Veteran 3rd District Trustee Bob Streit minces no words when he discusses his re-election campaign: “This does represent a battle for the hearts and souls of Oak Lawn,” he said.
In Streit’s mind, Oak Lawn’s political landscape has only two sides: his and that of Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury. There is no gray area, no middle ground.
One of his opponents, Scott Hollis, minces no words when he describes what it's been like the past couple of months to ram heads with incumbent Streit.
Hollis said his decision to oppose Streit has come at a price.
He said he’s received harassing telephone calls, some which are placed in the middle of the night, and said that he’s being followed at times.
“He goes to all extremes,” Hollis said of Streit.
Hollis said the tactics are designed to prevent him from focusing on the campaign.
About the campaign...
To Streit’s way of thinking, his re-election campaign is as much a referendum on his performance as that of the mayor.
“When the mayor was elected two years ago, she made it clear that she did not want to work with me,” he said.
On Tuesday, voters in the 3rd District will choose between Streit, political newcomer Hollis or John J.J. Zurek, who some believe was convinced to run by Streit in an effort to harm Hollis’ chances.
Streit, 59, has spent the past two years battling Bury and her administration on a variety of issues, including the decision to outsource the village’s 911 dispatch center and the way Stony Creek Promenade was ultimately developed.
He said the village is not as safe as it was just a few years ago and improving public safety—both fire and police—should be a higher priority for the administration.
“People know the outsourced (911 dispatch service) compromises public safety,” Streit said. “Burglaries are on the rise. I have every (burglary) report that is filed. I track them. The average resident knows somebody who has experienced a burglary.”
Streit last year proposed adding to the police patrol shifts additional officers who have other duties within the department. The proposal was not advanced.
“They immediately said it wasn’t necessary,” Streit said. “It’s something that has to be addressed. We need a stronger commitment to public safety.”
Streit also has criticized the development of Stony Creek Promenade at 111th Street and Cicero Avenue, saying Bury failed to carry out the initial vision for the center, which called for upscale stores to surround Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant. Instead, he said, a mattress store and fast food restaurants filled the remainder of the development.
Streit said he’s taking nothing for granted in this, his seventh straight campaign for trustee. He’s been going door-to-door since early November and has well over 100 signs placed throughout the district.
“I’m highly motivated to win. I campaign as though I’m 10 points down,” said Streit, adding that a near defeat four years ago to a candidate running a write-in campaign is a factor in his renewed vigor.
Hollis said the message he’s heard from voters is clear: “I think they want a better place to live,” he said.
Hollis, a former city of Chicago employee, points to the “blight” on Southwest Highway as an example of the village’s need for redevelopment.
He’s noted that Streit’s office is located along the strip of shuttered businesses on Southwest Highway, yet Streit has done little to change the face of the business district.
For his part, Streit said he has proposed locating medical offices on Southwest Highway.
“It should be one of his main issues,” Hollis said. “He’s always blaming someone else.”
Hollis said he is confident he can work with other trustees and looks forward to ending the infighting for which the board is known.
“It shouldn’t be a circus act,” he said.
Hollis denied that he has Bury’s support in the race.
“She didn’t ask me to run,” he said.
On the other hand, Zurek denies that Streit asked him to run as a stalking horse.
“I don’t even know how that got started,” he said, adding that he does not know Streit very well.
Zurek, 65, said he decided to run because there’s an anti-incumbency mood throughout the country, not just Oak Lawn. But there is some dissatisfaction in Oak Lawn as well.
“I’m thinking the entire board needs to be replaced,” he said.
He added that he has “the unique ability to being people together.” Further, he said, the current trustees are unable to put aside their egos and tackle the issues facing the community.