River Forest Village President Candidate
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*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
My name is Cathy Adduci, and I am running for re-election to build on the progress we have collectively made over the past eight years.
I have lived in River Forest for 22 years and I have a daughter, Jenna, who is in her 2 year of law school at John Marshall. I am dog lover and have a 7-year Cavalier King Charles named Mario. We live on a park and love to hear and watch little league baseball and soccer played during the summer months.
I am a retired Executive Vice President and General Manager for Unisys Corporation with 33 years of executive-level expertise in general management and operations, finance, and human professional development. At Unisys, I managed a nearly $1 billion budget and more than 1,000 employees.
My skills and strengths are consistent with the executive-level experience a Village President needs for a community to thrive. During the past eight years, I have built consensus at the Board table by carefully synthesizing information, solving problems, initiating discussion, and taking action. I have a strong listening and communication skill set. My steady temperament has resulted in the successful negotiation of complex contracts and collective bargaining agreements. My tact and patience have been beneficial in collaborating with taxing districts and neighboring communities.
I also have taken on responsibilities as an advocate for River Forest and municipalities statewide. I was first appointed to the Board of Directors of the Illinois Municipal League in 2015 and reappointed in 2019; I am in the rotation to become the President of the IML in 2023. I chair the IML’s Credential and Conference Committee and serve on the Executive and Legislative Committees. My involvement in this organization is a first for a Village President in RF.
I also am active in community engagement, serving on the boards of organizations such as the Thrive Counseling Center, Fenwick High School and the Erikson Institute, a graduate school for early childhood development. A graduate of Northern Illinois University, I am on the advisory board of that institution’s College of Business and served as a Board of Trustee of the University between 2001 and 2004. I have an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago.
My background and experiences are why we have been able to accomplish such goals – from flattening property taxes to improving our infrastructure, police, fire and other essential services.
Qualifications matter, especially now in this time of uncertainty. The community needs an experienced, focused, and resourceful leader who can guide River Forest through a crisis; someone to skillfully lead our $30-million government; someone who knows how government and governance work.
As your Village President, I will continue the course I have always taken: to promote discussion and build consensus through trust, empathy, and listening to other points of view and taking action. I am excited to be running. We have a bright future, and I am the candidate best prepared and ready to continue the growth of River Forest as an outstanding place to live and work.
In your time on the village board, what are your biggest accomplishments and how did those accomplishments work to benefit the entire community?
The most significant action we have taken was last year’s decision to lower the Village’s portion of our property tax bill. This historic action allowed our residents a reprieve from property tax increases due to inflation and other factors. We were also concerned about the economic impact of COVID-19 on our residents.
We needed to give our residents some form of relief so they could continue to live here. This was not only appropriate, but it must be an important principle that all local, state, and federal elected officials need to follow: to be responsible and prudent fiduciaries of our taxpayers’ money.
The Board and I were able to take this action because of years of sound fiscal management and streamlining government processes. River Forest will continue to manage and balance the budget throughout this challenging – and unusual – period.
Other major accomplishments under my leadership include:
- River Forest will directly receive $1.340 million from the American Rescue Plan, which was just signed by President Biden. This will cover pandemic expenses and lost revenues. We also will be able to help our local businesses with grant/funding relief as a result of the pandemic. This was great teamwork between the Illinois Municipal League, of which I am 2nd Vice President and a Board of Director, and Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and our Representatives Congressional Danny K. Davis and Jesus Garcia.
- The Sheridan, a brand-new Assisted Living Facility with a memory care floor, will soon open at the corner of Chicago and Harlem. This new development will add approximately $700,000 to our Village’s wide property tax base. School districts and Triton Community College will see the majority of these taxes without any school children added to their enrollment. This is a great addition to our community.
- Completion of a multi-million infrastructure project that is relieving flooding on the north side of town.
- Development of a 20-year outlook for replacing sewers throughout River Forest, which would accelerate the reconstruction of 19 alleys with permeable solutions to stem flooding on the south side of town.
- Creation of the Economic Development Commission; the board’s business development initiative, chaired by Trustee O’Connell; Sustainability Commission, formerly chaired by Trustee Brennan; the Age Friendly Advisory Ad-Hoc Committee, chaired by Trustee Vazquez; Deer Management Ad-Hoc Committee and Collaboration Committee, chaired by Trustee Cargie. About 35 new voices have come into government service by way of these commissions.
- The partnership with Dominican University to advance our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy utilizing the University Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Framework. This partnership came out of a discussion I initiated with Dominican University President Donna Carroll last summer on how the Village and the University can engage in this important work. This partnership moved very quickly through the Board of Trustee approval process from discussion to a Village Resolution in roughly 3 months.
- Creation of a Climate Action Plan through various agreements. Signed the Chicago Climate Charter, PlanItGreen and the Greenest RegionCompact.
- Creation of quarterly safety and social justice meetings with residents and our police department. Installation of LED lights to brighten the streets and make them safer.
For the complete list of what the Village has done in the past eight years, log on to my website, cathyforriverforest.com.
In a community best known for its affluent housing, what are the economic and social benefits of increasing affordable housing in River Forest?
The economic and social benefits of increasing affordable housing will benefit all of River Forest. The Plan we adopted will offer a more diverse housing stock for the middle class.
More housing for the middle class will have a positive economic impact, including increases in local purchasing power, job creation, new tax revenues, improved health and access to critical community services. Middle income residents will have more disposable income to spend on groceries, restaurants, and services such as dry cleaners and hair salons—all items that are consumed locally.
Our Affordable Housing Plan will also aid persons with disabilities and those who want to age in place. The Plan supports Integrated Supportive Housing for new developments or as replacements of existing affordable housing.
Five years from now, how should we measure the success of the Twin Village Covenant between River Forest and Maywood?
We will measure the success of the Twin Village Covenant as blended in with the efforts of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion working group as well as the Village’s work with the Dominican University’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation framework.
We will share ideas and information and work together on solutions to common concerns, whether that includes aging in place or sustainability or setting up group purchasing agreements so both Villages can save money. We will also consider celebrating some holidays together, such as Memorial Day.
Because of the conversation I initiated with Dr. Carroll last summer, River Forest and Dominican worked together toward a common goal: forming a partnership that will embrace diversity and inclusion. With my leadership and Trustee Bachner’s and Brennan’s willingness to help build consensus, we quickly and efficiently moved the DEI working group toward a positive path toward a resolution. I am proud of the work we have accomplished, and I embrace and look forward to getting to work on the initiatives from the internal advisory group and with Dominican. The desire, in five years, is to have substantive change that will drive us to be a better community.
How will recent discussions on equity inside village hall affect your approach to hiring a new village administrator?
We will always look for the best person who can do this important and complicated job. That person should possess many skills; one of them is the understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion.
The Village Administrator above all needs a clear picture of how the government must work. They must understand zoning, planning, finances, public safety, human resources, relationship building with other communities, state and federal agencies, contract negotiation and collective bargaining agreements with our public safety unions to name a few. The successful candidate also must be a strong communicator, with good listening and decision-making skills.
The Board does not mentor the Village Administrator; At a minimum, the Village Administrator should have at least more extensive knowledge about government than the Board. We should trust the Administrator’s judgment and decision making. The two – in tandem- must work together to achieve good and sound governance.
How do you plan to support to the local businesses experiencing economic uncertainty due to COVID-19?
We will roll out a multi-faceted plan that will be drafted by a business round table, composed of business, community and civic leaders. This group can be a resource for RF businesses seeking information on how to apply for grants and loans.
The Economic Development Commission needs to work with the Chamber of Commerce to get this information in the hands of local business owners. That would include:
● Ensuring that businesses have all of the necessary information to apply for small business loans and funding coming from the $1.9 trillion COVID American Relief Plan that is signed by President Biden. That includes COVID-19 relief plan programs through the Small Business Administration and the Paycheck Protection Program.
Other vital funding sources for small businesses could include:
● EIDL: Economic Injury Disaster Loans
● SVO: Shuttered Venue Operators Grant
● Southern Smoke Foundation has an emergency relief fund that restaurant workers can apply for.
● Comcast Rise Investment Fund will be opening the application process on March 14.
● TIF funds could be used, if SB188 moves through the IL General Assembly.
● The State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunities (DCEO) home page also has many funding opportunities.
As a member of the board of directors and second Vice President of the Illinois Municipal League, I will ensure that we seek grant funding and loans for our businesses and residents.
Do you think there is a need to control the deer population in River Forest? If so, what measures would you support to do so? If not, how would you respond to those who have experienced property or foliage damage as a result of deer in the village?
Deer management is NOT the responsibility of River Forest, but comes under the jurisdiction of the Cook County Forest Preserve District (CCFPD) and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) permitting process.
The question that arose in River Forest was whether we would pay for deer management sooner than the Cook County Forest Preserve District would do it on its own.
Deer management has been before the Village Trustees since the Illinois Department of Natural Resources presentation on wildlife management on June 24, 2019. We brought the question forward because residents wanted to voice their concerns to Trustees and myself about the damage that was being done to their property and the safety of our community given the deer collisions on Thatcher and across our community as well as the health risk of Chronic Wasting Disease and tick bites.
After further discussion and debate in the fall of 2019 and reviewing an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the Village and the Forest Preserve District and the permit from the state IDNR, the Trustees agreed by consensus to form an advisory task force (instead of discussing the IGA) so they could understand the pros and cons and any alternate measures the Village could take to manage the deer population by using methods .
In February 2020, Trustees discussed the members and Chairs who would serve on the Task Force; Trustees – not the President – voted in favor of all members and agreed to add two additional members. This approval – with the authority given to the Trustees through advice and consent – included a YES vote by Trustee Henek. Co-chairs – trustees tasked with the leadership of the committee – were to be Trustees Cargie and Trustee Henek; both accepted.
A month later, Trustee Henek resigned that leadership role, saying in an email to the Board and myself that she did not have the time to chair the committee. No other Chair was added simply because no other Trustee offered to be a co-chair.
Since April 2020, COVID-19 has delayed some of the task force’s work. During its last meeting, the advisory task force – not the Board of Trustees – voted to recommend paying to cull the deer. Two separate reports would be issued – one with data supporting the possibility of paying for deer management; the other will be on what should be done to deal with property and/or foliage damage and other alternatives to coexist with wildlife. The reports will be discussed thoroughly in an open and transparent way before Trustees make a decision.
Again, this is an ADVISORY committee; Trustees have the final vote on any money spent on the County/IDNR/US AG managing the deer in Thatcher Woods. Everyone will be heard. I look forward to reading both reports and discussing this with the community.