League of Women Voters’ of Wilmette
2021 Board of Park Commissions Voter Guide Questionnaire – Mark Schumacher responses
What do you hope to accomplish as a Commissioner? Please explain why these goals are priorities for you.
I plan to advocate for rational decision-making and financial prudence for park governance, as well as encouraging new ideas and debate, while honoring the legacy of our past. Some of the topics I look forward to engaging in include:
• Long-term Vision: We should have a clearly communicated long-term vision for the Wilmette’s parks and a clearly communicated roadmap for how we plan to achieve that vision.
• Diverse Programming: Our community is diverse and our park district programming should provide programs for all residents.
• Return on Investment: We should expand our programming, especially project plans show an achievable return on investment.
• Community Partnerships: We should strengthen our partnerships within the community and look for new partnerships that can support our efforts in Diversity & Inclusion.
• Environmental Sustainability: We should lead by example in the area of environmental sustainability. We should make sure that we have a plan to reduce our impact on the environment and measure progress.
Diversity and Inclusion: We should create an inclusive environment that is supportive of diversity for our employees, members, activity participants and suppliers. This would include ensuring that we create an environment where everyone feels that they belong, our teams are diverse, and we encourage diverse viewpoints in discussions.
• Evolve Capabilities: WPD should continue to evolve with the desires of our community. With my outreach during the campaign, here is short list of a topics I believe the board should consider:
o Temperature controlled ice rink
o Alleviating the waitlist at the sailing beach
o Frisbee golf
o Expanding paddle tennis
o Expanded outdoor activities
What are your financial priorities for Wilmette Park District (WPD) and how will you ensure they are implemented?
Financial Responsibility: We should operate within our means and align our expenses to our revenues. I support adjusting the WPD spending each year to our revenue forecasts.
Increase Program Profitability: We should assess the financial health of programs offered and look for opportunities in pricing or efficiencies in operations.
Self-Funding Growth: Two thirds of our current revenue comes from programming, we have an opportunity to increase our programming and therefore increase funds to invest in our parks. We should do our best to self-fund expanded offerings to ensure that growth projects don’t jeopardize our financial stability. In situations where self-funding is not an option, we should be clear on the expected return on investment and debt serviceability of the project before moving forward with outside financing.
Identify successes and/or failures you have seen in WPD’s COVID-19 response, as well as any changes you would like to see while the pandemic continues.
The WPD has done a great job with its COVID-19 response. To date there have been no known cases of COVID transmission based on park district activities. Some of the successes include:
• Transparency: Communicated transparently regarding COVID-19 mitigation efforts and possible exposures.
• Programming Pivot: Cancelled higher risk programs, adjusted programs to reduce risk and created new programs that work better in the COVID-19 environment.
• Innovation: Innovated to adjust to new environment including adding a flexible refund policy, an online reservation system for tennis, online payments for the sailing beach, lap swimming reservations at Centennial and open gym gymnastics.
• Adaptability: Staff showed flexibility in filling roles as needed to run operations. This has helped our WPD team become more adaptable and infused new ideas into operations.
• Financial: Made adjustments to spending, maintenance, and investments to align with the reduction in revenues.
Areas for Improvement
I believe that no matter how good a system or an organization, there is always room for improvement. A few ideas include:
• Virtual Programming: We could offer more virtual programming such as fitness classes, music classes, arts/crafts, BINGO, Trivia and video game competitions.
• More Winter Activities: We could offer more winter activities for our residents.
As compensation for WPD allowing stormwater reservoirs in three parks, the Village has agreed to fund specified improvements in those parks, including bathrooms and a fitness path at Community Playfields and bathrooms at Thornwood Park. Which specified improvements would you support and/or oppose and why?
Community Playfield Walking Path
I support the walking path in the Community Playfields as it be would be great fitness resource for our community. I would advocate for this to be a permeable surface and would work to protect the existing Cottonwood trees.
Community Playfield Bathrooms
I support providing bathroom access at the Community Playfields since this is one of the most actively used parks in Wilmette. Children of all ages play tee ball, baseball, softball, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and participate in summer camp here. The park will be cleaner and our residents more comfortable if there are bathrooms available. I recommend that WPD initially pursues using the bathrooms at the Junior High School for a year. During this time, WPD can monitor usage, evaluate the need for permanent structures and consider alternative locations not near residences.
Thornwood Park Bathrooms
Thornwood Park is a neighborhood park and not as highly used as the Community Playfields. I believe the board should work with the village to use the funds allotted for permanent bathrooms to pay for high quality temporary bathrooms during high use months and/or redirect the funds to other WPD priorities.
What, if any, are your environmental priorities for WPD and how you would ensure they are implemented?
I believe that WPD needs to lead by example in environmental sustainability. The WPD should assess its current state and develop an achievable plan for improvement. I believe that WPD should consider the following.
• Community Engagement: Engage the community including partners like Go Green Wilmette to assess the situation and discuss what is feasible.
• Reduce Carbon Emissions: Set goals to reduce carbon emissions. Could we become carbon neutral in 10 years?
• Reduce Waste: Reduce waste to landfills, recycle and use recycled materials where possible.
• Single Use Plastics: Remove single-use plastics from operations (e.g. plastic straws, water bottles, packaging).
• Sustainable Design: Sustainably design any new facilities, processes or improvements.
• Training Programs: Conduct sustainability training programs for staff and local residents.
How will you work to align WPD’s practices with its Statement of Inclusion? How broadly do you think diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives should extend (e.g., programming, park access, and hiring practices)?
I support the WPD Statement of Inclusion and feel that we should have diverse programming and hire the best candidate for any role while at the same time ensuring that we have a strong slate including diverse candidates. Specific actions we may take include:
• Build Culture: Create a culture of inclusion by empowering diverse groups within our community to impact change.
• Transparency: Release statistics regarding the diversity of our members, staff and suppliers.
• Diverse Voices: Understand and improve the diversity of voices in our park operations. How diverse is our management team? Do we use women or minority owned suppliers?
• Accountability: Hold our teams and the board accountable for making progress in this area.