March 25, 2009


In these troubled economic times, everybody needs a "stimulus" -- especially Republicans. That could occur on April 7, as Republican mayoral candidates look strong in suburban Des Plaines and Morton Grove.

Here's an analysis:

Des Plaines: After snaring a casino license, the city of 58,535 has a "cash cow" for the foreseeable future, generating an annual revenue stream of $9 million to $10 million beginning in 2012. Unlike most other American cities, Des Plaines' finances are sound. "The budget is $120 million, we have a reserve fund of 10 percent, there is no shortfall, and the budget is balanced," said Alderman Marty Moylan, a Democrat who is the frontrunner for mayor and who has the best organized campaign.

Term limits forced popular Mayor Tony Arredia out after 8 years, and four candidates are vying for the part-time post, which pays $9,000 annually: Maine Township Republican Committeeman Mark Thompson, an attorney with the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation and a former Maine Township supervisor and trustee; Moylan, who has been the 2nd Ward alderman since 2007 and who is a business agent for International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134; Dick Sayad, a wealthy computer company entrepreneur and the 4th Ward alderman  from 1999 to 2007; and Mike Lake, a retired tool and die maker who lost two bids for 2nd Ward alderman.

Arredia has made no endorsement. "It's a battle of lightweights," said one area politician. "The guy who wins will be the guy who's least objectionable, with the fewest enemies." Thompson, Moylan and Sayad all have a shot. Thompson has the most enemies, especially within his party. Arredia detests Sayad, and Moylan expects Arredia's support.

"I'm the only one who has run citywide before," said Thompson, who was elected a supervisor in 1993 and 1997, a trustee in 1981, 1985 and 1989, and committeeman in 2002 and 2006. He is an ally of pro-choice state Representative Rosemary Mulligan (R-55). Thompson was dumped in 2001 as supervisor in a Republican caucus, and he lost a 2005 Republican primary to incumbent Bob Dudycz by 22 votes.

 Thompson won the 2002 primary for committeeman over appointed Bill Darr by 153 votes, and he was re-elected in 2006 by 319 votes over township road commissioner Bob Provenzano. After a decade of ideological warfare, the township's Republicans are decimated and irrelevant. "There are as many Republicans who hope (Thompson) will lose as hope he will win," said the source, since the conservatives believe that being mayor would boost his grip on the party and enable him to win again as committeeman in 2010.

"This election is about the future of Des Plaines," Moylan said. "It's not about who should be the Republican boss." Maine Township Democratic Committeeman Laura Murphy, a term-limited Des Plaines alderman, has made no endorsement, but Democratic precinct captains are working for Moylan.

There are three issues: (1) How to handle city finances? (2) How to spend the casino "jackpot"? (3) How to alleviate flooding?

Sayad, an erstwhile ally of Arredia, accuses the mayor of "not disclosing" city expenses. "We're in a fiscal sinkhole and don't know it," he said. Sayad, age 66, promises to keep Des Plaines "moving forward," to be a "full-time mayor" and to be "fiscally accountable." He will spend $50,000 on his campaign, he is endorsed by former mayor Ted Sherwood, and he claims to have more than 100 volunteers.

Thompson, age 56, says that water retention projects funded by the Army Corps of Engineers and state sources could prevent flooding. He scoffs at criticisms that he can't handle the mayor's post. "I'd be there evenings and weekends," he said. "There's a full-time city manager." With no precinct operation and less than $10,000, and with the township Republican slate doing nothing to help him, Thompson has real problems.

Moylan, age 58, has bombarded voters with six slick mailings, will spend more than $50,000, and boasts of a "big umbrella" strategy. "I'm targeting the minority population," he said, including Asians and Muslims, who make up 5 percent of the town's population, Hispanics (15 percent) and Eastern Europeans (5 to 10 percent).

On flooding, Moylan stated that "90 billion gallons" of rainfall, as occurred in September of 2008, would overwhelm any drainage system, and he proposes to "eliminate combined sewers, increase capacity, and complete the Levy 37 and Big Bend projects." Moylan said he would annually allocate $2 million to $3 million of casino revenue for flood control and that he would serve full-time, as his union would let him have flexible hours while drawing a full salary.

My prediction: There are 58 precincts in Des Plaines, of which 18 have hard-to-access condominiums; there are 38,000 registered voters in 27,000 housing units, and the anticipated turnout is 7,500. With union support, Moylan will have plenty of election day workers. Moylan will win with 2,700 votes, to 2,300 for Sayad, 2,200 for Thompson and 300 for Lake.

Morton Grove:  Unlike many mayors, Democrat Rick Krier is not deceptive, disingenuous or in denial. "I raised taxes," he admits. "It was the responsible thing to do."  That may be his undoing.

In 2005 Krier's Caucus Party "promised utopia," said Republican Dan Staackmann, the Action Party mayoral candidate. "He said he would reduce taxes, bring in new business and end the garbage tax. He lied." In addition, Staackmann said, Krier used some "dirty tricks" to win. "He opposed the Muslim Mosque at 8500 N. Menard and blamed the (Action Party) mayor," he said. "That was deceitful."

Krier beat Staackmann in the 2005 mayoral race by 2,435-1,955 (with 55 percent of the vote), and he won three trustee seats, giving him a 4-2 majority. The Action Party swept in 2007, and now there is a 3-3 trustee deadlock, which Krier breaks.

The village's 2009 budget is $51 million, an 18 percent increase since 2005, when it was $43 million; there is a current deficit of $1 million. The village "was broke when I took over," Krier said. "We had to fund a $1 million pension shortfall, which (former mayor) Dan Scanlon just stopped paying, and we have TIF obligations," he said. "Both amount to almost $9 million." The mayor admits that he hasn't eliminated the fee that residents pay to Groot Industries for garbage services, but he says he has reduced it from $200 to $112 per household. Nor has he rescinded the 2004 sales tax on fuel and food that was supposed to sunset. "We need the revenue," he said.

Staackmann slammed Krier for "raising the village's property tax levy by 26 percent" from 2006 to 2008, "hiking 15 taxes and fees," losing a proposed off-track betting facility to Niles, losing $4 million in sales tax revenues when the Abt appliance store moved to Glenview, charging $1.5 million for private scavenger services, and issuing $10 million in bonds for the Lehigh-Ferris TIF District. "It's a mess," he said. As for pensions, Staackmann said they were only 60 percent to 70 percent funded in 2005. "We can make step payments," he said. "The unions want it all up front. Actuarially, it need not be fully funded."

Retorted Krier: "We raised the (property tax) levy by 20 percent in 2006, but only by 3.5 percent in 2007 and 2.5 percent in 2008. We had to get our fiscal house in order after 30 years of Action Party misrule." And, he added, as a trustee Staackmann "voted for the garbage tax and most other fee hikes. He's part of the problem, and electing him will not be a solution."

My prediction: The village's population is 22,451, with 10,000 registered voters. Turnout in 2005 was just 4,390, and it will barely top 4,000 this year. "People don't like change," confided one Staackmann strategist. "And they definitely don't like Krier's changes."

The 2005 election was a referendum on Scanlon and the Action Party, which Krier won by 480 votes. This election is a referendum on Krier, and he has alienated too many voters; he will lose by 400 votes.

Lincolnwood: If Morton Grove dislikes change, the 12,359 Lincolnwood residents absolutely, utterly, totally revile it. The Alliance Party (formerly the Administration Party), run by Mayor Jerry Turry, has dominated the village since 1931, when it was incorporated and Henry Proesel became mayor. That's a 78-year dynasty.

Ron Cope, a village attorney from 1975 to 1997, is running for trustee, and he is attacking Turry and the three Alliance trustees, Larry Elster, Larry Froman and Tom Heidtke. "We have one-party control," Cope said. "We have a $30 million budget, $5 million in borrowing, a liquor store near Proesel Park and a failed Lincoln Avenue 'New Urban' plan, with zero lot lines and 15-foot setbacks on a street with 30,000 cars daily." He adds: "We need more recreation, more business development, and more checks and balances."

Turry, who is unopposed for a second term, counters that the "New Urban" plan was the result of a 2-year task force and that it constitutes a long-term "vision" for Lincolnwood. "We need a pedestrian-friendly corridor, not strip malls," he said. Turry said that he got an $80,000 grant for streetscaping, began a 20-year $5.2 million water project, "kept the budget in line," got state funding for street lighting and a new fire truck, and made the village more "business friendly."

My prediction: Turry got 67 percent of the vote in 2005. In April Cope will finish a distant fourth.