March 1, 2017
POLYGRAPHS, LAXATIVES DEFINE 2017 DES PLAINES MAYORAL RACE
ANALYSIS & OPINION BY RUSS STEWART
by RUSS STEWART
Northwest suburban Des Plaines may have stumbled onto a cure for governmental malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance. It's a device called a polygraph.
That's right. They're going to find the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Seven of 10 elected officials have paid $80 each for their own lie detector tests, with the mayor refusing to do so. Some if not all of the 300 Des Plaines municipal employees may be next. "We're a joke," said state Representative Marty Moylan (D-55), who was the Des Plaines mayor from 2009 to 2013 and whose onetime protege, Matt Bogusz, is the current mayor.
Can you imagine if Chicago or Cook County administered mandatory annual polygraphs, asking such innocuous questions such as, "Are you a public servant?" and "Do you do a day's work for a day's pay?" -- with any fib cause for immediate termination? Half the work force would be out the door before the exam, and the other half would repeat those magic words, "On advice of counsel, I cannot recall with specificity at this time."
"I'm ashamed that (Des Plaines) should be subjected to this travesty," lamented Malcolm Chester, an alderman who is running against Bogusz on April 4 and who took the polygraph test. "I'm ashamed of the aldermanic antics" which "have brought discredit to our city," retorted Bogusz, who said he had "no role" in the release of confidential legal documents to a local journalist. "It's bizarre, a political ploy," Bogusz said.
It's still unclear who did what, when and why. Various contradictory versions surfaced, with everyone in denial mode, so the city authorized an internal investigation, checked all the records of city-issued cell phones, and then demanded records of all personal cell phones -- causing all hell to break loose. A few facts are clear: Jim Brookman, one of the four consistently anti-Bogusz aldermen on the eight-member City Council -- part of "a cabal" engaged in "antics" Bogusz said -- was preparing to run for mayor this year. Brookman was once a city firefighter trainee, he was injured, and he is receiving $500 a month for life. Someone accessed Brookman's personnel file and sent it, along with 11 other pages of supposedly confidential information detailing other lawsuits involving Brookman, as well as pending lawsuits involving other city employees, to the reporter. When asked under oath at a 2016 board meeting, the reporter admitted that he got the documents, but he refused to identify his source, saying only that it was a "public employee."
The aldermen voted 5-3 to appropriate $24,000 to hire a private detective firm to administer the polygraphs, and Bogusz vetoed the ordinance, claiming that it would put the city "over budget." The city's budget is $150 million, and annual casino revenues are $8 million, but the penny-pinching mayor couldn't find $24,000? "He's covering up his involvement," Chester said, adding that the $182,000-a-year city manager, who was appointed during Moylan's tenure and who oversaw the internal investigation which produced a 60-page report, also has gone mum. "Somebody's lying," Chester said, adding that whoever it is should be found and fired for "dishonesty."
Predictably, Brookman didn't run for mayor (and is backing his ally Chester), and the newspaper revelations also torpedoed his aspirations to run for the vacant $72,000-a-year township road commissioner's job, so now he's probably stuck forever in his aldermanic job, which pays a measly $4,500.
If you're laughing uproariously about this absurdity, wipe that smile off your face and read on. Nobody can make this stuff up. I'll take a polygraph.
In 2013 the 26-year-old Bogusz was a first-term alderman, and he ran with Moylan's endorsement, convincingly defeating former mayor Tony Arredia and Alderman Mark Walsten, getting 54.9 percent of the vote and winning 39 of the city's 44 precincts. The mayor is paid $11,000, so the "Boy Mayor" has a day job as a senior vice president with a Loop advertising agency. (Bogusz refused to say for whom he works, what accounts he has, and how much he earns.) After winning, Bogusz decided that Des Plaines, as he put it, "needed rebranding," and authorized spending $82,000 to hire an ad agency to replace the "City of Destiny" motto. They came up with "Good Move City," which was quickly but not quietly flushed after the anti-Bogusz "cabal," according to Chester, discovered it was the name of a laxative. Someone should polygraph the ad agency to discover who went to a drug store. Luckily, he or she didn't buy a product for fungal itch or skin rash or walk down the plumbing aisle. I kind of like "City of Unclogged Drains."
There also is a raging controversy about who's got the popular Moylan's endorsement. During his term, the Rivers Casino opened, generating $462 million in gross gambling receipts in 2012 and well over $500 million now, making it Illinois' most lucrative casino. Moylan basked in the glow, even though Arredia did most of the heavy lifting. Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party chairman Mike Madigan picked Moylan to run for the House in 2012 and spent $1 million to get him elected, another $1 million in 2014 to get him re-elected, and more than $600,000 in 2016. That money, combined with disciplined daily campaigning, has made Moylan a local powerhouse. He won on Nov. 8 with 59.1 percent of the vote.
"He (Moylan) recruited me (to run against Bogusz), and I don't understand why he's not endorsing me," Chester said. Bogusz is similarly perplexed, saying that Moylan never expressed to him any "displeasure" about his record. "I didn't recruit anybody, and I'm not endorsing anybody," Moylan said.
Bogusz said that there is, a "vast generational, behavioral and territorial gulf" between him and the "Grumpy Old Men" who oppose him. Bogusz has a significant Facebook, Tweeter and Linkedin presence; Chester has yet to post a Web site. Bogusz claims he has "kept his 2013 promises," which were to use casino revenue to cut the $57 million bonded debt, increase city savings and boost economic development. Chester has no coherent theme or strategy, other than to tab Bogusz the "Monday Morning Mayor" who shows up for an hour once a week and at the twice-monthly board meetings.
Any election with an incumbent is a referendum on that incumbent's performance. You have to give the voters a compelling reason not to re-elect the incumbent. In his single term, Bogusz has: (1) Used casino revenue to reduce debt from $87 million in 2009 to $27 million in 2016, not increased the property tax levy, increased "savings" by 25 percent, and tripled infrastructure spending from $4 million to $5 million before 2009 to $14 million. (2) Completed a revenue-matching deal with the Rivers ownership to donate $2.25 million as part of a $5.5 million plan for the moribund Des Plaines Theater, which has been closed for 8 years. The city will put up the other $2.25 million to buy, renovate and operate the theater, which will feature movies, live performances and banquets.
(3) Redeveloped for condominiums and townhouses the vacant Littelfuse property on Busse Highway and the Casa Royal property at Center and Lee streets. (4) Attracted a hotel, two restaurants and a gas station to the northeast corner of Mannheim Road and Higgins Avenue, which has been vacant for 25 years. (5) Persuaded the Salvation Army to sell property at Algonquin and Mount Prospect roads to pharmaceutical giant Vetter for $1.8 million, creating $1.1 million in new tax revenue and 500 jobs. (6) got Mariano's to open a store on 4 acres at Golf and Mount Prospect roads, creating 30 jobs.
"I've kept my promises," Bogusz said. "People are sick of politicians who don't keep their promises. They (Chester and his other opponents) have nothing to run on. They only criticize me and vote against me." Not so, responds Chester. Roof concrete is falling on vehicles in the 1970s-vintage parking garage at Metropolitan Square, lawsuits against the city abound, city expenses are "up 16 percent," and Arlington Heights is stuck spending $500,000 a year on its city-owned theater, which only shows movies.
Bogusz could, as they say, run on his record and ignore Chester, but he's not. He rips Chester as a "liar and hypocrite," noting that Chester, age 68, promised when he was elected to forego free health insurance for aldermen, costing $30,000 a year in premiums, as he was a retired lawyer on Medicare and his wife as a state employee provided him supplemental coverage. "He voted to eliminate it, but then he took it," Bogusz said: "I'm going on my wife's plan soon," Chester said.
Des Plaines had a population of 58,364 in the last census, with about a fifth of its residents Hispanic, covering 14.4 square miles, extending from Interstate 294 west to Elmhurst Road. It is working class, with most housing built in the 1950s. Donald Trump barely topped 40 percent of the vote, but the large numbers of voters of German, Polish and Italian backgrounds want no frills and no new taxes. Des Plaines has term limits, so the mayor, the clerk and the aldermen cannot serve more than two 4-year terms.
My prediction: There is no doubt Bogusz will win, but "it will be closer than expected," cautioned Moylan. Since Bogusz will be out the door in 2021, he needs a solid 60 to 65 percent win to position himself for a future upgrade, such as Congress, county commissioner or state representative.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.