Randy Roberts has been serving the village in a multitude of ways since moving from Evanston to Skokie in 1987.
Besides being a trustee since 2001, he’s a liaison to the public safety commission, a member of the environmental commission and has served on the beautification commission in the past. Prior to that, he worked as a Cook County prosecutor for 30 years.
He’s also Skokie’s delegate to the Northwest Municipal Conference, which meets with neighboring villages once a month to discuss common problems or get lower rates on high-ticket items such as fire trucks or salt, for example, in bulk with neighboring towns.
Indeed, Roberts is a busy man, and he’ll be even busier as the April 9 elections draw near.
The trustee shared a variety of items he thought should be Skokie’s short-term goals during a recent interview.
“I would say the major one I'd like to focus on first is maintaining our excellent village services, such as police, fire, garbage pickup, snow removal,” he said. “At the same time, we have to be cautious to maintain those services without raising taxes.
“My second would be to continue our economic development and maintain our infrastructure,” he added. “I’d like to increase the amount of roads we resurface each year and continue our work on the bike trail.”
Like other candidates, Roberts wants to enhance the village’s public safety programs, such as the neighbored watch and drawing more residents to public commission meetings.
He also added it can be difficult to get neighborhood watch programs started in areas with a large number of multi-family homes that house renters, who may not be as invested in the block as the residents who own their homes.
“We’re working on raising awareness. We have officers go door to door; the more contact we have with residents in congested neighborhoods, the more they can learn to trust police officers.
“We need to break down barriers and strive to increase public safety in our community,” he added.
What are Skokie’s long-term goals?
“The one that really occurs to me - one of the greatest things we've done - is the Illinois Science and Technology Park (ISTP),” Roberts said. “The end game isn’t going to happen overnight. There’s a master plan we approved as a board - it's a five to 10 year plan. Slowly but surely, we're getting businesses in there. These are biotech and nanotech companies.”
Roberts added that these companies often pay high wages to their employees. The idea is to have some of these people frequent the downtown area, use the new CTA Oakton Stop and eventually, buy a home in Skokie. There are other ideas, too.
“There's going to be so much synergy [near the ISTP],” he said. ”We're trying to do our share as a partner. We want to show we're a good place to do business. I think it would be an attractive place to start your company. I see [the ISTP] being an economic engine for Skokie and the downtown area.
“The people that work [at the ISTP] are making a good salary and I'm hoping many of those people say, ‘Hey, why don't I buy my house here,'” he added. “It's certainly an economic driver. We're never going to see the big box and chain stores in downtown Skokie, but we’ve already started creating a very rich and vibrant, ethnic downtown.”
Roberts said he believes the ISTP is a very strong “nucleus” and some major changes are already underway for the downtown area. Some of those include new sidewalks, benches and lighting “to make it more attractive.”
“We’re trying to create an atmosphere that’s pedestrian friendly,” he said. “We’re rerouting trucks – there won’t be trucks going down Oakton Street – we’ve also lowered the speed limit to 25 mph.”
Roberts said many of those changes would be happening this summer.
On hiring more officers –
“I’m open to the hiring of more officers; we’re going to make efforts toward that,” Roberts said. “We have 109 officers in the budget. For example, however, one of the major developments in town right now is the Walmart on Touhy [Avenue and McCormick Boulevard].
“That will bring in a lot more sales tax revenue where we can look into the budget and make decisions, such as hiring more officers,” he added.
Roberts said it isn’t possible to "put an officer at every street corner" and that the cost of hiring a single officer – with benefits, pension – is about $122,000 per year. It's also a 30-year commitment, he said.
“The number-one issue for citizens in the National Survey was property taxes,” Roberts said. “They do not want their property taxes raised, according to the survey. We’re still coming out of a recession and we don’t want to raise those taxes.”