*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
I have lived with my family in River Forest since 2014. I recently served on the River Forest Mental Health Board before accepting the township trustee role. In that volunteer position I was able to see how the township engages with other local governing bodies and service organizations. I am passionate about improving the lives of people with disabilities and their families. Experiences as a parent of 2 children, 1 with a disability, frame my perspectives about access and community participation. My work as a physical therapist who studies and educates future healthcare providers about health equity for disabled people also inform my awareness of role the township can play in delivering services and creating community. I am running for trustee to continue my volunteer commitment to the community.
How can the township increase awareness of its services?
The River Forest Township has much to brag about and can always work to increase awareness of its services. The township website can be updated. Continued use of social media is useful. Community partners can also promote township programs, resources and services for overlapping participants.
Leveraging and collaborating with existing resources such as other taxing body websites, newsletters or programming events are other methods to communicate. For example, targeted marketing about the township’s taxpayer advocacy services through the assessor’s office in a village water bill insert is a way to reach property owners. Outreach through community listening sessions (in-person or virtual) and needs assessments are other ways to both hear what is needed in the community as well as promote township services.
What can you do to convince local government bodies to renew support of the Youth Interventionist Program? Do you believe that support be renewed?
Trustees use their voices and votes to advocate for programs that benefit the community. The Youth Interventionist Program can be seen as a wrap-around service valuable for the OPRF community. Because of how the program is structured, it is able to be in multiple settings serving individuals while also engaging in community programming in the parks, libraries, and schools. The funding structure related to the taxing bodies participating now seems more aligned with program use. The Township Youth Services has begun collecting data that go beyond demographics to get a better understanding of the successful outcomes which will be useful for the next funding cycle in 2022. Given the continued impact of the pandemic and the loss of socialization opportunities for youth during this time, the mental health & social focus of the program will likely be useful for the young residents of the community. Programs like these should be supported.
Should discussion of merging Oak Park Township with village government be ended and why?
I do not believe the township should be merged with village government. Townships provide a specific, unique focus in delivering programming and engaging with the community beyond what the village government does. The expertise and time spent developing relationships with the community, service providers, community organizations and other local taxing bodies is done with a specific lens of human services and community well- being. This focus would be minimized to the detriment of the community if the township and the village government are combined.
Collaboration between Oak Park & River Forest Townships includes administrative tasks and delivery of services. This partnership yields a cost- effective approach to delivering social & community health services which would be weakened if the township merged with local government.
What service areas are in need of expansion?
The township has many program partners which benefit the community. Exploration of services for people with disabilities to live and thrive in in the community is one area I would like to see grow. The township partners with many great organizations which provide therapy and care services sometimes focusing on caregivers and family needs. Making sure people with disabilities have a voice in saying what they need to live, work, grow and fully participate in our communities add another layer to services currently offered.
Other areas of expansion should be driven by community needs. The township worked towards goals set from 2017 assessment, but another outreach to the community to assess programming and service needs is necessary to continue to build community health. The emotional and physical health issues as well as possible financial impacts people face as a result of this pandemic may necessitate an expansion of services in these areas. Ensuring residents have supports they want, and need is important.
How do you plan to expand these areas and fund the expansion?
Seeking new organizations and encouraging current partners to take a broad view of the disability experience in our community should be encouraged to meet the above aim. The township funding of 1% of tax dollars necessitates collaboration and partnerships to deliver services. The township does a good job of combining resources with other local taxing bodies and community organizations to deliver services and that can be continued.
What outcome do you wish to see for the remaking of the River Forest Community Center?
The River Forest Community Center (RFCC) is a not-for-profit organization which provides recreational, social and educational programs for the residents of River Forest and surrounding communities. The RFCC cannot and does not tax River Forest residents.RFCC’s programming proved adaptable during the pandemic and benefitted families who needed a space for remote learning. “Remaking” of programming seems to be an ongoing, fluid process aimed at meeting resident needs which should be continued.
The building which houses the RFCC program and other tenants, including the River Forest Township, was recently assessed for possible rebuilding or renovations as part of a project with other taxing bodies. Ideally, an intergenerational and accessible approach towards any upgrades or new construction would be beneficial so that the building can be a space for the whole community. The township is currently reviewing the feasibility study.