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H-F Park District candidates focus on programs, facilities

The focus at the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District candidate forum Monday night was on programs and facilities.
Each of the candidates present at the forum emphasized what they could bring to the commissioner’s position. None of the candidates found fault with how the district is operating.
In the April 4 election, two six-year terms are open. Dallas Collins and Brent Bachus are serving on the board. Collins is up for re-election. Bachus, who was appointed to the board, is running for election. Their challengers are Terrence F. Wright, Brit G. Volini and Louis C. Rutland.  
Voters also will elect one person for a two-year term. Candidates are Christina Farley-Jackson and Alesia M. Crockett. Park Commissioner Sue Bertram resigned from the board in January 2016. The winner will be completing the remainder of her term.
Rutland was out of town for the forum, but the other six candidates offered their ideas to about 50 people attending the forum hosted by the Homewood-Flossmoor League of Women Voters and the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle. Discussion was based on audience-submitted questions.
The candidates all said they were willing to step forward because they wanted to give back to the park district for the programs either they or their family members have enjoyed.
Bachus and Collins said as commissioners they have been careful with expenditures. They recognize the park district has several major expenses ahead because the facilities – once on the cutting edge – will need to be updated. 
Bachus and Collins were asked what they have accomplished during their time as park district commissioners. Collins said when elected she intended to make the park district better than she found it; she believes that is the case. Bachus said he considered himself a catalyst for bringing people together.
Crockett, who has served on the park district’s Leisure Services Committee, said “it is better to be at the table. Too many people are misinformed because they’re not at the table. They lose out because of that.”
Communication materials and social media can work, but “the best way is face-to-face communication with people,” Crockett told the audience. “Some people don’t want to raise an issue in public, but they do care and will talk with you about it.”
Volini, who at one time worked for the park district, said she knows how hard staff works and wants to be an advocate for the employees. She applauded the district for its internal “go green” campaign.
Wright said he has expertise in planning events and thought he could create publicity around events through social media. The park district’s “assets make it one of the best around.” He stressed that that story needs to be told. 
Farley-Jackson said she is looking for innovative programming. She would want to hear ideas from residents and hopes to see the park district partner with other government agencies, such as the libraries. She would like to see programs expanded to include robotics.
One questioner asked about working with the Homewood Science Center. All six candidates agreed they would investigate the possibility of some type of partnership.
Each candidate urged residents to be involved with the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District. They have found that giving feedback on programs, volunteering for Park Pride or stepping forward to serve on committees or focus groups makes a difference.
“Nine years ago, I went to a board meeting to ask what could be done about graffiti at Millennium Park,” Collins said. “In short order I was my neighborhood captain for Park Pride, and then I was on the Leisure Services Committee. Now I’m on the board. It all has made a difference for me, my kids and our parks.” 

For additional information on each candidate, visit the Chronicle’s Voter Guide at hfchronicle.com. 

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