an independent Tea Party group in DuPage County, IL
At our April 2011 meeting, our guest speakers informed us of the work they've been doing to promote transparency in the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. It was an eye-opening presentation.
I've received an update from one of those speakers, in the form of an article which appeared in the Daily Herald. The full text of the article and link are below. His comment on the article was:
Based on the FP Board meeting this week, I think they are already making progress. The Board was talking about budgets, costs, their salaries, cost of overhead, all salaries, benefits, etc..... never heard these types of things in the 2+ years we have been attending the Board meetings. It was shocking and quite refreshing to say the least.
Kudos to our guest speakers, who have been the stalwart "squeaky wheels" for several years now. Their diligent and determined efforts to expose arrogance, waste, and possibly even corruption should be a lesson to ALL of us: A couple of people who choose to move forward in a diligent manner CAN make a difference! We should all welcome the increased scrutiny and, hopefully, the additional transparency that this might bring to the DuPage County Forest Preserve.
Unfortunately, I don't entirely trust the organization mentioned in the article, DuPage United. They claim non-partisanship, but they are affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), of which Saul Alinsky was the founder – you can't get more radically socialist/marxist than the Industrial Areas Foundation! I think we all need to be watchful and careful that in our push to "throw the bums out", we don't completely tilt that agency over to the opposite extreme. That will basically end us up in the same boat, just using a different paddle to get us right back where we were headed before. Striking a balance is the key, so the natural tension between the two sides will land us somewhere in the middle. At the end of the article it mentions DuPage United's efforts toward "lessening recent restrictions put on religious institutions looking to locate in residential neighborhoods". For many conservatives that sends up red flags, but I digress.
Small, hopeful signs regarding increased government transparency and accountability are popping up all over the country. Informed, determined, caring citizens CAN bring about change.
Here is the full text of the article:
Having taken partial credit for the recent restructuring of the DuPage Water Commission, a local nonprofit taxpayer and social services advocacy group has set its sights on another government agency.
Members of DuPage United announced during their Delegate Assembly, held Tuesday night at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in West Chicago, that they are about to launch an investigation into the finances of the DuPage Forest Preserve.
“We have begun looking at the DuPage Forest Preserve District because forest reserves are highly valued in DuPage County and we want the district to thrive,” Hani Atassi said. “Funding for the district comes primarily from the real estate taxes which we entrust to six elected commissioners. We expect them to be a good steward to our shared land as well as our tax dollars.”
Atassi said the organization takes issue with the part-time members being paid about $55,000 and health benefits. He also took issue with the $107,000 salary, benefits and monthly car allowance paid to District President D. “Dewey” Pierotti Jr.
“The forest preserve district budget for 2011 shows over $700,000 for the commissioners,” Atassi said. “The district does not seem to be stretched for cash like other government units.”
When asked if any district representatives were present, no one identified themselves.
A telephone message left at Pierotti’s home following the meeting was not returned Thursday night.
DuPage United members said it was the second time recently that they have invited Pierotti to meet and both times, they said, he either declined at the last minute or did not respond.
Organization member Mary Hason said she hopes DuPage United can help the district with its efforts to be more transparent.
“We haven’t looked in their direction before, but now we are, and we’re going to be asking a lot of questions and taking a good look at where that money goes,” she said.
Atassi said DuPage United has already suggested the forest preserve consider hiring a private, outside firm to review their day-to-day finances and engage in more competitive bidding.
Both of those suggestions, he said, fell on deaf ears.
“We will continue with this position and we will ask a lot of questions. We’ll do our homework and we will seek a working relationship with the forest preserve president and commissioners,” Atassi said. “We will be persistent, thorough and fair, and if the forest preserve proves to be well run, accountable and transparent, we will recognize that. If not, our findings will be made known throughout the county and state.”
During Thursday’s meeting, the organization also received confirmation from DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin that he will assist them in creating after school programs for underserved youth and that he will assist them with lessening recent restrictions put on religious institutions looking to locate in residential neighborhoods.