Oak Lawn's 4th District race is heating up

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

Oak Lawn Trustee Terry Vorderer (4th) is being challenged by John Koss in his bid for a second term in the April 4 election.

Vorderer is allied with Mayor Sandra Bury and Koss is allied with her opponent, Trustee Bob Streit (3rd), and they share some election material. But both lifelong Oak Lawn residents said they are running independent of the mayoral candidates.

Vorderer, 70, a lifelong village resident who retired as chief of patrol from the Oak Lawn Police Department, is a Vietnam War veteran.

“The only time I spent away from Oak Lawn was my time spent in tents in the jungles of Vietnam with the 1st Infantry Division,” he said.

Vorderer counts among his accomplishments as trustee the restarting the tradition of having community meetings.

“I’ve held more than a dozen of them. (Former trustee) Steven Rosenbaum used to do it, and I think they are very important to meet with residents and bring them information. We have had speakers from the business community, village officials, and the police department.”

“When I ran last time, I promised not to raise property taxes, and we haven’t. We have even lowered them a small amount. But a lot of people don’t realize that the village only gets a small amount of their property tax bills, so even if our part wasn’t raised, other taxing bodies may cause their bills to go up.”

“As a retired police officer, security is very important to me,” said Vorderer. He said that the police force has increased from 105, when he retired, to 109.

“We did that without raising property taxes. We were able to do it from the increased revenue generated by the new businesses that have come into town,” he said.

“I’ve increased and participated with other board members in the efforts that have seen a lot of economic development,” he said. “In the past four years, 175 new businesses have opened, bringing 1,500 new jobs, and $2.5 million additional tax dollars.”

Vorderer said he is also proud of his successfully solving the issues with Chuck E. Cheese’s restaurant on 95th Street, which had been plagued by violent disturbances in recent years. After being threatened with losing its business license, the company has agreed to close the restaurant before the end of the year.

“I’ve been working on that since I was elected. And we did it without incurring large court costs,” he said. “It is a good company but it didn’t work here,” said the trustee.

He also said ending the policy of giving pensions to part-time employees was good for the village. If re-elected, he said he looks forward to working on seeing the $25 million Advocate medical center planned for the Beatty Lumber site coming to fruition, and working on getting the Metra train schedule expanded in Oak Lawn. Vorderer also said he is looking forward to the long-planned light at 95th and Kilbourn.

Koss, 49, who owns a window and door company, and works for BSNF Railroad, is a graduate of Brother Rice High School and Southern Illinois University. He and his wife, Laura, have six children. Koss said he is very involved with scouting and coaching, in addition to belonging to groups such as the Knights of Columbus.

“I’ll have to give up some of the outside activities if I’m elected, but I want to have a voice in village government,” he said.

Pointing to a number of armed robberies and incidents of gunfire that have occurred in recent weeks and months, Koss said Oak Lawn does not feel as safe as when he was growing up.

“We want to raise our children here. But I would never allow them to go to a park alone, like I did.”

Koss said that while the police force has increased in numbers, he would like to see more officers patrolling the streets.

“There are only 10 officers on the street per shift,” he said. “We might not have to hire more, but just look at how they are deployed.”

“I also think it took too long to solve the problem with Chuck E. Cheese’s,” he said

Koss said he was also unhappy with the decisions made by the current village board to privatize the 911 center. He said hiring an outside company to run the center, which handles calls for surrounding communities as well as Oak Lawn, was not a good idea.

“I am sure they did it as a money-saving measure but it costs lives,” Koss said.

That assertion, that lives have been lost due to mishandled 911 ambulance calls, has been disputed by village officials.

The candidate said that if elected, he would also work on finding ways to hire more fire department personnel. He maintains that the fire department is undermanned and expressed concern that the current numbers are inadequate.