Carl Bade

River Forest Park District Board Candidate

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*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies

My wife and I have been married for 13 years, and we have 2 kids (ages 10 and 12). We left the  city and moved to River Forest from Roscoe Village in 2014 because of the schools and ease of  access to downtown. What we quickly realized is that what makes RF special is the small  community feel and people who live here and contribute to the numerous local foundations,  boards, and groups. Within a short time of being in RF, I started coaching soccer, eventually  coaching for both my daughter and son. My son “retired” from soccer after a few seasons but I  continue to coach my daughter’s teams. After a season of coaching I joined the RFYS Board  leading registrations, the website, scheduling, and compiling evaluations. Soon after joining the  RFYS Board I also started to help the Lincoln PTO as the Webstore administration, setting up all  the items and events available to the student via the website.  

I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Michigan, previously  co-owned a company that supplied HRIS software to Fortune 1000 manufacturers, and currently  am a Solution Owner for a firm that provides software consulting to national and multi-national  corporations. 


What challenges face the park district in the near future and how will you as a  commissioner address them?

There is a lack of transparency and communication on the decisions made regarding capital  projects – what data is used and not used in deciding priorities, involvement of community  groups when putting plans together – and a lack of an overall long term plan for the future of the  parks. Every good organization has a 5-year or a 10-year plan, a statement of where the  organization wants to be in the future. The park district does not currently have one. The Park  District’s plan should also include a master space plan to determine how the new enhancements will  fit together in our limited park space. This will include a need for an extensive survey of the  community for a comprehensive list to prioritize the enhancements. The Park District’s long-term  vision and master space plan can then be drafted.  

The plan needs to be fully transparent, able to be explained, and available to the community for  inspection. People may not get what they want right away, but if this is done correctly everyone will  understand the why and eventually get the want. 

Why are you seeking this office and what are your qualifications for holding it?

My involvement with RF Youth Soccer allows me to visit all of our parks throughout the course  of the year, and I see need for some basic improvements/repairs in our fields that should be  discussed and prioritized. Additionally, the Park District’s current method of determining,  prioritizing, and communicating decisions for park projects is not working, as shown by the  community divide from the current platform tennis expansion project. 

Through both the RF Youth Soccer Board and the Lincoln PTO I have shown a dedication to the  organizations within our community. Due of my business background, I can provide direction  on future planning, for both budgeting and vision. Finally, because of my role in developing  software solutions for very large corporations, I have learned to speak to different types of  stakeholders and quickly understand all perspectives. 

What aspects of the park district, regarding services and community engagement,  need improvement and how do you plan to make such improvements?

I really appreciate that the Park District created and sent out a community survey in 2020. What  I expected to see projects prioritized based on the feedback. The current board agenda does not  seem to reflect the survey results, and we need to get that back on track. The survey as a method  of collecting feedback is a great method and we need to expand and standardize the process and  provide transparency with how this the community feedback directly leads to the capital  investments that the Park District is making. We also need to ensure that we are surveying  correctly to get the broadest amount of feedback that represents the diversity of our community  and gets us a representative sample. 

The board has commented that the survey results are irrelevant due to the sample size. The  board wrote the questions, chose the distribution method and vendor, and spent taxpayer dollars  doing so. If it’s invalid, then they need to take accountability. Only with accountability can  improvements occur.

What can the park district do to increase environmental sustainability and equity of  all forms within the community?

The current board has given minimal attention to environmental sustainability or equity within  the park district. 

The current method of executing projects is a linear path from project to project, and without  thought about how the projects will fit together in our limited park space. A master space plan  for future growth will allow the inclusion of greenspace in the discussion and planning of any  rework of the parks.  

A site search on the Park District’s website shows no discussion about equity in the Board  minutes, and on the most recent survey race was not a question in the demographics section. An  organization cannot identify potential issues with equity or increase equity if it is not having the  discussion about it. First and foremost, the discussion needs to begin. 

What part does the park district play in the reconfiguring of the River Forest  Community Center?

As of the March 8 RFPD Board Meeting, the RFPD has officially voted to terminate the park  district’s participation in the collaboration in the reconfiguration of the River Forest Community  Center. This termination was agreed upon and taken up by all parties involved – the RFPD,  River Forest Township, and the River Forest Community Center due to costs of the  reconfiguration of the collaborative project continuing to rise to almost $50 million dollars. At  this point the direction of any reconfiguration of the space is entirely in the hands of the River  Forest Community Center.

As you see it, why has the issue of platform tennis become so heated? As a park  district board member, how would you recommend navigating this issue to come to a  decision that would satisfy all stakeholders?

This is a perceived Us vs Them, Public vs Private issue that has been growing. The Park District  has enabled the controversy by having signs that forbid use by non-members at risk of fines, and  by not allowing any walk-on or reserved use of the courts by non-members. Though the Park  District recently changed the signs and allowed walk-on play (at times that are inconvenient and  that most members do not play), these changes came at a time that opposition to the expansion  really started to get loud. Some people look at the changes as a token response and not a real  concession to allowing the public to use the courts.  

The current need for more courts is not debatable. The method of which it is being forced  through the park district agenda is debatable. My preference is to create a 5- or 10-year master  plan, determine where in the community platform expansion is prioritized in relation to all the  other potential projects and work from there. People may not get what they want right away, but  if this method is done correctly everyone should understand the why and eventually get the want. 

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