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Forest preserve candidates spar over spending
By Anna Madrzyk | Daily Herald Staff

Roger Kotecki


Al Murphy


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Published: 12/18/2009 12:00 AM | Updated: 1/18/2010 7:48 PM

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A longtime DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioner faces a challenge from a West Chicago alderman in the Feb. 2 Republican primary in District 6.

Roger Kotecki of Warrenville, an attorney with a background in environmental and land-use law, is seeking re-election to the seat he's held since 1990.

Challenger Al Murphy is the owner of Murphy's Ace Hardware in West Chicago.

The primary winner will advance to the November general election against Democrat Shannon Burns of West Chicago.

The two GOP candidates have different takes on the role of forest preserve commissioner.

"We are, first and foremost, a conservation agency and I am dedicated to keeping our focus on protecting, preserving, restoring and restocking the land," Kotecki said.

Kotecki stresses he is the only commissioner to work the land as a volunteer prairie steward, gathering and planting seeds.

Murphy says instead of "building an empire," the forest preserve district needs to try harder to meet the needs of "Joe Average Taxpayer."

"We've got over 27,000 acres of forest preserve, but we don't have a lot of access points, there are not a lot of trails," Murphy said. "Forest preserves need to be there for the people to use."

The district has more than 145 miles of crushed stone or asphalt multipurpose trails and many more miles of dirt or turf trails, Kotecki said. During his tenure as a forest preserve commissioner, an additional 1,500 acres of open space was preserved in District 6, which has the most forest preserve holdings of any district in the county.

Both candidates agree fiscal responsibility is high on voters' minds these days.

Kotecki says the forest preserve is on solid financial footing, citing its AAA municipal bond rating and solid reserves.

"We can carry through the current economic trouble and keep the forest preserves open and in good shape," Kotecki said.

Thanks to its strong financial position, the district also has been able to continue to make improvements, he said.

The forest preserve should be run as a business, instead of a "tax and spend" government organization, Murphy said.

He suggests the forest preserve follow the example of West Chicago, which cut its budget 7.5 percent, by "working on a plan and sticking to it."

Murphy's Ace Hardware will suspend all business with the forest preserve district if he receives the nomination, Murphy said.

District 6 covers the northwest corner of the county and includes portions or all of Bartlett, Carol Stream, West Chicago, Winfield, Wheaton, Warrenville, Naperville and Aurora.