Kelly Diaz Bungalo Questionnaire Responses
1. Please provide some biographical information including age, where you grew up, education, current job, family info and how long you have lived in Berwyn
Hi, my name is Kelly Diaz. My family and I have been Berwyn residents since 2009 when we moved to Berwyn to expand our family . I am currently 39 years old, an undergrad graduate of DePaul University and graduate of Concordia University with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and have 16 years of experience teaching as a high school Spanish teacher. In 2012, shortly after the birth of my third child, my husband and I decided to open up a restaurant called Big Guys Sausage Stand a few blocks away from our home. My youngest daughters are currently enrolled in District 98 schools and I serve as a member of Lincoln’s PTSA.
2. Please provide activities and experience in the community that you have.
Since my daughter was 18 months we have utilized the park district and my daughters have grown to enjoy many NBPD programs such as art classes, ballet, ukulele lessons, preschool, the soccer program and the infamous Corrida del Mariachi. In Berwyn, I have worked with AWAKE on their fundraising committee and I serve as a member and volunteer on the Lincoln Middle School’s PTSA. As a small business owner I have come to know many wonderful Berwyn residents in that roll.
3. Why are you running for the park district board? What objectives do you hope the district achieves while you are on the board?
I am running for the park district because I do enjoy the park district, but as my kids are getting older there is a lack of programs for teens. Also, I have run into the issue of classes getting canceled due to low attendance and I feel like more people should be utilizing the programs and better communication is one way to do that. As a heritage Spanish speaker I believe I can help bridge communication between the community and the park district board.
4. For non-incumbents, how many park district board meetings did you attend before September of 2022?
I have only attended the informational meetings
5. What organizations are supporting your candidacy (either implicitly or explicitly)? What public officials or current or former elected officials are supporting your candidacy?
YOUR BERWYN is supporting my candidacy and I am running with Angel Avalos, Jr.
6. $5 million dollar bond - Last June the voters approved a $5 million dollar bond for a water park on Maple Avenue and renovations at the old VFW Hall. Did you support or oppose the $5 million dollar bond? Please explain why you supported or opposed it.
I believe having a strong school system and park district are essential to a great community, However, I was not in favor of the $5 million dollar bond primarily because it did not address the entire scope of the project. Furthermore the information regarding the bond was unclear and there was no meeting held prior to the vote. Berwyn is a landlocked town and the land relating to the bond (maple pool, skate park, vfw) is a blank slate for North Berwyn to have a park they can be proud of. I am already having conversations with state lawmakers to secure funding for this project. I think we need to be open minded and diligent in securing any and all sources of funding and then bring some strong concepts for that space to the community to get feedback before any plans are set into action. We do not want to whiff on this opportunity for Berwyn to really standout and support its residents.
7. Pools - Many residents would like to see a pool at the Maple location rather than a water park. Some residents believe that they were misled during the referendum discussion and believed that the Maple location would be a pool. In addition, when the city and the park district swapped Berwyn Gardens for the Cuyler pool and Kriz pool, Joe Vallez was quoted in the Berwyn Life newspaper with the following quote: "Vallez said acquiring the pools will allow for increased programming within the Park District for residents, including a junior lifeguard program and swim teams and lessons." Yet, neither has been a pool for over a decade. What is your opinion on pools versus spray parks? Do you think the direction of the North Berwyn park district going toward spray parks is the right one in terms of costs, liability and maintenance? Should the park district create and maintain pools instead?
In the short term installing another spray park in terms of costs, liability and maintenance is the easier, more affordable option. In the long term, a pool and/or fitness center will benefit our residents health, standard of living and appreciate home values. I think the NB community deserves a pool which would benefit all ages and not just the toddler age demographic. It is critical that plans are put in motion that address all ages of our community specifically our seniors.
I do agree with Mr. Vallez that a pool will increase programming for all ages including teens which is an age demographic I feel is sorely serviced by the park district.
8. Renovation of VFW Hall - The 16th Street Theater stated that one of the reasons they were folding was that the renovations at the VFW Hall were going in a different direction. Please explain your opinion on the renovations at the VFW Hall and whether the proposed renovations are what you would like to see.
I do not have enough information on this situation. However, I can say the VFW sight on seen needs renovations. The VFW, skate park, maple pool and the alley in between should be considered under one project scope where a full tear down and new facility is at least considered. We need to look at that land as a whole, consider what’s best for the community and develop multiple plans to bring forth to residents.
9. Joe Vallez - The district has been criticized for allowing Joe Vallez to work at 4 different park districts (NBPD, Bensenville, Marengo and Justice). The critics believe that Vallez was spread too thin and did not provide enough support to NBPD. Vallez currently works at two park districts - NPBD and Bensenville. In addition, Vallez hired his partner Inara Canino as an employee of the NBPD, raising the issue of nepotism. What is your opinion on Vallez working at multiple park districts and the job that Vallez is doing at NBPD. Do you think the district should try to hire another director?
My family has partaken in and enjoyed the park district programming under Vallez’s leadership. I adore the NBPD staff under his management. I have partaken in and enjoyed all of the Mariacha Runs. I have met Inara Camino many times in conjunction with NBPD programs and events. She was always professional, receptive and on task. Vallez multiple jobs is alarming and nepotism is a big problem I see throughout the city as a whole. However, I am not going to condemn him as the ED without knowing all the facts and understanding all the nuances of his position. I am running with an open mind with the goal of positive change.
10. Unity Park - The North Berwyn Park District sold Unity Park in 2019 for only $21,500 to a developer. The buyer re-sold the property 5 months later for $55,000 to a developer who then built 2 homes on the property that are selling for $740,000. The park had fallen into disarray when the property was sold to the developer. What is your opinion about what happened with Unity Park?
I would like to preface I do not have all the facts surrounding this situation. In a city so densely populated as Berwyn and being land locked, I was not in favor of losing any park space, nonetheless to a developer.
11. Park District management - The district has had several missteps on completing the audit of its books, with the audits being behind schedule. In addition, according to an online news article, the district was put on probation because it did not use grants in a timely fashion. The article stated that the North Berwyn Park District was banned from applying for all grants from the Office of Grant Management and Assistance for two grant cycles. The park district had received $200,000 in grants for a swimming pool at 15th & Maple and was forced to return the $200,000 due to a lack of progress. What is your opinion of how well or how poorly the board and the administrators have been managing the park district, given what has happened with Unity Park, the audits and being put on probation.
This is an unfortunate situation and as a board member I would ensure that the facts surrounding this come to light so that this never happens again. Transparency and communication are areas I know this board can improve.
12. Combining with Berwyn Park District - Would you support or oppose an effort to combine the North Berwyn Park District and the Berwyn Park District into a single entity? Please explain why you would support it or oppose it?
Two park districts and a city recreation department seems like a lot for one small city. I think it is something worth studying and if it makes sense there are some apparent reasons I think it would help our city as a whole.
13. Roosevelt Road TIF extension - In 2019, the park district board voted to extend the Roosevelt Road TIF district for another 12 years, thereby costing the district additional revenue over that 12 year period. Do you support or oppose the decision to extend the TIF district? Please explain why.
The TIF is extended until 2031 so what I may have done in the past isn’t on message with what I want to do in the future. As a business owner (Big Guys Sausage Stand) I have received TIF funding that was vital to my business opening. In theory TIF can increase tax revenues from our business districts as a whole. This of course depends on good stewardship. They can also provide vital assistance to independent entrepreneurs. At this point I can only hope that the extended TIF increases tax revenues generated from our business districts. As a stake holder the NBPD deserves accountability from the BDC to ensure that in 2031 their investment will pay off, as a board member that’s a conversation I’d like to have.