Dan DiMaria: Why I'm Running For Mayor
DiMaria, who's challenging Morton Grove Mayor Dan Staackmann, explains why he's running in the primary instead of the general election, and what his vision for Morton Grove would be.
Morton Grove Trustee Dan DiMaria got Morton Grove residents talking last week when he threw his hat into the ring for mayor in the April 2013 election.
DiMaria plans to run in the February primary election, against Mayor Dan Staackmann, for the nomination of Morton Grove's Action Party. Trustee Larry Gomberg has also announed his intention to run for mayor.
Earlier: DiMaria Will Run for Mayor
Earlier: Gomberg Announces Candidacy
In the question and answer interview below, DiMaria explains why he wants to run, why he chose to run in the Action Party primary, and what he would do as mayor.
Patch: What experience do you have in government?
DiMaria: I moved to Morton Grove in 1997 and got active pretty much right away. I was a Poli Sci major, interested in government, in the political realm. I was put on the appearance commission by Mayor Scanlan, ran for village clerk, filled a vacant seat for trustee, and been trustee pretty much ever since. I did take a two-year sabbatical. At the time my kids were a lot younger. I’ve also served on liasons to various commissions.
Did you take the two-year sabbatical because you lost an election?
No, I’ve been the top vote getter in every election. I don’t know why, I’m always humbled by it. I vote for what’s in the best interest of Morton Grove. I don’t put ego or politics out front, I vote my conscience for what is important for Morton Grove.
Why are you running in the Action Party primary in February rather than the general election in April?
I’m an Action Party guy in the tradition of Dan Scanlan and Jack O'Brien. The Action Party people are good people. The first objective is to do what’s right for Morton Grove.
The thing about the Action Party is no one pressures you to vote one way or the other.
I didn’t want to run as an independent because I’m an Action Party person. The action party was basically split between me and Dan (Staackmann, the current mayor). I though it was too close to end it there; I thought people should decide who should become the mayor. I wanted to do it as an Action Party member.
No one runs in politics if they don’t believe they can do a better job than the person holding office at that time. I’m not running against Dan (Staackmann) personally, I’m running against his policies and views for the future. If you feel you can do a better job, which I do, what's wrong with exercising my right to run?
Does your decision cause a primary to be necessary? In other words, would there have been no primary if you had not chosen to run in a primary?
No, the Action Party called for the primary, not me. They filed for a primary, they put a petition in before I made my decision to run, and I felt if they filed for a primary, I can use my right to challenge.
If you are an established political party, you have the right to run in the primary. So I thought, I will run in the primary--perfect, I dont want to leave the Action Party.
Why would a political party choose to do that?
Because then they're positioned first on the general election ballot.
Someone raised a question that when you ran for Niles Township Republican Committeeman, there was something amiss with your candidate petitions.
i was unaware of all the rules that related to the petition process. By the time I realized it, I got thrown off the ballot, and rightly so. I admitted that I made a mistake on a technicality.
Apparently the voters still have enough confidence in me because I ran again four years ago and was top vote getter again.
What are your views on what's happening with the village and what the future should look like?
There’s too much turnover in the village--that’s a problem. We’ve been through two economic development directors. The current mayor believes you just keep cutting costs. It doesn’t work that way.
We need the right-sized staff. You can’t make senseless cuts, you have to look to see where you can make an investment in the future. To me it’s better to invest in our economic development department than to invest in the Morton Grove Exchange (village newsletter), for example.
There's so much potential for this villlage, and under the current leadership I don't feel we're reaching that potential.
What would be your style as mayor, and how would it be different?
I believe in person to person relationships with businesspeople. A mayor should be a promoter, to get business excited about the village.
Look out the window (at Starbucks in Prairie View Plaza). We have 50,000 cars going by, that’s good. But look at the mall we're sitting in, not so good.
I’ve made suggestions; I’m not saying Dan hasn’t.
Usually in these malls, you are dealing with an agent. You’ve got to reach out to him, show him your town, market your town. Philosophically, I don’t think Dan’s aggressive enough.
I was in sales 16 years, which teaches you how to deal with people, how to respond to people. I’m currently a trader and I’m managing people at very difficult times when there’s a lot of pressure on them.
As far as at village hall, I can keep the spirit up and keep everybody moving in the right direction.
Please say more about your background and work experience.
I’m the youngest board member with the most years of experience on the board-- 10 years total. I’m 45.
As to my job, I’m an independent futures trader. I work for myself. I’m also a mortgage loan originator, and I work out of C&R Mortgage in Niles, working with residential loans.
If you notice, especially as a loan originator, it’s dealing with money and people and I’m comfortable with both of those.
At the Aug. 3 village board meeting, when dozens of people showed up to protest the idea of a garbage transfer station being located in the village, you stated that there should be a town hall meeting to air out the issues with residents. Some people accused you of grandstanding, because at that time, trustees were legally under a type of gag order which prevented them from discussing the proposed transfer station. So in effect, trustees could not have spoken or discussed the issue at such a town hall meeting.
The village was complying with the law and following the correct rules. It did the right thing in the process that was set up. However, those residents came to the meeting and they wanted to express opinions. We could still have set up a Q and A session to have the company (Lakeshore Waste Services) answer residents' questions.
In the future, the village needs to have town hall meetings to keep residents informed. There is information that is executive session material (Illinois law permits village boards to go into executive, or closed, session to discuss sensitive financial, legal and personnel matters), but once it became public, they should have set up a Q and A with residents.
Speaking of controversial issues, what would you have done when the idea of putting a Tilted Kilt pub in Morton Grove was proposed?
DiMaria: I dont believe this mayor made that business feel welcome. I'd say let's have a town hall meeting, tell people the profit it can generate.
I would have encouraged the Tilted Kilt, with resident input and a town hall meeting, but I think this mayor cut it short too quickly. I think he made the owner feel unwelcome. Even if it didn't work, you'd have a building there instead of just a vacant lot with a for sale sign on it.
Could you summarize in just a few words what your candidacy will be about?
I’m a promoter and an outside the box thinker. I would promote business in Morton Grove, and I like to think outside the box.