*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
I am a twenty-five-year area resident who has lived in River Forest for almost two years. I bring a varied skill set from a thirty-year corporate career in executive management roles in global planning services.
For the past three-plus years, I have worked in the non-profit sector as the executive director of the Hemingway Foundation. It has been my honor to serve on a number of organizations/boards that in part advocate for the well-being and enrichment of populations including early childhood education, food security, and performance arts access to underserved communities.
Further, I have also functioned as a race director for local community races (Good Life Race & Hemingway 8K) in support of area non-profits. I believe in the townships core mission to provide supportive services to meet the diverse needs within our community; and am committed to serving our township to best fulfill its mission in a transparent and cost-effective manner.
How can the township increase awareness of its services?
I would like to see the township further strengthen the communications component (enhanced website, social media presence, media outreach, etc) of these partnerships and programs. There are numerous success stories within the township services and programs that can be further highlighted. These shared experiences can lead to more positive impacts within our communities. When appropriate (post-pandemic), I’m hopeful in-person forums will be developed to further community engagement. The objectives to both collectively inform and engage our residents of township initiatives as well as their impact on our community.
What can you do to convince local government bodies to renew support of the Youth Interventionist Program? Do you believe that support be renewed?
The current youth intervention program (YIP) was renewed in 2020 by nine of the local taxing bodies through a 2-year intergovernmental agreement. There have been ongoing efforts to strengthen this program such as a new database for better analysis, restructured staff, increased visibility and advocacy. My expectation is we will hear from the Youth Services Committee on the relevant data, experiences, etc. specific to the contracted agencies that manage these programs. Based on this feedback, possible changes may be made to further bolster YIP to better ensure positive outcomes. As a RF Township Trustee, I will continue those efforts to foster support for YIP for this valuable, community-wide program.
Should discussion of merging Oak Park Township with village government be ended and why?
Any such discussions basically revolve around the false assumption of cost savings for taxpayers. The value of our Townships is that they preserve tax-levied dollars exclusively for human services and cannot be diverted or used for other purposes. The River Forest Township and Oak Park Township each manage, fund and deliver many of these impactful services in a cost-effective way to their respective residents. They also collaborate whenever possible, to specifically meet the needs of seniors, youths, and those with mental health issues, developmental disabilities as well as in financial need.
Additionally, each with its assessor’s office serves their residents with help in dealing with appeals and other inquiries. The positive impact made by both townships relative to the allocated dollars is profound (1% tax levy in River Forest, and I believe 2.5 % in Oak Park). If you eliminate townships, the challenges remain and you remove the dedicated resources to best serve those in need. In the times we are in, I do not believe the merging of village and township entities is a very practical answer to meeting the essential human service needs of our communities.
What service areas are in need of expansion?
The data shows that most communities will need further resources for senior services with the impending “age-wave” that will bring about the profound increased demand for seniors’ care of the boomer generation. What is not as well-known or solidified, is the impact of the pandemic on mental health and youth services, in time we may find that further resources may be necessary to further enhance these services as well.
How do you plan to expand these areas and fund the expansion?
For the time being, with funding that amounts to 1% of the tax levy, the RF township continues to “do more with less” in both advocating and providing human health services. Much of the continued success of the current township services has been through collaborations to bring both funding and expertise to bear in meeting the needs of residents.
Since no decisions yet have been made on possible expansion in services that may take place to meet resident needs, it would not be my place to expound upon additional services and funding. But I would pursue additional means of collaboration, funding opportunities, etc. before exploring levy increases.
What outcome do you wish to see for the remaking of the River Forest Community Center?
A quick point of order, the physical building facility is called the River Forest Civic Center Authority (RFCCA) Building. The River Forest Community Center is a separate non-profit that operates/leases much of the space, in addition to other lessees including Opportunity Knocks, D200 CITE Program and the River Forest Township.
Because the RFCCA resides within the Madison Street TIF District, my understanding is that there have been some preliminary feasibility discussions amongst the various taxing bodies (village, park district, etc) within River Forest about possible options for the site (renovations, expansion, or relocation). As I am a resident only at this time, I am not privy to those discussions. Certainly, I see a need for the proper facilities to meet the programming needs within our community both for the current occupants and possible future ones. In consultation with my future township trustee colleagues, I am determined to carefully review any options that may be put forward and be prudent in any decisions made on behalf of our constituents.