Juciest races in the area should have had a candidate forum

  • Written by Bob Rakow

I don’t live in Worth or Chicago Ridge.


But I recently attended candidate forums in those communities, which were sponsored by the Chicago Ridge Worth Chamber of Commerce.


Kudos to that organization for organizing them and understanding that doing so is an important part of their role in the two communities.


The forum in Chicago Ridge was well attended, attracting about 100 people, who nearly filled the council chambers. The next night, about 40 people came out to hear the Worth candidates speak. Both forums included lengthy question-and-answer sessions as well.


As I said, I don’t live in either town, though I have a handle on the issues, as I cover the communities for the Reporter. And I firmly believe even the most uninformed voter who attended either forum came away with a pretty decent idea of who the most qualified candidates are.


I sat at the Chicago Ridge forum and listened to six candidates discuss their ideas for the future of the community and handle varied audience questions. Three of those individuals will be elected on April 7.


Incumbents Dan Badon and Jack Lind had a different take on things that the four challengers, all who are involved in the community and know the issues. That’s no surprise. Challengers can say pretty much anything during a campaign. Incumbents have a better idea of what is and isn’t possible.


No one could question the six candidates’ passion or love for Chicago Ridge. They’re running for trustee, after all. The job takes dedication and a fair amount of work. You’ve got to want to do it.


But to me, some candidates seemed better prepared than others, were more insightful, could think on their feet—skills voters should look for in a trustee.


Ditto in Worth.


Some candidates had a keen understanding of the issues. Others, not so much.  Some intelligently handled almost any of the questions submitted by the audience. Others had less to say or offered empty platitudes that sound great but mean little.


But at least the Chicago Ridge and Worth candidates were given a platform to say something, anything to impress the voters.


I live in Oak Lawn, where there are contested races in three of the village’s six districts—but there was no candidate forum and that’s a disservice to voters.


The Reporter covers six communities and none is more political than Oak Lawn. Yet at a time when at least one and as many as three board seats could change, there’s was no forum to give voters a chance to hear or question the candidates.


That’s too bad because the only other exposure voters have to the seven candidates is a barrage of signs and biased literature.


In District 1, incumbent Tim Desmond faces a challenge from Cindy Trautsch, the woman he defeated two years ago.


I’ve seen Desmond’s literature. Pictures of him shaking hands with the police chief, leading community meetings, looking serious at village board meetings.  That’s all well and good. I’ve also seen the piece he sent out that attacks his opponent. That’s fair game as well.


I’ve seen Trautsch’s short video that attacks Desmond, and heard about the allegations she has leveled against him.


In District 3, long-time Trustee Bob Streit faces opposition from Scott Hollis, a relative newcomer to town, and J.J. Zurek, who insists he’s not a plant in the race designed to take votes away from Hollis.


Hollis recently took grief from the Streit campaign about phony newspaper headlines used in his campaign literature to attack Streit.


There are many people who would like nothing more than to see the embattled Streit lose this election, but he hasn’t been around this long for nothing. It should be interesting.


Finally, in District 5, two candidates—Dan Johnson and Bud Stalker—are vying for the seat vacated by Carol Quinlan, who decided not the seek a third term. The Johnson literature I’ve seen plays up his significant military experience. Can’t blame him there. He won a Bronze Star and did tours of duty in the Middle East. I’ve not seen any Stalker material, but he’s got the backing of Quinlan as well as former Trustee Marge Joy, who held the seat before Quinlan.


The election is in less than one week. Maybe you’ve known all along who you’re going to vote for and nothing could change your mind. But Oak Lawn voters lost out when no forum was held.


The mayoral debate two years ago between Bury and Heilmann at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School was well attended and gave voters a better sense of the candidate’s priorities and how they responded under pressure.


Heilmann took some shots at Bury that night. She did not back down. Did it play a role in her victory? Hard to say, but it sure didn’t hurt.

In this election, Hollis has been extremely critical of Streit. It would have been great to see him spar in person with the veteran trustee and watch Streit defend his record.


First District voters didn’t return Trautsch to office in 2013, I’d love to see make a case for another term at a forum.


But Oak Lawn voters won’t be that fortunate. Don’t let it stop from you voting. There is noting worse than the apathy that accompanies low voter turnout.