicated issues to people so when they want to communicate, when they want to testify, they have a better handle and a better grasp on the issues," he said.
How would the candidates, as Sidoti said, "bring village government to people in a way that makes it more manageable and consumable."
Latash suggested hiring additional staff responsible for communications. Upon prompting, she suggested funds for that would come from sales taxes, after gauging communications spending within budget priorities.
Sidoti recommended emphasizing mobile communications, "meeting people in the way that they consume information," he said. He joined other candidates in wanting to distill large agenda items and documents into main points. He'd then provide links that provide greater detail or a complete document for those who wish to further investigate.
"We have to make it easy for people to consume information, and that doesn't require us to go out and hire a big PR staff or to add any dollars to our expenses," Sidoti said. "This is just tactics that we can change, and those tactics form our overall communication strategy. If we implement those types of policies across everything, people will begin to trust again, people will be able to feel that we're being transparent, and then we're going to have good communication and conversation."
"The communication vehicle has got to be different," Doron noted.
Wilson, who comes from a marketing and social media background, joined Latash in believing that if "tweets and Instagrams" or Facebook notifications were going to provide information to people, someone needs to be hired to produce them.
She also likes old-fashioned letters, like those alerting residents to nearby road construction projects. For example, why not have sent one to neighbors of Bess Hardware about a rezoning, she wondered.
"We want you to know what's happening, here's how you can communicate with the village," she said, theoretically.
Wilson also proposed that information about major projects could be installed in a space such as the Glenview Public Library for the public to inspect and provide feedback.
"Those are a couple of solutions that are high-tech and low-tech that can really help inform the residents," she said. "Because with information comes trust and accountability."