The pool and rink at Ridgeland Common remain in dire need of restoration, more likely rebuilding, as costs to maintain the facilities continue to rise at such a rate that fixing snafus as they come equates to essentially throwing taxpayer money away.
And down on Madison Street, the booming Oak Park gymnastics program is continuously stunted in its growth by size limitations of the building in which it operates.
The Park District of Oak Park has been working to address these two pressing issues for years, and the expense to undertake each effort will likely be great – but the time for action is now, and the village needs a board of commissioners intent on pursuing those challenges, and reaching solutions promptly.
For those reasons, we enthusiastically endorse incumbent Jessica Bullock, along with Paul Aeschleman, and Victor Guarino for park district board. All three view Ridgeland Common and the gymnastics program as top priorities for the board. All three would continue the thoughtful and ambitiously inclusive governance culture of the park district built over the past eight years by the current board and its staff.
Bullock has served four years on a board that has rejuvenated local parks through a comprehensive master planning process, and seems determined to keep the momentum going in regards to Ridgeland Common and the search for a new facility for either the gymnastics program or the park’s buildings and grounds department, which competes for space inside the same facility.
Aeschelman has proven his dedication to the park district through his participation in its greening advisory committee, and his role at the forefront of park initiatives such as the carry-in, carry-out trash program designed to keep the parks clean and keep garbage removal costs down. He has also served effectively in leading a village government commission.
Guarino has specifically set his sights on the former Aldi supermarket on Lake Street as an ideal facility for the gymnastics program, an idea that we support for its practical use of a long vacant retail space that could in turn be promising for the surrounding area. Guarino is a talented and dedicated person who has sought other local offices. We believe the park board would make a strong fit for his talents and interests.
There is a loosely aligned slate of challengers. The trio does not impress us.
Julie Grossman McCarthy dropped out of the race last month, stating in an email to the park district that she felt outside commitments would interfere with her responsibilities to the board. Diane Dunn did not respond to our invitations for an interview, and therefore did not qualify for our endorsement. Tom Finch clearly cares about the parks, and made valid arguments about the need to keep property tax costs at a reasonable level. But he did not appear very knowledgeable about park district practices, nor did he present practical alternatives for addressing existing problems.