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Trustee Candidate Randy Roberts Does a Little Bit of Everything

Since moving to Skokie in 1987, Caucus Party candidate Randy Roberts has been involved with the village. He's been serving as a trustee since 2001 and is seeking re-election come April 9.

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.”

Read our previous candidate interviews here.

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Michael Patrick January 31, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Since Mr Roberts knows how many officers are currently budgeted, can he tell us how many officers were in each budget prior to that, going back to 2001. He speaks of "adding" officers and the annual cost of each. How much money has been saved through "frozen" and eliminated positions and when will those positions be reinstated?
Seymour J. Schwartz January 31, 2013 at 06:58 PM
Randy Roberts has long been one of my favorite Trustees. Why? Because he is well-informed, & goes out of his way to be so by being intelligently involved ( no involvement just to be seen or to pad his resume). This profile above demonstrates his good grasp on the needs of Skokie. But he is an elected political leader, thus, he must be fine tuned to the bottom line desires of his constituents in order to get elected and remain in a position to contribute to governance. But I am an outsider, unelected, and more free to speak my mind unencumbered by such limitations. As I, Roberts spoke of the need for more police officers and of some of the excellent proactive the department has undertaken to deal with the spike of certain violent crime. Roberts mentioned officers going to multi-apartment dwellings to develop relationships with the residents and the need to increase neighborhood watch blocks, thus increasing the eyes and ears of the police. All excellent and worthwhile. But much of the violent crime spike is being committed by people who either live in or visit those who do in multi-dwelling units. Looking at the bulleted violent crime map I was involved in developing, this is clearly shown. We need more police officers to concentrate more than they are already doing and increase the capacity to do this as well as to better track those criminals known to SPD. Most violent crimes are committed in these areas. --Part One-
Seymour J. Schwartz January 31, 2013 at 07:11 PM
-Part Two- However all citizens who live in other areas dominated by single dwelling homes travel throughout Skokie, particularly their children & grandchildren and can get caught up in the violence. And the good citizens living in apts. deserve protection too. This is the reason for having landlords become more responsible and vigilent of and for the tenants they rent to. Roberts also knows that most citizens since the era of feel-good Reagan, don't want to pay more in taxes even though they demand the governmental services that are provided. Roberts can't say it but I can. The citizens of Skokie have to realize that they need to be more flexible about taxes. If you get held up by a robber with a gun or your child gets hassled in the park by a drug leader, tax hikes are the farthest thing from you mind. In your head, you are crying, POLICE. WHY AREN'T YOU HERE IMMEDIATELY?????? Houdini, where are you?? After the village govt. reprioritizes its' budget and finds more money for police expansion, then the Skokie citizens must demand some kind of raise in taxes to bring the SPD up to a force and resource level to enable them to more effectively fight this ominous trend. Roberts and others well-informed can't say it, but I sure can.
shp February 01, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Randy Roberts is one of the trustees who has serviced the Village of Skokie for many years. Do we really want more of the same? Don't forget that he supported the CTA train station to be located in the Niles North Parking lot a few years ago. Of course that got thrown out thanks to a few citizens spreading the word. The Village of Skokie kept this transaction quiet. I'm not sure I I really trust him to make the right decisions for Skokie. I know Mr. Roberts understands the issues, but the snail pace at which he and the other Village officials operate "do we hire more officers or don't we" another 10 years will pass before we hire any new officers. I'll pay more taxes if that is what it takes to reduce crime. I believe it is time for new leadership. I support the independent candidates for Village of Skokie Trustees. Don't forget there is early voting starting in March.
shp February 01, 2013 at 02:59 AM
Michael - You have a very good point. Mr. Roberts - this would be a good question to answer.
Seymour J. Schwartz February 01, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Michael, I don't have time to look up the SPD force levels for the last few years, but I do remember that for most of those years the force level was anywhere from 95-98, usually under 100. I am not sure but the figure 109 was the most ever on the force and was not the number of actual officers in 2012. If that figure is in the proposed 2013 budget, it represents quite a leap, but don't hold your breath. Police officers rarely get laid off for financial reasons. Most local police departments freeze the position, thus giving the govt. flexibility based on the economic situation. Maybe the 109 figure is a budgeting gimmick including frozen positions, but I have no evidence of this. With frozen police officers, the money saved either allows for less cutting of other municipal services, or helps balance the budget particularly during like the recent hard economic times. Most particularly, and Skokie has surely taken advantage of this for much of the last 21 years, it allows the municipal government to appease the electorate and freeze their share of the property taxes by not raising taxes. The police department reduction through freezes has helped make that happen. Now, I believe, when certain violent crime like armed robbery in the streets and increased drug activity has become more of a problem, the freeze looms ever larger as an issue regarding public safety.
Michael Patrick February 03, 2013 at 04:19 AM
The current (2013 fiscal year) shows either 109 or 112 sworn personnel, depending upon where you look. The summary (as well as Trustee Roberts) reflects the 109 total. Adding the positions listed in each division detail results in the 112 total. The difference of three positions traces back to the Patrol Officer total in the Patrol Division, which shows an increase of three positions as compared to the 2012 Fiscal oYear total. Interestingly, there is no corresponding funding increase and there is no increase indicated in the number of Board authorized positions. Furthermore, there is no discussion of increased positions in the Police Department budget narrative.
Michael Patrick February 03, 2013 at 05:28 AM
(continued) The previous budget (Fiscal year) also shows 109 sworn personnel. Unfortunately, the personnel allocation details for FY2011, FY2010, and FY2009 are missing from the online budgets accessible on the Village website (www.skokie.org, select Village Departments, Finance Department, Budgets). The Patrol personnel total for FY2013 is 82. In 2008 it was 85. The total sworn members authorized in FY2013 is 109, according to Mr. Roberts. In FY2008 it was 111. In the interim, two Junior High School Resource Officer positions were added, 70% of whose salaries are paid by the School Districts in which the Resource Officers work. Those positions are assigned to the Investigation Section. If you add those two positions to the FY2008 total of 111, the FY2013 total should be 113. Where did those four positions go? The answer can be found in the FY2011 Police Department Budget Summary: "Through cuts in programs, materials and supplies, and the temporary elimination of salaries for two sworn police officer positions frozen last year and two additional positions (sergeant and police officer) this year, the Police Department was able to achieve a reduction of $233,092 in its FY2011 budget request." I again challenge the candidates for Trustee to stop speaking of "adding" Police Officers and the cost of doing so. They should instead acknowledge that they participated in the reduction in size of the Police Department simply for the bottom line.

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