Five seek three Park District of La Grange Board seats
Who they are
Occupation: sales and marketing executive
Length of residency: 13 years
Positions held: Park Board since 2005, volunteer for YMCA guides and princesses, soccer coach, ice rink and strategic planning committee
Occupation: sales, chemical engineer and project management
Length of residency: 19 years
Positions held: volunteer for Highlands Elementary District 106, scouting groups and youth sports
Length of residency:12 years
Positions held: vice president and legal committee chairman for the La Grange Field Club and volunteer for youth soccer and Boy Scouts
Occupation: senior sales representative
Length of residency:11 years
Positions held: board member and coach for La Grange Little League, soccer coach and referee, member Heart Rhythm Society
Occupation: information technology security officer
Length of residency:14 years
Positions held: Park Board since 2005, volunteer for YMCA
Updated: April 22, 2013 6:05AM
LA GRANGE — Bob Ashby and Chris Walsh point to improvements and sound financial footing as reasons elect them to third terms on the Park District of La Grange Board.
“In 2012, we offered over 700 adult programs, an 80 percent increase since 2005, and we serve 2,500 more participants,” Ashby said. “We’ve maintained essentially the same tax rate, and with a $4.5 million budget, we now have 40 percent of our revenues generated by fees and grants; eight years ago, it was 25 percent.”
John Brom, Jim Boo and Rob Lynch are also running for the three open seats.
Brom questioned the park district’s financial footing, noting $11 million in total debts and liability listed on the first installment of the 2012 tax bill.
“I appreciate wanting to spend $2.5 million on a park plan yet to be approved,” Brom said concerning the proposed redevelopment of Gordon Park. “But maybe that $2.5 million could have been spent on other things or reduce the debt so residents wouldn’t have to be taxed twice in real estate and in user fees they pay.”
Jim Boo also said he disagreed with the Gordon Park proposal.
“I don’t support details like the splash pad,” Boo said. “The $2.5 million should be spent across all the parks.”
Boo is the only candidate opposed to selling park property for any reason. He referred to the district’s 2007 plan to sell 2.8 acres of Gordon Park to a developer that became mired in legal challenges for more than four years before it fell apart.
Boo also said he respected a group of concerned citizens who took legal action and challenged the Park Board, because they opposed the loss of open space.
Other candidates said they would consider a sale when legally permitted and of exceptional value to the district.
Rob Lynch criticized the citizens’ group’s legal challenge, resulting in an estimated $1 million in legal bills paid by the park district and ultimately, taxpayers.
Lynch pledged to improve communication between the Park Board and various athletic entities, including Little League and American Youth Soccer Organization. He also said the board should better promote opportunities resulting from an agreement to share Countryside parks.
Walsh said the board strives to be responsive to the public by “doing what people want and doing it efficiently.”
“We have policies in place to get feedback not once a year or when there’s an election or controversial issue, but as programs go along for continuous improvement,” he said.
Although they appreciated the district’s fiscal heath and revenue in addition to property taxes, Lynch and Brom said the district shouldn’t lose sight of making programs affordable, or charging resident for many uses of facilties.