March 28, 2011 12:42PM
Shirley Drewenski, candidate for 1st Ward alderman in Harvey, Illinois. | Supplied photo
Office sought: First Ward Alderman, Harvey
Name: Shirley Drewenski
Address: 15820 Union Ave. Harvey, IL 60443
Date of birth: 05/25/62
Web site: http://www.1stwardharvey.com
Education: Bachelor of Science, Purdue University, Master Trainer, Langevin Learning Services
Occupation, employer: Director of Continuing Education, South Suburban College
Please list all sources of income: South Suburban College, salary, Calumet Union Drainage District 1, per diem
Spouse, spouse’s employer: Not applicable
Children, age of children, children’s employer (if applicable): Not applicable
Please list any relatives, including in-laws, who are employed by a government agency at the federal, state or local levels. What are their job titles and with what agency are they employed?
Two cousins at Illinois Department of Public Aid and Illinois Department of Employment Security
What other elected offices have you sought? What year?
Commissioner, Calumet Union Drainage District No.1, every three years since 1996
Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime? If so, for what? What was the disposition? No
Do you have any criminal convictions on your record? If so, for what? What was your sentence? No
Political (elected or significant appointment) experience: Chairman, Calumet Union Drainage District No. 1, Thornton Township Regular Democratic, Ways & Means Committee
In your view, what are the two most important issues facing your constituents? How would you address those issues?
The economy has affected all of us by reducing personal, corporate, and government spending. According to the 2010 Census, Harvey has experienced a 15.35% decrease in population. This decline will further impact negatively on Harvey’s financial responsibilities. In addition to lost revenue, the current City of Harvey budget is facing a major deficit, with outstanding water bills, an increase in workers compensation claims, and overall unpaid budgetary expenses. Continuous gross overspending has caused Harvey to reduce basic residential services and uniformed police protection. This further enhances a negative perception of Harvey.
First and foremost, the city council is directly responsible for fire and police protection for its citizens. I will be proactive with our city’s police and fire departments and support their needs to ensure safety for all. People want to feel safe and secure in their own surroundings and that should be their right. Over the last few years Harvey has reduced its number of uniformed police patrol officers. It is alarming that our very own uniformed officers are understaffed. Their lives along with ours could be in danger by a delay in response time. Along with supporting the police and fire departments, I would also continue to encourage residents to be watchful and mindful of their homes, their neighbors’ homes and their current surroundings. I do believe more eyes watching lead to less opportunity for crime. I would also sponsor safety seminars throughout the First Ward.
Second, just as this economy caused many of us to rethink and reduce our own personal spending, I would seriously evaluate the entire city budget and vote only for practical spending for our city. Apparently the city has attempted to reduce spending by reducing management hours and salaries. While I applaud the effort, the outcome was not positive and not one that I would have supported. I believe this attempt at cutbacks will cause further budgetary concerns. The role of a manager is to solve problems and make decisions, and without them there is no accountability. Employees will become frustrated, less active and more accident-prone, and overall city services will suffer. I would suggest the cross-training of departments, encourage on-the-job training, provide job descriptions, and provide safety training to all of the staff. I believe providing and documenting training would reduce the amount Harvey is spending for workers compensation claims, lessen the frustration level among staff, and provide better services to the residents. I would also encourage job profiling for all upper management level positions to determine if positions could be combined. Furthermore, I would support regular independent operational audits of all departments.
I do believe the perception of Harvey can be changed for the better. Our residents need to see, I need to see, that our elected officials really do care and are concerned about our city, that they are accountable and financially responsible, and that they will stop the unnecessary spending.
Please explain something significant you would like to accomplish within the next two years if you are elected to the office to which you aspire.
I would like to reestablish community involvement. In this effort, I already have sponsored our First Ward Web site at http://www.1stwardharvey.com. This Web site will provide residents news of upcoming events, employment tips, and soon, employment opportunities. In the near future, this site will become a free marketing tool for local business and for individual announcements. Second, I will sponsor a scholarship program for individuals of all ages to volunteer in the First Ward. Individuals could volunteer by cutting senior neighbors’ lawns, picking up garbage on a scheduled day, or performing basic chores for a sickly neighbor.
Third, I will host quarterly informative seminars on basic home improvements, basic car repair, safety, lawn care, and tips on gardening, just to name a few. These seminars will also serve as an opportunity for residents to meet and greet their neighbors. Finally, I will work with our elected officials to become more accountable and accessible to the people—to us.
Please explain how you believe the office you’re seeking can help in creating local jobs.
With the current Web site, business and individuals could market themselves at no additional cost. Another goal I have for this Web site is to create a directory of independent local contractors for residential use. Funds are limited for all of us. If residents have home improvement projects that they need assistance with, they can contact one of the contractors living in the First Ward. I will furthermore work diligently not only in the First Ward but city-wide to attract new businesses for our City of Harvey.
Do you believe the current way Illinois pays for education is working? If so, why? If not, why not? What would you change?
The current way Illinois pays for education is absolutely not beneficial for K-12 or even for higher education. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, 62 percent of per-pupil funding come from local taxes, 30 percent from the state, and 8 percent from the federal government. There are over 850 school districts in Illinois, therefore it is safe to assume that since the majority of school district funding stems from local taxes, the amount spent per student fluctuates throughout all of these school districts. Children are deprived of equal opportunities for a proper education. The state portion involved is classified as General State Aid. All school districts receive approximately the same percentage. This is calculated from the student daily average attendance report. I would suggest local school districts become more proactive in explaining this portion of the funding to parents. The higher the attendance rate for their district, the higher the funding. As for higher education, the economy has led to a greater need. Yet, state-funded aid such as the Monetary Award Program has not increased in the last three years. Actually, the state had announced a reduction of 5 percent this year. In 2010, the Monetary Award Program’s funds were exhausted by the second quarter of the year. In 2011, this program is projected to be exhausted by the first quarter of the year. As a result, education will suffer, people will suffer, and Illinoisans will have a difficult time remaining competitive in the work force. The answer, in general terms, is that the state and local governments must get their fiscal houses in order and make a larger commitment to the future by investing in education.
Would you make any changes to the budget of the governing unit to which you are seeking elected office? If so, what?
I would seriously evaluate the entire city budget and vote only for practical spending for our City.
Are there any other issues you want to bring to the public’s attention? If so, what?
I would like to remind the residents of Harvey: Nothing changes if nothing changes! Please make the changes. Your vote matters, your vote counts, your city is depending on you. Also, please visit the 1st ward Web site http://www.1stwardharvey.com.