January 27, 2021


The forthcoming elections on April 6 in suburban Cook County townships and municipalities are essentially a SNAFU, a military term containing the F-word, but hey, it is in the dictionary so it cannot be THAT offensive.

SNAFU means Situation-Normal-All-(Expletive)-Up. Since this column strives to be inoffensive, let us just pretend that the “F” means “fouled.”

SNAFU is in Webster’s Dictionary, and it applies to some political, governmental, military and/or bureaucratic screw-up, like the COVID-19 vaccine distribution for example. It is defined as characteristic disorder, confusion, mix-up and foul-up. Is that possible?

2021 is the election cycle for Cook County’s 30 suburban townships and 120 municipalities. The election is on April 6 and the primary on Feb. 27. Township government is an anachronism, and a wastage of tax dollars. Its job is to govern unincorporated areas, which means outside the boundaries of established municipalities. That’s not much territory and does not require much work. The job is essentially part-time, and there is usually one meeting per month. Law enforcement is handled by the county Sheriff.

But in every township, by state statute, there is a Supervisor, Clerk, Assessor, Highway Commissioner and four Trustees, plus staff. The elected officials get a nominal salary, but also get health insurance and pension credits. The staff get a bigger salary, plus benefits. The exception is Highway Commissioner (HC), whose job is to maintain (as in resurfacing and snowplowing) those roads which are not state highways and not municipal side streets - and gets a huge salary. In Maine Township, for example, former HC Bob Provenzano was making $95,000 when he retired, and had jurisdiction over 12 miles of roadway, which was counted in both directions. The job now pays $50,000.

The township Assessor’s job is NOT to set local assessed valuations, or handle appeals. All it does is give advice and fill out forms - all done by staff. The part-time post usually pays in the realm of $50,000, and the occupant must be specially certified. In Maine Township, the top aide to Assessor Susan Moylan Krey makes $95,000. Krey, now a Democrat, recently had supervisor Laura Morask send a letter to the IMRF (Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund) stating that she works more than 20 hours per week. She will get a pension.

Township government is like a well-guarded, obscure sandbox, but it’s filled with gold dust.

In MAINE TOWNSHIP (Park Ridge and Des Plaines), historically controlled by Republicans, all seven Republicans on a slate concocted by township committeeman Char Foss-Eggeman were knocked off the ballot because they held their legally mandated Dec. 1 Caucus in the north parking lot of the old VFW Hall at Canfield-Higgins, which is in Park Ridge but is outside of Maine Township by about 50 feet. COVID restrictions prohibited an in-door meeting elsewhere. Higgins is the demarcation line between Maine and Norwood Park townships, with unincorporated Norwood Park extending about 100 feet north of Higgins to Cumberland.

A Township ordinance, but not any state statute, requires any caucus to be held inside the township’s boundaries.

Democratic township committeeperson (and state senator) Laura Murphy filed a challenge. At a township electoral board hearing, consisting of township supervisor Morask, Trustee Claire McKenzie and an attorney, the vote was 2-1 to remove - a decision which is being appealed to the Circuit Court on the ground that it is a denial to ballot access. Noteworthy is the fact that Morask, a Republican, was dumped by the Foss-Eggeman Republicans on Dec. 1, and that McKenzie is the sole Democratic trustee (of 4). Does anybody understand the concept of recusal due to bias, vindictiveness, or conflict-of-interest? But that is how it works.

And then there is township clerk Pete Gialamas, elected as a Republican but now a Democrat and on Murphy’s 2021 slate. He was properly served with a Notice of Caucus, published it, but now claims he didn’t know that 10 W. Higgins was outside Maine Township. Is that malfeasance? Or complicity? Murphy called her Caucus at Kappy’s Restaurant, at Harlem-Dempster, about 25 feet from the township border. Feet and inches matter. The whole mess is a definite screwup for Republicans.

The antecedents of the current SNAFU’s date back to 2001, when Republican committee Bill Darr and Trustee Bob Dudycz called a Caucus, packed it with their people, and proceeded to dump supervisor Mark Thompson and replace him with Dudycz. Thompson then proceeded to beat Darr for committeeman in 2002. There then emerged a permanent schism between anti-abortion social conservatives and pro-choice social liberals.

The party has gone downhill since: Bush lost the township in 2004, Obama won it 31,638-21,338 in 2008, Trump lost it 33,424-21,519 in 2016, and again 37,884-27,318 in 2020. Foss-Eggeman was a fervent Trump supporter. Due to the internecine squabbling, Republicans have lost the area’s state senate seat (to Murphy) and state rep seat (to Marty Moylan). “She has destroyed the Republican party,” said Moylan, a former Des Plaines mayor, of Foss-Eggeman.

Foss-Eggeman thinks otherwise. “We,” referring to the township Republicans, “promised to reduce spending.” By a 3-2 vote of the trustees, with Morask also voting, they withdrew from the IMPF, meaning no further pension credits for elected officials. Morask was furious, and the war was on. Murphy’s Caucus picked Karen Dimond, of Niles, for supervisor, while Republicans chose Earl Wilson, who lost a 2019 contest for Des Plaines alderman to Colt Moylan, son of the state representative and township assessor. Unless the Circuit Court reverses, the war will be over: Democrats win by default.

In NORWOOD PARK TOWNSHIP (Norridge, Harwood Heights, Park Ridge south of Higgins), there is more of a SAAFU than SNAFU. That is Situation-Abnormal-All-FOULED-Up. The Norridge mayor race features a Democrat, deputy Secretary of State Tom Benigno, who lost to Republican James Chmura in 2013 and 2017, running in conjunction with Anthony Beckman, a Norridge cop who is the Republican candidate for township supervisor. Beckman lost narrowly to state senator Rob Martwick (D-10) in 2020, winning 15 of 18 precincts in the township. (Note: Martwick is lobbying to get Norwood Park Township and the west end of the 41st Ward appended into Murphy’s district in the 2021 remap.)

The Norridge Improvement Party (NIP) has long been a bulwark of non-partisan collusion. The mayor, usually a Republican, kept property taxes low and fostered business development along Harlem Avenue. The trade-off was that Democrats controlled the township. The longtime Democratic committeeman was Robert Martwick, the senator’s dad, who retired in 2018; Frank Avino replaced him. Chmura beat Benigno 1,722-1,309 in 2013 and 1,829-1,337 in 2017.

Chmura resigned in late 2019 and was replaced by NIP Trustee Dan Tannhauser, elected in 2019 along with Jack Bielak and Bill Larson. Knowing another Benigno onslaught was imminent, Tannhauser aligned himself with Rob Martwick, and the 2021 slate includes Avino for trustee, along with clerk Debbie Budnick and incumbent Andrew Ronstadt for three trustee positions. Dan Donnelly, who lost to Avino in 2018, filed for trustee as a NIP candidate, triggering a Feb. 27 primary. Martwick moved from the township in 2013 and is now 38th Ward Democratic committeeperson. He was formerly a township trustee, a job that pays $1,000-a month, and a Norridge trustee.

In the April 6 election Benigno is running independently, as are the three trustee candidates opposing the NIP slate: Adam Chudzik, Anna Mitera and Andrew Kopinski, all associated with NWSGOP, Matt Podgorski’s Northwest Side pro-Trump Republican operation, and all are backing Democrat Benigno. NWSGOP was heavily involved in the 2020 Martwick-Beckman senate race. Beckman is running for supervisor as the Law-and-Order Party candidate against 20-year incumbent Tom Lupo, who heads the Norwood Park Township Improvement Party slate. Why would Republicans ally with a Democrat like Benigno? “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” said Podgorski. Beckman is expected to run again for state senator in 2022, as is Chicago cop Danny O’Toole (of the 41st Ward), who lost to Martwick in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Martwick supported the “police reform” and bail bond elimination bills which passed during the legislature’s lame-duck session. That will be an issue in 2022. And that is why Martwick wants to stuff Beckman’s and O’Toole’s home precincts into Murphy’s suburban district.

DES PLAINES: Mayor Matt Bogusz is termed-out after 8 years, and four current or former alderman want the mayor’s job, which pays $9,600. They are Dick Sayad, Malcolm Chester, Mike Charewicz and Andrew Gockowski.

NILES: incumbent mayor Andy Przybylo is termed-out, and trustee George Alpogianis is allied with Murphy, is unopposed.

LINCOLNWOOD: First-term mayor Barry Bass is retiring. Candidates to succeed him are trustees Jesal Patel and Georjean Hleppas-Nickell, the current trustees who spar at village board meetings, but in that nice way.

If you perceive this article as more satire than an analysis, you are correct. These are our “public servants” at work. God help us.