City Council Candidate Profile: Paul Frank
After years of backing others’ legislation, government affairs expert looks to put his stamp on local laws.
Dealing with legislation is nothing new to Highland Park City Council candidate Paul Frank. He knows how to get laws passed.
For seven years, Frank has handled government relations for the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, serving as a vice president since 2009. Before that, he held the same position for National Louis University.
Frank got a first-hand look at the legislative process after graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in political science in 1994, when he went to work as a policy analyst for the speaker of the Illinois General Assembly. He also has a master's degree from DePaul University in public service management.
“I think the skill set will translate well,” the candidate said. “Looking at tax revenues, spending decisions and balancing budgets is the same at all legislative levels of government.”
Frank says he sees a mission to bring government closer to the citizens by giving them a more thorough view of what the city is doing.
“We need accountability and transparency,” he said. “We can do a better job of putting information into people’s lives so they can see how their money is spent. Without transparency, it’s hard [for them] to know if the right decisions are made.”
Frank would start with the city’s budget, saying that he was displeased with the recent increase to the property tax levy. Though he recognizes the need for additional revenue to avoid budget cuts and does not see raising taxes as the best approach, he would be reluctant to reverse the measure.
“I will not raise the property tax,” Frank said. “I would roll it back only if the budget allows it, only if we find cuts. I don’t see that happening in the near future.”
The council hopeful said he was willing to use the city’s ample cash reserves to avoid a tax increase while maintaining services, though not on an ongoing basis.
“I’m open to it, but not continually,” Frank said about tapping into the reserves. “You would not want to risk the city’s fiscal stability.”
Business development with its potential to increase sales tax revenue for the city is one way Frank hopes to balance the budget without spending cuts or dipping into reserves. He said his experience dealing with government has given him a view to making that happen.
Like other candidates, Frank said he wants to promote Highland Park as a good place to do business. He also expresses an understanding of things government can do to accelerate commercial activity.
“We have to see if there are ways to cut the red tape, to expedite the process,” Frank said. “We could look at waiving some fees for new businesses. We want to roll out the red carpet and do everything we can to show this is a great place to do business.”
When it comes to Highland Park’s Pedestrian Oriented Shopping Overlay (POSO)—an effort to limit ground floor store fronts in downtown Highland Park to sales tax generating operations—Frank is slow to suggesting changes. He said he wants to see numbers to make an informed decision.
“I’m open to looking, but I certainly don’t want to see professional services in the Borders' location,” Frank said, referring to the vacant storefront on the north side of Central Avenue. The building once housed Borders Books and Music and before that, the Fell Co.
“We need to leave as much as we can, that’s why we have policy,” Frank said. “It makes sense for retailers to have each other’s customers on foot, walking the area.”
While Frank would like to see Highland Park get out of the theater business, he said it require talking to all concerned parties before making any decisions about the city owned Highland Park Theatre.
“I’m open to a process and want to see if there is any good entertainment use,” Frank said. “If possible, I would like to see that happen.”
Frank notes he is proud to live in a city that has been at the forefront of environmental legislation and wants that to persist. He sees Highland Park as being on the cutting edge of recycling and wants that leadership to remain. He also wants to see bicycle lanes where possible.
“We have a rich history of being a leader on the environment, and I want to see the city continue to do more,” Frank said. “This is an important public policy.”