Christopher English: Candidate Profile
Downers Grove Township Highway Commissioner (4-year Term) (D)
Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: Downers Grove Township Highway Commissioner (4-year Term)
Family: Married, 2 cjhildren
Education: BA Design, SIU 1972
Civic involvement: Downers Grove Township Democratic Organization
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
I am a candidate for Highway Commissioner. As Highway Commissioner, I will make sure that the Highway Department spends the taxpayer dollars wisely. Equipment purchases must be scrutinized to insure that they are essential to the operation and not just acquired because there is money in the budget. As Highway Commissioner, I will contact other township and municipal governments in DuPage County to identify collective resources. I will work toward collaborating with them to avoid duplicate purchases of occasionally used machinery that can be shared among governmental bodies. In previous years, the Highway Department acquired new equipment every year because money was available in the budget.
Key Issue 2
The Highway Department must implement and manage a realistic long-range plan. Project needs must be anticipated and scheduled on a multi-year project calendar to insure that roads are bridges are safely maintained. The plan must include appropriate timelines to bid proposed projects, allowing a more open process for awarding contract work. The budget must be developed around the long-range plan and based on real need, not just incremented to adapt to the maximum amount of the tax levy.
Key Issue 3
The Highway Department must implement a process for bidding work. A transparent bidding protocol that awards contracts to the lowest responsible bidder is a hallmark of good government and will avoid cronyism.
Name the three most important goals or objectives this board should tackle in the coming term. Prioritize them, and briefly discuss why you believe each to be critical, and how the board should go about addressing them.
1. The township, particularly as related to the Highway Department, should pursue collaboration with other townships, municipalities, and the county to share resources where feasible. Efficiencies of scale may be realized that would benefit the taxpayers by reducing the amount of the tax levy. A successful example of collaboration among local government entities is the efficiency created by consolidating 911 call centers to reduce cost for local police and fire departments. I believe that similar cost reductions could be accomplished by pooling resources, such as less frequently needed machinery among two or more townships. 2. The township should assess programs and services to insure they are in alignment with the mission and functions as mandated by state law. As more of the township is incorporated into municipalities, the volume of services to unincorporated areas reduces. In the Highway Department, this is evidenced by a reduction in the number of road miles that must be maintained. The current board continues to add programs that reach beyond the core mandated services and in most cases duplicate programs that are offered by other government entities. Examination of the programs and services should be accomplished as part of the long-range planning. 3. The township should insure that it operates all functions in an open and honest manner. Projects should be bid through a consistent, fair, and equitable process. Agendas, minutes, and budget information should be posted on the website in a timely manner. All functions must comply with state and federal laws, as well as best practices for good government. Over the past four years, the current board was cited for failing to comply with the Open Meetings Act, as well as with the GASB accounting standards. These issues were observed and identified by citizens attending regular township board meetings. While corrective action has been taken, the current board has a lax approach to following proper procedures.
In the 21st Century, with municipalities gobbling up vacant land, why are townships needed? Should they be serving a new role? If so, what?
Township governments are responsible, according to state law, for road maintenance, general assistance, and property assessments. Currently, most roads within the township are under the jurisdiction of municipalities, the county, or the state. This complex system is confusing for citizens who often do not know who should be notified of problems with road maintenance. Roads maintained by the township government are a disjointed patchwork of concrete that must be serviced by traveling through other jurisdictions to reach the next section of highway. While some agreements exist among jurisdictions, more can be done to reduce redundancy and increase efficiency. Other programs and services also duplicate those that may be available from local municipalities and the county. The need for township services is more critical in rural parts of the state where most of the land resides in unincorporated areas. At some point in the future, the need for services provided by township government in our suburban township will no longer be necessary. However, until there is a citizen-driven movement or a legislative mandate to eliminate township governments, they will continue to exist and should continue to perform only the services mandated by state law.
What should be the primary responsibility of township government?
The primary responsibilities of township government are mandated by state law. The mandated functions are road and bridge maintenance in unincorporated areas, to provide general assistance to those who need it, and to assess real property.
In these hard economic times, can you identify some township expenses/programs that could be trimmed or eliminated to reduce the tax burden?
The Downers Grove Township Highway Department acquires new equipment annually. While equipment must be well-maintained and up to date, care must be taken to insure that use of the equipment and vehicles is maximized without sacrificing quality or safety. One area where costs can be contained is through sharing resources among several townships or other governmental entities. Cost efficiencies can also be realized through a long-term capital plan for road and bridge projects. Other areas of the township operations can also be optimized. For example, the cost of providing service through the General Assistance Fund is high, compared to the actual amount of assistance that is dispersed. Programs offered through the Human Services Department should be examined for their alignment with the core mandated functions of the township. While some of these programs are funded by grants, they still utilize township resources in the form of space and utilities. The township government should also examine the potential benefit of selling the current building and vacant land parcels and moving the township offices closer to the unincorporated areas that utilize the bulk of the services provided. The existing building is desired by the high school and the vacant parcels represent a prime location for developers. Leasing property or purchasing a smaller building in a more appropriate location with the proceeds of the land sale may serve the taxpayers well.
What specific background or experience do you bring that makes you the best qualified candidate to serve as an elected official in the township?
I will bring four decades of professional multi-discipline experience in the building and maintenance of public and private sector infrastructure to the township. While working my way through college, I was a surveyor, laying out streets, utilities and plats for subdivisions along 75th street. As a licensed architect, I apply knowledge of design, materials, construction, building codes and contracts to many kinds of building projects. As a construction manager for the State of Illinois, I oversaw work that was publically bid to stringent specification and public bidding requirements. Projects Chris was involved in include schools, universities, correction and mental health institutions and roads in state parks. Chris spearheaded construction of the Traffic Systems Center for the Department of Transportation a ground breaking traffic engineering facility. In the private sector, I was employed for a roof construction company, where I learned the business of contracting and how to direct, supervise and motivate construction crews. This work also involved fleet management of mobile equipment: trucks, cranes, tractors and trailers. As a nationally recognized expert in commercial roofing, I have managed my own professional firm dedicated to roof consulting and am currently on the staff of an architectural firm engaged in school renovation work. In addition to my professional experience, I have actively studied the operation of the township government for four years. I have attended every township government meeting for the past four years. My breadth of experience will provide the township with an experienced leader who can identify and implement efficiencies within the Highway Department to maximize services at the lowest possible cost.