Felony Franks owner to run for Oak Park trustee

Restaurateur wants lower taxes, sustainable growth, greater transparency

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park restaurateur Deno J. Andrews has announced his intention to run for the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees in the upcoming municipal election in April 2017.

Andrews is the owner of Felony Franks, a fast-food restaurant at 6427 W. North Ave. that employs ex-offenders, some of whom have spent time in prison, with the goal of helping them get their lives back on track.

His nonprofit organization, The Rescue Foundation, works with those same ex-offenders to get them job training, counseling and other resources.

Andrews served as a commissioner on the Oak Park Board of Health from 2005 to 2011.

He said in a telephone interview that lowering taxes will be at the top of his agenda if elected to public office. The tax burden for small business owners like himself is so great that it is making it hard for independent shops to open in the village, he said.

"Oak Park is at risk of losing its independent charm," he said.

Andrews worries about taxes growing to the point that only large national chains are able to afford opening up in Oak Park.

He noted the recent closure of two independent businesses – Marion Street Market, 100 Marion St., and Michael's Beef House, 6747 W. North Ave. – saying that he worries that it is a trend that could get worse.

He worries that neighboring communities like Berwyn and Forest Park are more competitive than Oak Park because the taxes are lower.

"Look at the Oak Park side of Roosevelt Road and it's in pretty bad shape," he said, noting the thriving businesses on the Berwyn side compared to "empty storefronts, dilapidated buildings and parking issues" on the Oak Park side.

Andrews said that new residential development is needed to expand the tax base, but it needs to be done keeping in mind the pressure it will put on the school system and other public services such as the police and fire departments.

Andrews is pushing for more growth, but made it clear that the village needs to focus on parts of town other than the downtown business district.

"We need to be able to make sure we're not overpopulating an area to a level we can't support," he said.

He also emphasized the need for new construction to be architecturally significant.

"So many of our developments over the last 15 years have been generic, cheap looking buildings that have taken public funds," he said, pointing to the Whiteco building, also known as Oak Park Place Apartments, at 479 N. Harlem, as an example.

Andrews also said the village is perceived as not being transparent – noting the recent request for proposals issued by the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation for the large-scale development at the corner of Oak Park Avenue and Madison Street.

The RFP was tailored to a single developer the village has been negotiating with behind closed doors for more than a year. The meetings between Jupiter Realty and OPEDC are not subject to Freedom of Information Act requests, because they work as a contractor for the village and are not officially part of village government.

"It gives the perception that backroom dealings are going on; there's one developer and others are only given a few weeks to submit a multimillion dollar proposal," he said.

Andrews said he did not believe the village has failed to be transparent, because you can follow the projects if you "know where to look." But village leaders could work harder to make more information easier to find without filing open records requests.

"I think we can just do better to prepare our citizens to be more involved," he said.

Andrews said he plans to seek the endorsement of the Village Manager Association, which slates candidates for local office. Asked if he would run without the group's endorsement, Andrews said it depends on who the VMA slates.

More information is available on Andrews' campaign website at www.denoandrews.com.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Rich Conboy from Villa Park  

Posted: October 19th, 2016 11:13 AM

All the best, Deno! You'd have my vote if it were possible!

Deno J. Andrews from Oak Park  

Posted: October 17th, 2016 3:04 PM

John, thanks for the input and viewpoint. Others in the village have expressed similar thoughts and concerns. I'm an outspoken supporter of greater transparency throughout government.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: October 15th, 2016 5:11 PM

Deno - here is a statement I wrote in the Wednesday Journal's Comments regarding the board and its push for high board pay. The pay issues uncovers every problem the village needs to address. "The problem in OP is that the residents have minimal measure of board productivity. The board operates as a secret group that make vague decisions, and refuses to use contemporary communication with residents. How can we possibly determine the productivity of board members when knowledge is limited to secret meetings held without minutes; and board meetings with a plethora of predetermined votes that are not subject to audience (residents) comments or questions." Business is not the only issue for candidates.

Deno J. Andrews from Oak Park  

Posted: October 15th, 2016 12:54 PM

John, thanks for your kind comments and feedback. I assure you that my independent thinking and advocacy for what I believe is unwavering.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: October 15th, 2016 7:52 AM

Deno's appears to be a strong candidate for the board. He brings a new understanding of the changes the village needs. He realizes that the village has been moving in a direction that will lead to Oak Park becoming just another small town with weak culture and lots of national shopping. The VMA has been good at finding candidate, but horrible in creating independent and creative board members. Deno could be breath of fresh air, but not if he uses the VMA path as a vehicle for change. Deno cannot be a man of independence and creativity if he choice to join the world of stagnation and common thought. His cIs DenoComment CancelHe has the viewpoints right, but is considering a bad road to change.

Deno J. Andrews from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2016 4:44 PM

Melvin, Thanks for the feedback and your support. Although I am seeking the endorsement of the VMA, I assure you that advocacy for my platform is at the core of my candidacy. I will also be seeking endorsements from other community organizations, people, and businesses.

Deno J. Andrews from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2016 4:36 PM

Laurie, Great point and I agree 100%. The article only touched on a few points of my platform. If you check out my website http://denoandrews.com you will see that I am an advocate for a long term reduction in costs as one way to battle taxes. I believe it will take a widening of the tax base, along with a reduction in spending to achieve the goal. If I am fortunate enough to become a trustee I will be a vocal advocate for responsible spending, and wise investments with demonstrable short and mid term ROI. Please check out the site and contact me if you have other feedback.

Melvin Tate  

Posted: October 14th, 2016 1:13 PM

Deno definitely has some good ideas and he's got my vote. However, I am a little disappointed he's seeking the blessing of the VMA. Oak Park needs a viable alternative to the VMA; one political alliance that pretty much has dominated local politics for years is unhealthy in my opinion.

Laurie Casey  

Posted: October 14th, 2016 12:27 PM

I love Felony Franks and I like your idea, Deno, to reduce our tax burden. However, more development isn't the only (or best) way. Take a look at Jim Babcock's argument for sustainability as one way to get to a smaller village budget. http://www.greencommunityconnections.org/we-need-a-better-gauge-for-economic-development/

Deno J. Andrews from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2016 5:46 PM

Keith- great point, and I VERY MUCH agree that development doesn't need the hand of government to happen. I believe that if we can lower the tax burden (and barrier to entry), that many smaller businesses could make a district shine. Your establishment is a welcome addition to our side of Roosevelt. I've recently looked at two places that are on the market for a second restaurant concept. In both cases the small properties (<5,000 sq ft) were $45k+ and $78k in annual property taxes. Granted it's not like that everywhere and there are deals to be had, but I believe we are trending up. I'd love to swing by some day and chat if you're free.

Sarah Abboreno Corbin  

Posted: October 13th, 2016 5:43 PM

He has my vote for sure. Sensible. Thoughtful. Deno has institutional courage - we can rely on him to speak up and take action.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: October 13th, 2016 12:39 PM

I would vote for Deno in a heartbeat. He is hardworking, caring and a philanthropist in it's truest form.

Keith Huizinga  

Posted: October 13th, 2016 11:54 AM

I support the idea of additional focus on the Roosevelt Road corridor, but at least one storefront on the Oak Park side has seen quite an improvement. Granted, as part owner of Kinslahger Brewing Company I am biased, but let's acknowledge that business development can be achieved without government support.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2016 11:41 AM

Deno also is a member of the North Ave. Zoning and Development Advisory Committee (NAZDAC) where he's already made a tremendous contribution since joining a few months ago. If he's elected, NAZDAC's loss will be Oak Park's gain. (Local elected officials don't serve on NAZDAC in order to preserve our political neutrality.)

Susan M. Bending-Wienke Roberts  

Posted: October 13th, 2016 10:13 AM

Parking is another important issue in Oak Park.

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