*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.