A three-way race for mayor is developing with the announcement Sunday of the candidacy of Mark Hellner, an attorney with experience in legal services that assist seniors at risk of losing their homes due to delinquent property tax payments. Hellner works for the Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL) in Chicago. He also serves as the director of its Senior Tax Opportunity Program (STOP), which works to help seniors minimize their property taxes.
The STOP program was piloted in 2007, and fully implemented in 2009. STOP is administered in partnership with the Cook County Assessor’s and Treasurer’s Offices. Dedicated volunteers from some of the largest law firms in Chicago, and from firms and corporations located throughout Cook County, as well as paralegals, provide over ninety percent of the all of the legal services that CDEL delivers, pro bono, to seniors.
This experience with CDEL and STOP, along with experience in business, tax law, property tax, FOIA, labor relations, negotiations, and strong encouragement from a number of people in the community; has given candidate Hellner the confidence that his broad perspective of the business sector and community service is relevant, and would be available at the right time with the retirement of Arlene Mulder.
One of Hellner’s concerns is the voice of community members that “don’t feel as if they know enough about what is going on in Arlington Heights.” His reply to people is that they need to get involved — both informally and formally. Hellner hopes to establish community advisory councils on a variety of subjects in order to identify priorities and the means to address the priorities. He remembers his parents’ advice, “If I had a complaint about something, then I should do something rather than just talk.” Hellner also said, “informal gatherings work better because people can be less inhibited in expressing their views and the setting is less intimidating. I don’t envision limiting these opportunities to Village Board meetings or formal presentations.”
He believes community participation leads to transparency. He also believes that the opportunity to discuss issues with the public necessitates disclosure of the concepts and projects being considered by the government officials — another factor that supports transparency. As a practical rule, he also thinks it’s wise to avoid surprises — especially surprises of consequence.
Hellner said, “When I read recently about the $40 million budget for a new police station, I wondered what alternatives have been considered. Our current station is, I believe, only 38-years-old. That isn’t a long life for a building. I’m curious about what consideration has been given to remodeling it and, if viable, expansion of either its footprint or adding another story. Also, given that Arlington Heights is rather large north-to-south, I wonder why we don’t look at adding a second but presumably smaller facility toward the north end of town. Property prices are certainly attractive. I would think that some of the concerns expressed (such as on a video I found with a Google search) about limited storage areas, limited forensic space and limited locker room space could be addressed through spreading out the officers. That could be both more economical and beneficial to the safety of our community.”
Although Hellner is not a north side resident, that may show insight in providing for the entire community. Far north side residents have expressed concerns in the past that northern parts of Arlington Heights might not be as well served. Police Chief Gerald Mourning has defended the police beats — claiming that the coverage is adequate.
As part of his 35-years experience as an attorney, Hellner is also an Adjunct Professor at the College of Law at the University of Illinois, is a two-year member of the Village of Arlington Heights housing commission, has served as the Ethics Officer for the Illinois Department of Revenue, and is a legal consultant.
He worked March 2005 to January 2008 as General Counsel for the State of Illinois Department of Revenue, where he led and directed legal staff of 30 lawyers handling legal affairs of governmental agency with 2000 employees and annual revenues of $30 billion. Hellner exercised legal oversight of the Illinois Gaming Board, the Racing Board, the Lottery and the Liquor Commission, and was Ethics Officer for all except the Gaming Board. He identified major tax policy issues, assisted in economic evaluations of proposed legislation, and assisted in drafting legislation and regulations.
Hellner also managed all litigation, and handled personnel and labor relations claims, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) issues and internal investigations. He was also senior Counsel to the state-wide project creating five management centers for Human Resources, fiscal management and Information Technology functions across the entire Executive Branch, and managed sole source procurement contracts for the executive branch. He also lists experience in business operations, negotiations, tax issues, and property tax issues.
Mark Hellner graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law with a J.D. in Law in 1977. He graduated from Illinois State University with a B.S. in English and Political Science in 1973.
Mark grew up in Springfield, Illinois and graduated from Springfield High School. He’s lived in Arlington Heights since 1996.
Hellner lives near the center of town with his wife Tracy, who works at Clearbrook, and their 11-year-old son.
Election Day is April 9, 2013.