Edited at 6:16 p.m. on March 28, 2017
Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- When it comes to running Village government, few things count more than critical thinking and smart use of experience. If you want to be a Village Trustee in Park Forest, it pays to pay attention. That means reading. Lots of it. That means meetings. Lots of them. That means immersing yourself in the numerous perplexities of local government, always working to stay ahead of the curve. Always working to stay informed.
It means setting aside one’s ego (especially hard for politicians), and putting issues before personalities.
It means approaching public office first and foremost as a public service — not the place where one can grind a personal ax.
Toward that, eNews Park Forest offers two strong endorsements for Village Trustee: Theresa Settles (incumbent), and Robert McCray (incumbent). eNews Park Forest also endorses Jonathan Vanderbilt.
Theresa Settles and Robert McCray have proven tenures of leadership on the Village Board. Settles is a lifelong resident of Park Forest. McCray and his wife, Alicia, have lived in the Village for over 40 years.
Both have served on the Village Board with distinction and dedication. Both appear well-informed on the challenges facing Park Forest, well aware of the need for increasing the business base to offset residential property taxes, and the complicated issues Park Foresters face when it comes to school funding. The latter remains the primary reason taxes are so high in Park Forest.
Settles is a calm, reasoned voice on the board. Well-read, she keeps up on agenda items and offers thoughtful, cogent feedback on issues.
McCray, likewise, possesses a thorough grasp of the issues facing Park Forest, as well as the patience and dedication to keep the residents of Park Forest first when considering policies and ordinances.
That leaves the third vote.
It may surprise some familiar with the history of elections in Park Forest, but I am giving my third vote to Jon Vanderbilt.
Vanderbilt is a lifelong resident of Park Forest. While that is certainly not the deciding factor in whether or not to vote for him, he distinguishes himself from his opponents by his years of volunteer work in town, particularly on the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Environment Commission. He also led in an effort to start a community garden on Algonquin Street, and deserves recognition for these accomplishments.
Furthermore, Vanderbilt seems open to new ideas and creative thought, even though some of his proposals are not practical. His initiative for a property tax freeze for homeowners (presumably for the Village portion of the tax levy), while laudable, would result in the need for the Village to eliminate services and/or personnel. And for how long would such a freeze be in place? One year? Two years? More?
The Village has considered bottling water in the past, another one of Vanderbilt’s suggestions, according to his candidate statement. But the costs associated with building a bottling and distribution plant are incredible. The water produced by the water treatment plant is also softened. This means sodium, and even though the Mayo Clinic says that “tap water contains very little sodium,” Park Forest would likely be looking at creating a separate water treatment plant that does not soften water for a bottling process. At the forum of March 19, Vanderbilt switched it up a bit, proposing to convince Olympia Fields to buy water from Park Forest. Such an intergovernmental agreement is certainly a possibility, but is there any interest in Olympia Fields?
Suggestions by Vanderbilt relating to school taxes (implementing voter-approved referendums for all school tax levies and the establishment of an Education Commission) are outside the purview of village government. Olympia Fields created an education commission when current Judge Linzey D. Jones was mayor. The commission accomplished little, and did more to meddle in the business of the school boards and sullied the reputation of Olympia Fields.
But Vanderbilt is thinking, and I’m confident that, given the opportunity, he would contribute much to the brainstorming sessions that occur off-camera: the numerous budget sessions, the Saturday updates to the board, and more.
Vanderbilt should be given the opportunity. I believe he would be a strong addition to the make-up of the Village Board.
The others on the ballot, JeRome Brown, David T. Jones, and Marvin D. Holman Jr., simply do not demonstrate propensity to grapple with the critical issues facing the Village.
Brown has been a trustee for almost four years, but he has brought forth nothing original during his tenure. Combative at times, Brown has not demonstrated the ability to work with other board members, nor has he shown an understanding of how village government works. We remember well his campaign for mayor two years ago, when he clandestinely vowed to individual residents his desire to “fire” the Village manager and become a full-time mayor. He has also been dismissive on some of his erstwhile promises when he ran for trustee, such as his pledge that he and some partners were planning on opening a business in town.
This never happened. We doubt that it was ever a sincere pledge.
David Jones and Marvin Holman do not appear to have given much thought to their campaigns, nor have they demonstrated that they’ve researched the position of Village Trustee.
Jones is convinced that something is awry with the way Park Forest records metered water for residents, citing his own water bills as evidence. He wants an “investigation,” but, besides his own claims regarding his personal water bills — which he did not have in his possession at the March 19 forum — he gives no evidence that an investigation is warranted. The Department of Public Works does watch and audit equipment. There have been errors in the past, but these are researched on a case-by-case basis, and there is no evidence that there is any village-wide conspiracy, as Jones alluded to during his comments at the forum.
Holman appears the least-prepared of all the candidates on the ballot this spring. Honestly, in his candidate’s statement, which he provided to the Park Forest Non-Partisan Committee for public distribution, he repeatedly misspelled “Park Forest,” writing it as “park forest,” all small case, with one exception. Such carelessness should not be ignored by the voters.
So, eNews Park Forest is pleased to endorse the following candidates for election to the Village Board: Theresa Settles, RN BSN, Robert McCray, and Jonathan Vanderbilt. Hopefully, voters will give them every consideration, and vote for them when going to the polling places.
Erratum: An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Judge Linzey D. Jones. We regret the error.
Gary Kopycinski is editor and publisher of eNews Park Forest, and a parishioner at St. Irenaeus. Follow him on Twitter at @GaryKopycinski and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FrodoJRR, or email him at [email protected]. He served as a village trustee in Park Forest from 2003-2006, and then again from 2007-2015. He is not a candidate in the April 4, 2017, Consolidated Election.
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