Tina Tyson-Dunne: 2022 candidate for DuPage County Forest Preserve Board District 2
Office sought: DuPage Forest Preserve Commission
Occupation: Chief of Staff and Commissioner, House of Representatives and Forest Preserve District of DuPage County
Previous offices held: Commissioner District 2 -- elected 2020
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: When I first ran, I already had hands-on experience volunteering with the Forest Preserve using my knowledge as a master naturalist. When the voters entrusted me to be their commissioner, it became my responsibility to ensure that our beautiful preserves have the care and attention they deserve. I was appointed president pro tempore and treasurer. I fulfilled promises I ran on, opted out of additional benefits and the elimination of pensions for part-time politicians. The hundreds of thousands of dollars saved by these actions equates into a direct reinvestment back to the trust shown by the voters. We secured a $40 million bond at 1.3% interest whilst also avoiding increased taxes on our residents. The bond issuance, which had bipartisan support, was achieved by the district having a AAA credit rating and a sound Master Plan, with these funds also supported by federal and state grants to secure land acquisition, and move forward with restoration projects for our existing locations.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your two biggest contributions to the board. If you are a non-incumbent, describe two ways you would contribute to the board.
A: I ran on a platform that supported the Forest Preserve adopting a Responsible Bidder Ordinance ('RBO'). The introduction of the RBO as part of our contractor selection criteria meant that future projects had set standards for materials, pricing, and timelines as outlined in the proposals issued. The benefits of the RBO will help prioritize local jobs and hold contractors responsible for paying workers a prevailing wage if they are chosen for our projects.
The bipartisan bond issuance funds are already being put to use throughout the entire district. In July work began on the restoration of the Peabody estate at Mayslake. In August ground was broken on the redesigned Willowbrook Rehabilitation Center and Wildlife Hospital. Through the bond funds, contributions from our generous donors, and the work of the Friends of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, this state-of-the-art animal hospital will provide educational opportunities for everyone.
Q: What role should the forest preserve play in preserving historic buildings on its land?
A: When the board approved the Master Plan for the Forest Preserve it was a statement of intent for the future. We have excellent staff as part of the team at the Forest Preserve, who care as much as we do about the connections to history. When needed, we invite environmental agencies, surveyors, and field experts to provide us the best possible information before board decisions are made. There are times that these decisions are hard, and that is why we weigh the facts and figures, and consider the environmental impacts, for all approved projects and initiatives.
At Mayslake Hall, we are addressing priority areas that were identified on our interior and exterior condition surveys to be following the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency requirements for landmark properties. Further restoration will be completed in stages as funds become available. Our most recent work received a $750,000 grant from the Public Museum Capital Grants Program, IDNR to help fund these renovations.
Q: How would you rate the job the commission is doing to develop existing forest preserves and make them accessible to residents? How would you approach things differently?
A: The Forest Preserve has publications, leaflets, a YouTube channel, Facebook, TikTok, as well as educational centers that bring the community together. Our website has resources for teachers and parents extending our programs beyond our boundaries. Our volunteer program support many of our initiatives while fostering camaraderie of like-minded enthusiasts. I cannot say enough about our staff and volunteers, they are the real people who bring the vision of the DuPage Forest Preserve to life.
I would not say that I am looking to change the approach we currently have rather I am looking to the future on initiatives we already have in-process. I was very proud to be part of the board that built the ADA accessible kayak and canoe launch in Blackwell Forest Preserve this past April. I would like us to continue building resources to support people with disabilities and special needs, partner with organizations like NAMI DuPage, and build on our safe space alliances to welcome everyone.
Q: What is the most important issue facing the forest preserves in your district and how should it be addressed?
A: The Forest Preserve is not immune to the impact of climate change. Droughts, tree viruses, invasive foreign species, and loss of our natural pollinators are current issues that weigh on us today. These are the reasons why we are lucky to have the staff experts who can evaluate and advise us on the steps needed to limit our environmental impact. Buildings and structures erected in the past 100-years when evaluated have shown to negatively impact the communities and our neighbors. Board decisions have weighed the cost, impact, and future outcomes as to how the Forest Preserve contributes back to the area by applying responsible land management initiatives.
From a local perspective, we have partnered with organizations like the Conservation Foundation, SCARCE, and the DuPage Monarch Project on how we can reduce our impact on the environment. As the we continue to rollout solar projects the long-term benefits will ensure the Forest Preserve is enjoyed by generations to come.