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Worth candidates address questions of residents

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

worth candidates photo 3-23

Photo by Sharon L. Filkins

The mayoral and trustee candidates forum in Worth drew a large crowd last week. Taking part in the forum were (from left) Randy Keller, candidate for mayor; Christopher Lesik, facilitator at the forum; Village Clerk Bonnie Price and Mayor Mary Werner.

 


 

Worth Mayor Mary Werner and her opponent, Randy Keller, talked about a variety of issues during a candidates forum held March 14 at the Worth Park District Terrace Centre.

Keller had served as mayor of Worth from 2009 to 2013. Werner defeated him in 2013.

Worth Village Clerk Bonnie Price was also present at the forum. She has been the clerk since 2001 and has served under three different mayors. She is a Certified Municipal Clerk and is running unopposed for a fifth term in the Tuesday, April 4 election.

Sponsored by the Chicago Ridge/Worth Chamber of Commerce, the event was designed for residents of Worth to have the opportunity to hear why the candidates were running and why they should be elected. A second goal of the program was also to provide residents with the opportunity to submit questions to the candidates. Over 100 people gathered for the event.

Up for re-election as trustees are incumbents Tedd Muersch, Jr., elected in 2013 and now seeking a second term, and Richard Dziedzic, who has served since 2009 and is seeking a third term.

Trustee Colleen McElory chose not to run in the April 4 election. Vying for the open position are candidates Brad Urban and Bahira Karim, both longtime Worth residents.

Chamber officials who were on hand for the forum were Bill Ritter, president; Christopher Lesik, the vice president who served as the facilitator of the forum; Ann Walsh, secretary; and directors Colleen Ritter, Kathy Jean and Jean Braun. They gathered written questions from the audience, and after reviewing them, selected 10 directed to all the candidates.

Several questions were directed only to Werner and Keller. The first question for the mayoral candidates was “What can you do better than your opponent?”

The question opened the door for Keller to hammer home his accusations that Werner was not communicating well with the people with her plans to eliminate a printed newsletter mailed to residents.

“I have heard from many residents that they miss the newsletter I had initiated, ‘It’s Worth Reading.’ It included stories about our residents and our businesses,” Keller said.

Werner countered that residents receive informational inserts with their water bills and that the village has updated and improved its website and Facebook pages to provide information to residents.

“Additionally, we have an open door policy at the Village Hall. Residents are encouraged to stop by and visit with me, or our Village Clerk Bonnie Price, to ask about anything they are concerned about,” Werner said.

Questions presented to all the candidates ranged from qualifications to serve and their opinion on term limits and Home Rule.

As for qualifications to serve, Dziedzic, who owns a retail store, said that a business sense is needed in order to deal with prospective businesses and what their needs are.

“I have that because I own my own business and I can apply that knowledge in my position as a trustee.”

Dziedzic oversees the Building, Licensing and Ordinances for the village.

“As for term limits, I don’t think they are necessary for our village. If residents don’t think we are doing our jobs they won’t vote for us again. It is pretty simple,” he said.

Muersch cited his experience in financial advising and family experience in running a restaurant as qualifications to serve. He oversees the Water’s Edge Golf Course, which has recently hired both a general manager and a food and beverage manager.

“We are doing exceedingly well in revitalizing the golf course and I look forward to seeing it become a valuable amenity in our village,” Muersch said.

Regarding term limits, Muersch said he agreed with Dziedzic.

“State-wide, they are needed, but I don’t think they are necessary in Worth. Residents decide if we are doing our job satisfactorily.”

Karim is a 27- year resident of Worth who has raised five children in the village and has been employed for 19 years at Worth School. She serves as a translator for the Worth Police Department and bases her qualifications to serve as trustee on her years of volunteer work for the village.

She has volunteered many years for Worth Days, worked on the Mosaic Project and helped plan the Centennial Celebration. She also worked on the Banner Program, encouraging businesses to purchase the banners to advertise their business.

Karim acknowledges that Worth is a diverse community and has seen many changes, but she is dedicated to encouraging people to become more involved with their community.

Her opponent, Urban, is a life-long resident of Worth who attended Worth schools. He has coached baseball, been a Scoutmaster, and is an officer at Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post, where he initiated the Thanksgiving and Christmas Days with Navy recruits from Great Lakes. He is a member of the Worth Lions Club, where he helps prepare and disperse gift baskets to the needy at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

He is retired after a 30-year career as an operating engineer and now wants to dedicate his time and energy to Worth. He said as a trustee, he would be available to meet with prospective businesses. Urban said he did not think term limits were necessary on a local level.

“If a trustee is not doing his job, residents will vote him out. We are your neighbors. What affects you, affects us,” Urban said.

At the end of the evening, several residents, who declined to give their names, complained that their questions had not been selected and that the questions had been slanted favoring one or more of the candidates.

In response, Bill Ritter explained that the staff had used three criterions in selecting the questions that would be asked.

“We eliminated duplicate questions, we did not use any that were personal attacks or were not pertinent to the election.”

Chicago Ridge candidates spar over issues

  • Written by Dermot Connolly


The six candidates running for three trustee seats in the April 4 election in Chicago Ridge batted a few accusations around while fielding questions from residents during a March 15 forum.

The Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce hosted the event in the Chicago Ridge Village Hall, with Vice President Christopher Lisek asking questions submitted by audience members. Much of the discussion focused on the importance of attracting new businesses, as well as contentious issues such as pension spikes, and outside campaign influences.

The three trustee candidates on the Results Now ticket led by mayoral candidate Fran Coglianese are incumbents Bruce Quintos and Amanda Cardin, and newcomer Scott Schaal, a retired Chicago Ridge police officer now handling security at Palos Hospital.

Quintos retired from the Cook County Sheriff’s Police as field operations commander in 2003, the day before he was elected to the village board. Cardin, running for her second and, she said, last term, works with children with special needs, and the Professional Development Advisory Council.

Facing off against them were current Village Treasurer Deb Pyznarski and Ed Kowalski, both running informally with incumbent Mayor Chuck Tokar on the Taxpayers First slate. Independent Lisel Kwartnik, a grant administrator with the Chicago Association for Research and Education in Science, is also running

Besides being village treasurer, Pyznarski is senior general manager of Lincoln Property Co., while Kowalski is business development manager of ServPro in Evergreen Park. Pyznarski’s husband, Rob, is the Chicago Ridge chief of police, and she said she would recuse herself from votes involving her husband’s job.

While all six candidates agreed that bringing new businesses and their tax revenue is important to the village, the Results Now team wants to focus on businesses without video gaming.

“Chicago Ridge is a great place to live and grow, but many people I have spoken to are concerned about the number of vacant storefronts and vacant lots,” said Kwartnik.

Pyznarski and Kowalski said the opposition to video gaming on the village board has resulted in lost revenue when several prospective businesses were turned away because they wanted gaming. She said that preventing it could pose a problem when trying to attract restaurants and entertainment to the vacant Yellow Freight property on Harlem.

“What I am against is the gambling cafes. The more we have, the more they change the look of the village,” said Cardin. “We also need to build public-private partnerships in order to turn some of the apartments in the village into senior housing.”

The Results Now slate support term limits, which perhaps could be decided by referendum.

Cardin said a second term would be her last, and Schaal said he isn’t thinking beyond the first term yet. Quintos, who is running in his fifth election, said this would be his last campaign. His first term was for two years, followed by three four-year terms.

“We already have term limits, called elections,” said Pyznarski. Kowalski said term limits are “a buzz word” used without putting thought into how it would work.

Kwartnik noted that term limits would have prevented the late Eugene Siegel from accomplishing as much as he did as mayor for 34 years.

Schaal said he was the whistleblower on the employee pension spikes, which came to a head in 2010 when Police Chief Tim Baldermann and Deputy Chief Dennis Kapelinski retired. Under a 2005 village ordinance that offered police administrators a buyout, they were given a 20 percent salary increase on their last day to boost their pensions. Pension spikes are no longer allowed and the pensions were recalculated following an Illinois Appellate Court ruling in 2015. But the issue was raised in the campaign, in part because Pyznarski was the treasurer at the time.

When she was asked at the forum why she signed village documents related to the police officials’ pensions, she said it was done “under duress.” She explained that she felt pressured by the police officials, since her husband was an officer at the time, and thought both their jobs may be on the line.

Quintos was the only current trustee in office at the time, and was criticized for his vote approving the spikes. He said he regrets that vote, but felt the pension board received bad advice from the law firm of Odelson and Sterk during that period.

The issue came to the forefront again when Tokar appointed Burt Odelson as village attorney, against the will of five trustees, including Quintos, Cardin and Coglianese. Although Odelson & Sterk settled a claim about the issue, Tokar pointed out that Illinois Department of Insurance has found the firm did nothing wrong. A ruling is thought to be imminent on a lawsuit filed by Tokar against the trustees to determine whether the mayor has the authority to appoint the attorney without board approval.

The alleged involvement of Cook County Commissioner Ed Moody in the Results Now campaign was also questioned at the forum. All the candidates were asked if Moody, who lives in Chicago Ridge, was contributing to their campaign.

Kowalski and Pyznarski asserted that Moody visited their neighbors, and pressured them to post Results Now signs rather than their own.

“This is a great place. It always has been. Chicago Ridge is not a ward of Chicago,” said Kowalski, referring to Moody’s ties to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-22nd). Moody, who is stepping down as Worth Township Highway Commissioner, grew up in Madigan’s 13th Ward base in Chicago.

Kowalski described himself as “a common-sense person” without political ties or allegiance to anyone. “I don’t believe in pitting neighbor against neighbor.”

“He supports our campaign. I don’t see anything wrong with that,” said Schaal about Moody. “He is not affiliated with us but he does support us.”

Cardin said Moody is her neighbor, and having a Cook County commissioner in the village could helpful.

“I am friends with Ed. I haven’t taken any funds from Ed. He is a friend to all of us,” said Quintos.

Evergreen Park candidates stress commitment to community

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

 

Voters in Evergreen Park will see familiar names on the ballot in the April 4 election as the mayor, village clerk and two trustees are running unopposed. A third trustee position is open with one candidate running.

Seeking re-election is Mayor James Sexton, Village Clerk Cathy Aparo and incumbent Trustees Carol Kyle and Mark Phelan. The one new name on the ballot is Norm Anderson, running to fill a trustee position that opened when Daniel McKeown stepping down.

Running unopposed seems to be the norm in Evergreen Park. Aparo, who was elected in 2001, attributes it to Sexton.

“It is a testament to the mayor because of all the good things he does for the village,” she said.

She cited the recent economic growth spurred by the re-development of the Plaza at 95th and Western Avenue, and added that there have been many improvements being made to make the village more attractive for businesses and residents.

Aparo has been with the village since 1984 when she started in the office of the public works department.

“I never dreamed that I would one day be the village clerk,” she said. She added that it is an honor and privilege to serve the people in our village. ”Every day it is a pleasure to be able to help our residents. It is a very special atmosphere. Many of us here at the village have lived here all of our lives, we grew up together, went to school and church together, and now are working together to serve our village.”

One of the longest serving trustees up for election is Carol Kyle. She has served in the position for 29 years. Her father, Robert Norris, was a trustee and when he died in 1988, she filled out the remainder of his term and has served ever since.

“I have chosen to run again because I believe my chapter in the history book about the village isn’t complete and I still have much to offer,” Kyle said.

She said the most satisfaction for her as a trustee is attending village functions or participating as a volunteer.

“The look on the children’s faces, the residents’ gratitude for the event and the enormous crowds that show up makes me realize that all the planning, meetings and discussions are worth it,” Kyle said.

She serves as chairman of the Recreation Youth and Citizen Services Department and one of her future goals as a trustee is to investigate the possibility of installing a splash pad in one of the village parks.

Incumbent Trustee Mark Phelan is also a veteran board member with 14 years of service.

“I enjoy being a trustee for the village and I am honored to be a public servant. As a trustee and chairman of the public works committee, I believe it is important to always strive to make our village a better place to live. I am proud of all the improvements in our village, the businesses that have joined our community, the great parks our residents enjoy and all the wonderful services available to our residents.”

His future plans for his term is to look for opportunities to make the parks and recreational services better equipped to serve the youth with additional programs for pre-kindergarten and teens. He said he would also like to explore the possibility of providing some form of senior housing in the village for elderly residents.

While Anderson’s name is new on the ballot, he is not new to Evergreen Park. He has been a resident for 50 years and has served as a fire and police commissioner for the last 17 years. He is currently chairman of the commission.

“I feel that I know the village extremely well and understand the needs of its residents,” Anderson said.

One of his goals as a trustee is to continue to support the Fire and Police Departments, to bring further awareness of their importance to the community and to ensure the safety of the residents.

Additionally, he would like to follow through with the final stages of the redevelopment of the Evergreen Plaza with fully-occupied stores.

“I will also work towards keeping our village viable and our property values strong by supporting our building and zoning ordinances,” Anderson added.

 

Chicago Ridge candidates talk about loyalty, accessibility

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Candidates running for mayor and village clerk in Chicago Ridge fielded residents’ questions during a March 8 forum sponsored by the Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Vice President Christopher Lisek moderated the event, asking the questions submitted by audience members.

The candidates for village clerk, incumbent George Schleyer and Barbara Harrison, didn’t get as many questions as the mayoral candidates: incumbent Chuck Tokar and trustees Fran Coglianese and Sally Durkin. But the clerk candidates did argue about how many hours could be spent working at what is a part-time position.

Harrison, who grew up in Chicago Ridge, stressed her strong ties to the community.

“I do have a loyalty to the town,” she said, recalling her days playing in Freedom Park when it was known as Birmingham Park, and playing on a boys field hockey team for three years. She pledged to be accessible, saying, “I know this town and the people in it, and I have the will to work hard to serve them.”

Schleyer, who is completing his first four-year term as clerk, has lived in Chicago Ridge since the mid-1990s. A production manager in a bakery who led a Chicago neighborhood organization before moving to Chicago Ridge, Schleyer said besides handling the duties of the office, he also helped get the Chicago Ridge Lions Club started last year, and revived the Chicago Ridge-Worth Chamber of Commerce.

He told Harrison that a labor lawyer mentioned to him working more than 20 hours in the clerk’s position per week could be illegal, and might require the officeholder to pay into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

“Does that mean not returning phone calls from home?” asked Harrison, promising to do that.

Schleyer said he often does return calls when he is away from the office, and disputed Harrison’s claim that he is not accessible to the public.

The mayoral candidates all cited economic development as a prime objective, but they had a few minor “dust-ups” when discussing how to go about it, as well as several other issues.

“Economic development is the only way we will be able to hold the line on property taxes and make it possible to reinstate the property tax rebate,” said Tokar, who is completing his first term as mayor. Prior to that, the lifelong village resident served for 24 years as village clerk and 14 years as trustee.

When asked to point to development successes during his term, Tokar cited the craft brewery opening this summer in the Harlem Avenue TIF district, as well as a medical facility being built on the east side of the district. He said the sale of the brewery site, and a possible purchase of another village-owned piece of property where a developer wants to build the village’s first Starbuck’s restaurant will be profitable.

Durkin and Coglianese want to see more economic development in the village as well, but they both oppose allowing any more video gaming in town. Tokar said recent decisions by the village board to reject business proposals that included video gaming has cost the village tax money.

Durkin, who said she is running for mayor because she feels like her hands are tied as a trustee, said the “infighting in the village board” has got to stop. She said hiring a village manager to run the village on a day-to-day basis would be on her agenda. She, like Coglianese, also supports the idea of making the mayor’s office part-time.

“Definitely we need it. I think an administrator is needed to put some distance between the board and running the village hall.”

Coglianese, who worked as a secretary in the building department before retiring, said $75,000 has been budgeted for that position. But Tokar said village administrators would cost a lot more than that.

Both Durkin and Coglianese criticized Tokar for taking annual salaries of $12,000 for liquor commissioner and $18,000 for budget director, in addition to the $88,000 salary for mayor. State statute does allow mayors to serve as budget officers, but Tokar said he is the only one of the three with the master’s degree in public administration that the job requires.

While Tokar and Durkin agreed that term limits “should be set by voters,” Coglianese is running on a platform that includes a call for term limits to be set at two.

The mayoral candidates were also asked who paid for robocalls to be made to residents. None of the three took credit for them, but Tokar said that since the calls were critical of Durkin and him, the residents “could draw their own conclusions.”

“I don’t appreciate these tactics in Chicago Ridge,” said Durkin.

Coglianese said she filed a Freedom of Information request to the FCC to find out who placed the calls. She denied the speculation that her team was behind them.

“If it was something I did, they would have pronounced my name right,” she said. She said she expects to get an answer by March 29 about who was behind them.

Hickory Hills green-lights Sabre Woods development

  • Written by Sharon L. Filkins

After a lengthy period of agreements and disagreements during the Hickory Hills City Council meeting last Thursday, an ordinance was approved for the proposed Sabre Woods development.

The planned unit development (PUD) proposal would take in the site of the old Sabre Room, 8900 W. 95th St., Hickory Hills. The once iconic center was the site of wedding receptions and noted performers who took the stage there, including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. The Sabre Room closed last year and the building was recently demolished.

The approved special use for PUD, which is located in a R-4 Single Family Residence District and C-3 Highway Commercial District, will allow a combination of commercial and residential uses, including retail stores, independent and assisted living apartments, senior apartments, senior single-family ranch homes, and property that may be donated to the city for use as a public library or other public purposes.

Hickory Hills Mayor Mike Howley said that he and 3rd Ward aldermen Tom McAvoy and Brian Fonte had met with the Koziarz Group, owners of the property; Retown, the development manager; and Chicagoland Realty, marketing and sales, to review the numerous plans that have been presented to the city.

“We finally hammered out an agreement that was agreeable to them and satisfied our zoning and building commission requirements,” Howley said.

In a later conversation, Howley stated that it would be a great benefit to the city if the parties involved are able to attract a developer or developers who can conform to the zoning and building guidelines for the proposed development.

“We are in need of quality senior care in Hickory Hills,” said Howley. “I have talked with many residents who want to stay in the area and when they decide to downsize, or their health needs require a change in their lifestyle. They don’t want to move away from their families and friends. They want to stay close.”

Howley also added that a development restricted to senior level living would not place a burden on the city’s school system.

The approved ordinance addressed several issues of concern such as required footage for setbacks of single-family residences (setbacks were increased from 10 feet to 20 feet to allow cars to park in the driveway of a residence).

An earlier concern of the council was who would be responsible for the detention, retention and storm water areas. The ordinance states that management and maintenance will be the responsibility of a master association. The association will consist of all privately-owned property comprising the site and shall be responsible for the maintenance and repair of all facilities and the common area.

The ordinance also states that the proposed commercial area would be limited to 45,000 square feet.

In his later conversation, Howley also stated that the council was aware that any future developer would need some flexibility in some areas such as the number of single-family homes.

“We will do our best to work with them as long as the plan conforms to our concerns and zoning guidelines,” he said.