Candidates running in local races in Elmhurst participated Feb. 10 in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Elmhurst.
About 50 people attended the forum at Elmhurst City Hall.
Candidates for two seats on the Elmhurst City Council, Elmhurst Park District Board of Commissioners and Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 fielded numerous questions submitted by attendees and posed by a League of Women Voters moderator.
The forum kicked off with questions for the five candidates running for the two Park Board seats.
In response to a question on the need for a park district referendum, incumbent Vince Spaeth, the board president, said the Vision 2020 community feedback planning process indicated that the community would like to see several substantial projects, including a new senior center, a dog park and a sports complex.
Spaeth said that refinancing existing debt and “consolidating things in the long term” would help offset the cost of the projects.
Nora Wernette Baxtrom, who has had a 10-year career in the energy industry, said funding for the dog park, senior center and sports complex is not in the existing park district budget.
She called for a transparent estimate of the complete capital and operational cost of the projects. She added that the park district should “rigorously” explore outside funding opportunities.
Claire Kubiesa, a licensed psychologist at the Naval Station Great Lakes, said she supports a park district referendum because some of the plans cannot be accomplished without additional funding.
She added that the community is “asking for outstanding” from the park district and the referendum will determine whether the community wants to fund the projects that have been called for in Vision 2020.
James Colbert, an Army veteran and a stay-at-home dad, said he supports placing property on the tax rolls before he would back a referendum.
Liz White, who formerly worked as a web and IT support specialist for the district, said she envisions a referendum “as a last resort” to fund specific projects. Corporate sponsorships and grants should be considered first because it’s important “not to tax seniors and other families out of the district,” she said.
Candidates also responded to questions about the future of the former medical center property on Palmer Drive that is used by the park district, the establishment of public restrooms at area parks, the park district director’s leadership, and ways to address glitches in online program registration that occurred in 2018.
Candidates for Elmhurst Community Unit School District 205 also fielded numerous questions during their portion of the forum. Eight candidates are running for four seats on the board.
Topics included class size, all-day kindergarten, equity across district schools, school security and teacher pay.
District 205 candidates are Paul DeMichele, Christopher Kocinski, Stephan Schlesinger, Elizabeth Hosler, Gordon Snyder, Bojana Ozegovic Carey, Courtenae Trautmann and incumbent Karen Stuefen.
During a discussion of school safety, all of the candidates except Hosler said they opposed arming teachers.
Hosler said having upgraded safe and secure entrances at all schools, part of the November 2018 district referendum, led her to get involved in promoting the referendum. She said she looks to the district’s safety committee, which partners with the Elmhurst Police Department, to provide the best practices for ensuring school safety. She added that she wants to evaluate whether York Community High School has enough staff to make safety systems run well.
The four candidates running for two seats on the Elmhurst City Council were the third group to participate in the forum.
Elizabeth Ambrogi is challenging incumbent Alderman Mark Sabatino in Ward 1. Incumbent alderwoman Noel Talluto faces a challenge from Mark Anglewicz in the 4th Ward.
The candidates were asked about environmental impact associated with the Elmhurst City Centre development, fair housing in Elmhurst and the use of tax increment financing districts in the city.
A video of the forum and candidates’ written responses to questions posed at the event will be available in March until Election Day on Comcast Channel 6, AT&T Channel 99, ElmhurstTv.com and the league’s website, www.lwvelmhurst.org.
For information about registering to vote and election details, visit elections.il.gov.