• York Township Democratic Organization

Hear from Jeffrey Gahris, Candidate for DuPage Forest Preserve Commissioner, District 4

Jeff is a 30 year resident of DuPage County, having moved here with his wife Bonnie from Ohio. In addition to pursuing a career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jeff has served as a 12-year Environmental Commissioner for the Village of Glen Ellyn, and is the current leader of the Sierra Club in DuPage. He also worked with SCARCE on energy education projects, including a film festival, and has actively educated the public about solar energy as a solar ambassador and as a leader of the DuPage Clean Energy Coalition. He has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from Miami University.

Learn more about Jeff's campaign:

Here are Jeff's answers to a YTDO questionnaire.

1. Racial Injustice and systems of oppression have been on the front burner of American society recently, instigated by mass protests and demonstrations calling for racial equality in many systems that have historically and currently kept Black Americans down. If elected, what is a change or some changes that you would make in order to shrink the many disparities that have plagued black communities for generations?

Like many Americans, I grew up in a conservative family with learned implicit bias and some degree of racism. If elected, l would ask questions about policies and practices for hiring staff at the Forest Preserve District (FPD). Also, I would urge a reaffirmation that the preserves are for everyone. The preserves are free and offer recreational opportunities for low income families. The presence of black individuals or families who are recreating should not be questioned. Finally, I would oppose efforts to impose fees for organized district activities that might make them unaffordable.

2. What motivated you to run for this position?

Ever since spending part of my childhood in a rural and partially wooded area, I have been drawn to nature and the need to protect it. My environmental career and other projects have drawn to a close, so I now have for the first time the opportunity to run for office. Given my diverse experiences as an environmental professional and community activist, this is a natural next step for me.

3. What are some benefits that we would come to expect by having you in your respective position over your opponent?

You will see more proactive efforts to bring solar energy to the FPD, a pro-labor attitude, an added emphasis on restoration of natural areas, and a holistic problem-solving approach. You will see a voice for how government must not merely be frugal with taxpayer dollars, but cost-effective for certain public services that the private sector cannot provide. The District can be a leader on public education efforts for how to protect the environment and mitigate climate change.

4. What is your take on the BLM movement? The changes that they are proposing (Defunding/Abolishing police, Other Police Reform)?

The BLM movement reflects a deep frustration with a broken social contract, leading to violence, extreme demands, and a need for us to acknowledge white privilege. This requires difficult discussions, and a need to see how environmental professionals can be more welcoming and inclusive of African Americans. The FPD has a police force, but it is not militarized like many urban police departments. Still, a review of procedures and funding priorities is in order. In this instance, we have the opportunity to work with police officers and rangers in a respectful tone while setting high standards for professional conduct. The bottom line is this: I need to be humble and open to learning how to best address the problem of race as I have not had the experience of being a police officer, and more importantly, I do not walk in the shoes of a black man.

5. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to discriminate against employees or candidates based off of sexual orientation, which serves as a landmark case towards the fight for equality, acceptance, and protection of LGBTQ+ rights. In light of this wonderful verdict, what are some ways that you wish to bolster the health and prosperity of our LGBTQ+ communities and residents?

My pronouns are he/him/his, and I see a need to assure any member of the LGBTQ community who works at the FPD that equality, acceptance, and protection of rights in the work environment is very important.

We also need to reach out to the LGBTQ community at large to see how the recreational needs of that community may be satisfied in a safe environment in our forest preserves. Our public lands should be viewed as sacred ground, not just for the natural beauty, but as a haven for all of us regardless of who we are, to interact with nature to satisfy an innate human need.

6. Climate change is the most pressing issue facing our world as a whole. What in your capacity will you do to make DuPage County a greener place?

I would ask the Board of Commissioners to authorize energy audits or follow-up on prior audits, to review all feasible sites for solar energy, and to quickly move toward a carbon neutral organization. I have had some experience with energy audits and solar energy, which is on the roof of our home. This can also mean quantifying carbon sequestration through the restoration of natural areas, and even assessing the impacts of a changing climate on the health of our local forests. More importantly, we need to show DuPage residents how we can be leaders in addressing climate change using local solutions, and to convey the urgency of this task. We need to be on the right side of history on this issue.


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