Michael Gibbs

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Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey the Wednesday Journal sent out to all trustee candidates running in this year's elections. Candidates full, unedited responses are printed. 

Age: 57 years old

Previous elected experience: Village Trustee 2009-2013, 2015-present

Previous community experience: Village of River Forest Traffic and Safety Commission

Huskie Booster Club President 1998-2008

Sponsor/Coach River Forest youth softball

Loyola University Health System Youth Committee

Occupation: Account Executive Anderson Elevator Company

Nationally certified state licensed elevator inspector

Member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers ASME

Education: Oak Park and River Forest High School 1980

Loras College Dubuque Iowa 1984  (Business)

1.      Economic development has been a major focus for the village board in recent years. What should the village board's role be in promoting economic development? What are the best tools for doing so and what else can the village board to help recruit new businesses and maintain the ones already here?

The Village Board should be active in promoting economic opportunities in River Forest to the business community.  We are competing with area municipalities for the growth we need to keep River Forest from having to rely too much upon property tax revenues. River Forest has had great success with the Lake Street T.I.F. district. I supported the Madison Street and North Avenue T.I.F. designations and believe those T.I.F. districts will be the best tools in the long term enhancement to those vital corridors. The Village Board needs to build relationships with new possible partners in the business communities and utilize civic organizations to further our outreach. I believe River Forest does agood job of maintaining positive associations with our current businesses in the village and I will continue to encourage that teamwork.

2.      Developments at Lake and Lathrop and Chicago and Harlem, while good for the village's economic and social bottom lines, garnered resident criticism for design, village funds used and more. Do you have an opinion on either of these developments? 

Lake and Lathrop has been a struggle due to the economic timing at the beginning of the process. There were and continue to be many moving parts, but the board and the developers have done a fine job keeping their eye on the prize.  T.I.F. districts are designed for this exact type of project. In the end, a soil contaminated, underutilized set of properties in the heart of River Forest will be updated to provide a new style of living spaces and revitalization of the street level business area.  This is a goal worth fighting for, and a very appropriate use of T.I.F. financing commitment. Design criticism is a very subjective issue. Where would the area be if the elected officials of the time did not like the designs of young architects named Frank Lloyd Wright or Daniel Burnham.  Elected bodies should be very cautious about being the design police. That said, I feel the designs at Lake and Lathrop and Chicago and Harlem are not only appropriate, I think they will enhance the surrounding areas.  The new services they bring to River Forest will be a great addition to our Village, much like the Loyola Immediate Care facility that modified a vacant furniture store on North Avenue.

3.      How would you describe communication in the village and what more, if anything, should the village be doing to engage residents?

Communication in River Forest is very good, but we can always do better.  We have updated websites, the notice process and village information distribution with the latest technology. Communication is something that will constantly be updated to provide our citizens with the information the need.

4.      How important is it to ensure preservation of River Forest's historic homes? What can the village do to safeguard those homes from demolition? How does the question of property rights play into the equation?

Historic preservation vs property owners rights is a difficult balance.  If a developer buys a home at a reduced rate because it is in a state of disrepair, more often than not, it is more cost efficient to build a new home.  I would be more inclined to enforce our current property codes and standards to minimize the instances where any home, not only significant homes, would be allowed to deteriorate to a condition where a tear-down would be attractive to a developer.  I do not think taxpayers should be funding this situation. That would be like rewarding a homeowner for not taking care of the property. The bottom line is ownership. The village has standards, the owners have rights. That is the balance.

5.      The village approved a new tax increment financing (TIF) district along Madison Street last year. Do you support a TIF in the area and how would you describe the village's process for communicating the project to residents? 

I do support the Madison Street T.I.F.

The board's communication was lacking at the beginning and misinformation was allowed to permeate the discussion. That situation caused damage that was very difficult to repair. As the board presents new ideas to the citizens, trust is all we have to back up our information.

The information could be completely accurate, but if the people your giving the information don't trust the person providing the information, the cooperation you seek will not be easily obtained.  There are many questions and mysteries associated with T.I.F. districts. Peoples homes are of great concern, there is an elevated level of emotion involved as well.  The board could have done a better job informing people of the benefits and limitations of the T.I.F. I think we did that with North Avenue. We learn from our experience.

6.      What other issues involving village government are important to you, and how do you plan to advocate for them?

The 2017 tax levy shows that the Village of River Forest receives 11.7% of the property tax disbursements.

I feel the most important duty of the village government is to provide the best possible village services for the resident's tax dollars under a balanced budget. Our property values are dependent on this.  Efficient administration, fire, police and public works are the life blood of our village. We have a great team at village hall. I am proud to be associated with them. The village board needs to provide the staff with the tools they need, while at the same time , controlling the cost of village government.

I ask the residents, are you happy with village services and confident that River Forest is moving in the right direction?  If the answer is yes, then, as the only incumbent seeking reelection, I would be honored to have their vote and the privilege to serve the people of River Forest for four more years

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