Mark Elkins: Candidate profile
Name: Mark Elkins
City: Hanover Park
Office sought: Park District Commissioner
Family: Married to ASA Caroline Kennedy with 2 Daughters, Sydney Age 20 currently attending ASU for Astro Physics and Michaela Senior at Hoffman Estates High School.
Occupation: Publisher of Neighbors of Spring Valley Magazine---------
What are the most important issues facing your park district and how do you intend to address them?
Many voters are not aware that the Park District is a separate government distinct from the village. The Village of Hanover Park does not pay for or maintain Park District buildings and grounds. It's important we communicate with people who live in the district better so they understand the Park District functions and responsibilities. I think that people want to be involved in the Park and to do things that improve and serve their community. We need to deliver a message that conveys how important they are to our decision making.
With the state of social media and the accessibility of people today, I think we can successfully put together a community project that captures the attention and interest of our citizens in a way that they will get involved in improving the district. One idea that I have is for the Park District to get involved in the Monarch Waystation Program. We can, at a low cost and with contributions from other organizations, build a program that provides fun, recreational, educational and volunteer opportunities around improving the environment and beautifying the parks.
It is critical we work more closely with the people so they understand how we are different.
* If you are a newcomer, what prompted you to run for the park board? If you're an incumbent, list your accomplishments or key initiatives in which you played a leadership role.
The things that residents will be more familiar with and of which I am most proud, include:
The citizens of the district have re-elected me 5 times after I first took office.
I was involved in the initial site acquisition, design and development of Seafari Springs Water Park.
Established the policy leading to and participated in the evaluation, analysis and construction of the Tennis Dome 4 court extension.
Design selection, Grant Application, public testimony and Redevelopment Heritage Park and Ranger Park.
Lobbying efforts that have resulted in the passage of laws beneficial to the Park District
Establishment of a permanent place for the local Cricket Clubs to play.
Selection, evaluation, hiring of 3 Executive Directors.
At my initiative, the Park District revamped its compensation program to rely more heavily on employee benefits as a method of staff retention. We entered the PDRMA risk management pool, a type of self insurance which allowed us to provide excellent benefits to employees and as a result, our staff turnover significantly reduced. This in turn allowed us to develop competent staff, qualified to be promoted from within the organization, rather than turning to the outside to hire in management. This ultimately resulted in significant cost savings over the years.
I participated in developing the contest rules and selection of a winner for the process we used in developing our logo.
I developed the policy that hired more Hispanic staff, enabling the Park District to better meet the needs of our growing Hispanic community.
* Which programs aren't paying for themselves? Would you keep, eliminate or change them? How and why?
Most of what the Park District provides does not pay for itself and we need to continue providing that service anyway. Less than half of our revenues are from fees. These fees must be kept competitive if we are going to keep residents using these services.
To be clear, many programs do pay for themselves under good circumstances. Our Athletic Club is an example of a great revenue generator. Unfortunately, when the equipment failure caused our tennis dome to deflate, we had costs beyond what we will recover in fees and insurance.
Programs like sports and camps pay for themselves but the swimming pool is a perennial loser. What choice do we have? We could permanently close the pool and be a community without one but who wants to live in the only community without a pool? In some ways, the community pool defines who we are. There are few who would not want to have it open just because it was a costly thing to operate. It was only with great reluctance that I suggested closing it this year and spending the money on repairs instead of staff this year.
Parks are very costly to maintain and operate. They generate little to no fee revenue outside of private picnic fees and field rentals. It would be silly to suggest that we do without playgrounds, picnic pavilions, basketball courts, softball backstops and tennis courts. The park district must continue to fund these items even though they cost money without creating revenue.
* Is there any additional open space the park district needs to acquire? Please describe.
We are always on the lookout for additional space. Unfortunately, we cannot currently purchase anything.
I have always wanted to see these things in the district: A dog park, a skate park, a mini-golf course, an indoor soccer facility and a banquet/theater facility. As opportunities arise to acquire or build any of these things, we will have to find ways to make it happen through grants or perhaps one of these will be inspiring enough to the community that they will approve a referendum to provide for these new additions.
* Are there any unmet recreational needs? If yes, what are they and how would you propose paying for them?
Much of our current infrastructure is in end of useful life maintenance mode and we are unable to keep up with the accelerating need for repairs as our improvements and equipment ages. At the same time our staff is getting older and closer to retirement. We were unsuccessful in a recent referendum attempt. We will need to try a referendum again to raise the money and we will need to begin eliminating park equipment and facilities to keep costs in line until we can build again.
There are no easy solutions. This year we closed the swimming pool to use the operations money for repairs. We will begin doing the same thing with all of our improvements until we reach an equilibrium in which we can service and maintain everything we have at the demand level for that property.