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Contact me: ted@tedmckenna.org
Village of Wilmette  
Ted McKenna For Trustee  

Voter’s Guide Questions

Ted McKenna, Trustee Candidate

Village Board of Trustees and Village President

1. What personal qualities, skills and experiences make you particularly qualified to be a Trustee for the Village of Wilmette. If you are an incumbent, what board achievements would you like to highlight?
A) Village Service: Over the past eight years I have served on the Village of Wilmette Zoning Board of Appeals. I have deliberated at over 500 land use cases including new home construction, existing home additions, Park District requests and commercial redevelopment. This position requires listening to the needs of the applicants and the community while interpreting the ordinance of the Village to hopefully identify the proper balance between private rights and the public good. All residents of the Village are equal and should be treated as such. Our neighbors have opinions and we should listen to them as much as we do our own personal convictions. I welcome all input to make informed decisions.

Operational Knowledge: I bring nearly 20 years of operations experience in commercial real estate and facility management to the Trustee position. This includes extensive work on budget development with focus on cost containment, employee relations, and customer service. This experience is essential when charged with the oversight of Village operations and the prudent use of Village funds.

Civic involvement:
I am a member of the Wilmette Harbor Rotary Club having participated in a number of fundraising activities and soup kitchen work to benefit local and international causes. Like most parents, I am a regular supporter of my children’s academic and athletic activities. I have been a Sunday school teacher for over ten years.
2. What specific programs and/or services would you suggest reducing in light of budget concerns?
A) Current economic factors suggest that the 2009 actual revenue will likely be less than budgeted. In general, we should look at cost containment measures and not tax increases to manage any budget shortfall.
The single largest cost for Village services is labor. Public Safety, comprised of the Police and Fire Departments, represents the largest labor force. Obviously, we live more quietly and confidently thanks to the service of the men and women that serve in these departments. The costs for these services total more than half of the $30 million general fund expense. If needed, we may need to freeze new hiring, reduce overtime and consider modifying the staffing levels of each department or on particular shifts. We may also need to modify the way that Police and Fire respond to emergencies, such as sending fire trucks for every ambulance call.

Our Public Works Department maintains our sewers, street lighting and roads. They are also responsible for the leaf and sidewalk snow removal programs. We may need to consider modifying or eliminating the leaf and sidewalk snow removal programs. Maintenance of the roads, sewers and snow removal of roads must continue yet some projects may need to be deferred. We should also look to hiring freezes and overtime reductions to reduce costs.

The Village water and sewer operations are essential services. The good news is that these operations are income producing. We likely do not need to look for dramatic changes in these operations to assist with cost reductions.
3. There has been discussion of moving Village Hall to another location in order to jump start development in the Village Center. What are your thoughts on this?
A) If a successful redevelopment of the Village Center needs the additional space of the Village Hall, move it! The plan needs to be comprehensive, significant and mixed in use. The commercial portion of the development will need to be relatively large in size. Recent commercial development has created space that is too small, attracting only low impact users.

Successful businesses attract people. Our society drives. We will need to come to terms with parking and traffic. We can help minimize the impact on traffic and parking by concentrating it in fewer areas. This is one of the positive aspects of a downtown redevelopment plan. Over the past decade, we have seen a significant erosion of businesses in the Neighborhood Retail zoning districts. This is a further sign that consumers are drawn to more concentrated and larger centers. We need to help strengthen the existing neighborhood retail yet work toward a more popular commercial experience in locations like the Village Center.

New development needs to include more food service opportunities. Restaurants contribute to sales tax revenue while providing an everyday benefit to residents. The current parking regulations in the Village Center prescribe too many spaces. The parking requirements in the Village Center should be altered to allow for a reduced parking requirement. The Village may need to participate in the development of parking alternatives such as an additional downtown parking structure.

We must encourage smarter commercial development or expect a greater property tax burden to fund our basic Village services.
4. Zoning issues comprise a significant portion of the decisions you will make as a Trustee. Whether it is a single family home improvement or major commercial development, how would you balance the rights of the property owner with the desires of the neighbors surrounding a proposed project and the community at large?
A) On the Zoning Board of Appeals, I have been judicious in my interpretation of the Zoning code, balancing the practical needs of home owners, the economic needs of businesses, and the opinions of the neighborhood. I will use this experience to identify inadequacies in our regulations to improve the overall quality of our community and for all future land use decisions.

To maintain our historic housing stock, we need to be liberal in considering zoning relief for older homes. We need modifications to the zoning code to recognize the needs unique to older properties. It is difficult to tell owners of a vintage home that they must crowd into a small kitchen while their seemingly large home remains functionally obsolete compared to today’s standards. Zoning improvements will benefit all home owners contemplating renovation, not just those with the fortitude to navigate the appeals process.

The overall size of new home construction is a concern with many residents. We need to find new ways to limit the perception of bulk through revised zoning regulation. The new Ad-Hoc Zoning Review Committee will likely take up this topic.

Residents frequently site concerns about the traffic impact of commercial development. We need to concentrate major commercial development away from neighborhoods and insist on the use of traffic studies to help guide our decisions.
Larger projects seeking approvals under the Planned Unit Development or other zoning relief must demonstrate a real public benefit before final approval.
5. Do you favor changing zoning regulations to increase density for multifamily construction so such construction could include affordable housing?
A) Yes. This is the single biggest obstacle to the creation of new affordable housing. There is a significant amount of affordable housing in the Village that exists in the form of co-ops, condominiums and apartments. Allowing for dense developments in appropriate areas will help provide further affordable housing.

Increased density should also be considered in any Village Center redevelopment plan because the Village Center is one area that can potentially handle the traffic and concentration of new residents. Our focus should not however remain solely on the Village Center. We must continue to consider greater density along major street locations and western portions of the Village that are currently underserved.

What is not in character in the Village is a significant increase in density within established neighborhoods, particularly mid-block development. Large multifamily developments sandwiched between established single family homes is not generally acceptable. Public opinion on this issue has been strong and clear. We should heed these opinions.
6. How do you strike a balance between the costs of Environmental/Green initiatives and the benefits of such initiatives?
A) Our Village must be environmentally responsible within the boundaries of its work. This should include energy efficient improvements to facilities at the time of renovation, best practices in operating facilities, use of fuel efficient vehicles, and responsible landscaping practices.

The more challenging aspect of Green initiatives is changing the behavior of our residents. How can we encourage innovation and sensitivity on this issue? Education is needed. Groups like Go Green Wilmette provide an important resource to the community and do it in an efficient and cost effective manner. The Village should continue to support the efforts of the Environmental and Energy Commission to advise Village policy, to encourage additional volunteer efforts, and educate the community.

How do we encourage Green initiatives without creating regulatory burdens on residents? I will use my membership on the Village’s newly formed Ad Hoc Zoning Review Committee to further study this issue and to provide real and tangible improvements to Green initiatives in our Zoning code.
7. What role should the Village play in supporting marketing/advertising campaigns to promote Wilmette businesses and shopping locally?
A) Businesses in Wilmette are vibrant neighbors contributing goods and services important for residents’ lives. They also provide significant financial support to the Village in the form of collected sales taxes. As a Village, we should use our energy to educate area consumers about our local businesses. To the extent that we can increase sales tax revenue we decrease the real estate tax burden of all our citizens.

We should maintain promotional activities and continued membership in the Wilmette Chamber of Commerce. The Shop Wilmette print, transit and television add campaigns conducted last year did create new perceptions of Wilmette within the Village and with surrounding communities. It may be difficult to quantify the impact of this campaign but we all know that advertising works. How much money should the Village should contribute to advertising campaigns? Our contributions to the Chamber of Commerce and to marketing programs will necessarily vary and be dependent on our ability to fund these programs.

The Village has an impact on the creation of new businesses through its regulatory requirements. The Village must make the approval process for business, zoning, special use, and liquor applications a priority to encourage new business development. Unnecessary procedural delays have and will continue to hamper new business creation. Given the state of the economy, we can take this time to improve our processes to encourage new business development.
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