Action Party Trustees say Village on Right Path
Incumbent trustee candidates say village government is steering MG in the right direction despite dismal economy.
Incumbent trustees running in this spring's municipal elections are asking voters to keep intact a team they say has been effective despite obstacles posed by tough economic conditions.
Residents will decide April 5 if they want to keep trustees John Thill, Maria Toth and Shel Marcus, all Action Party members, in the three trustee seats up for re-election.
The trustees announced that they would be defending their posts at a Nov. 18 campaign kick-off event.
Thill said that village government has fulfilled many campaign promises made to residents in 2009, when the Action Party won the mayor's office, all six trustee seats and the village clerk's post.
"We did run on a platform almost two years ago that we would curtail spending, which we've done, we have laid people off and we have not filled positions that have been vacated by retirement," said Thill, who added that the village anticipates a balanced 2011 budget, which will most likely include a property tax increase.
Caucus candidates feel that efforts to bolster the local economy have been underwhelming.
"I don't see them focusing on redeveloping this village in a major way," said John Pietron, Caucus trustee candidate and former chairman of Morton Grove's Economic Development Commission.
Pietron is once again running alongside former trustees Georgianne Brunner and Rita Minx after the trio's unsuccessful run in the 2009 elections.
Minx said that the Action Party lacks "foresight" when it comes to local business.
"They have not had any [foresight] for years. Many businesses have left Morton Grove," she said, mentioning a Marshall's store that moved to Niles.
Toth, on the other hand, believes that the village has taken positive measures to improve the local economy.
She mentioned a deal with Culver's to open up one of the chain restaurants in the village; the establishment of a new sign code she considers more pro-business and user friendly; and the hiring of a new community and economic development director, John Said.
Said, who previously served as Director of Planning, Zoning and Economic Development for Elmhurst, is "going to be an asset to the village in terms of enticing businesses to come into the community," Toth said.
Thill also listed several infrastructural projects the village has undertaken, such as the construction of a 112-space, permit-only parking lot for commuters; infrastructural improvements including the replacement of a century-old water main running under Dempster Street; and the rebuilding of Dempster Street and Lincoln Avenue.
He added that the prevention of the senior center's closing, made possible by outsourcing services to an outside non-profit, and the board's recent approval of a 82-unit senior housing facility were noteworthy accomplishments.
Toth said the village government benefits from the mayor's strong leadership and also works well as a group.
But Caucus Party candidates have criticized the current board as being too close for comfort. Caucus candidates say there is a lack of dissension and dialogue on issues and stressed aspirations of ending "one party rule" in Morton Grove.
Brunner accused the trustees of rubber stamping ordinances and said she and her fellow candidates would be able to spur more discourse.
"If the three of us were on there, we would at least be able to put out the debate," Brunner said.
Trustees have denied that debate is stifled. In addition, they counter assertions that one party rule is bad for the village with their own assertions that the Caucus Party didn't do much to improve the village after winning the mayoralty and gaining a majority on the trustee board in 2005.
Marcus said that despite these points of contention, he hopes to run a positive campaign devoid of mudslinging or personal attacks.
"Candidates from both parties have to run on what they've done for Morton Grove and where they want to take the village," he said.
"I think people are tired of negative campaigns. And I certainly am too," added Marcus. "We'll let the voters decide."