Oak Lawn’s contentious mayoral race between incumbent Dr. Sandra Bury and longtime Trustee Bob Streit (3rd) is winding down before the April 4 election, but the candidates have not lost their vim and vigor.
Bury, who owns and operates Complete Vision Care in the village, is seeking her second term in office. While Streit, who has been a trustee since 1991, is seeking his first. He has owned another Oak Lawn business, Sealtite Roofing, for more than 30 years. He is also president and managing member of Illinois Energy Aggregation.
The issues the campaign is revolving around include public safety and business development.
“She is an eye doctor but I am a businessman,” said Streit, arguing that he would have negotiated a better deal for the village when the village completed and sold the first phase of the Stony Creek Promenade commercial development at 111th and Cicero Avenue. Aside from Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk restaurant, he said many residents refer to the development as “an upscale food court” because of the number of fast-food restaurants there.
“I would hire a professional economic director and attract more upscale retail stores there. That is what the original plans called for,” said Streit, who maintains that the village invested $30 million in the development, and only received $7 million when it was sold for $35 million. “I will negotiate a better deal on behalf of our taxpayers (for the second phase of the Stony Creek development). They gave 80 percent of the profits to the developer.”
However, Bury said the financial split was decided when the promenade area was first drawn up, before she became mayor.
“Mr. Streit was on the board then and had his chance to negotiate a better deal if he wanted to,” said Bury.
“I am very happy with that development,” said the mayor. “The businesses that did open there are going like gangbusters, compared to their other locations elsewhere. It is unfair to criticize them because they are contributing a lot of tax money to Oak Lawn,” she said.
“It is very easy to be critical, but the longest-serving trustee is not running on his own record, or pointing to any of his accomplishments,” she added
Bury said talks are underway regarding the second phase of development of Stony Creek, just west of the current site. “We’re eager to rollout the second phase. Residents can look forward to seeing one or two date-night restaurants similar to Cooper’s Hawk, and a few nice retail stores.”
“We have a good team in place here. We’ve increased tax revenue and created more than 1,500 jobs. Building permits are at a 16-year high,” she said. “We are paying our police and fire pension debt. We are not treading water yet, but we have a plan in place,” she said.
Regarding the crime issue, Bury points to FBI statistics showing that crime levels are actually down through 2016, but Streit said the administration is ignoring the recent uptick in armed robberies and bank robberies that have people scared.
He said that only 10 of the 109 members of the police department are patrolling the village during any of the three shifts, and has proposed requiring all officers, in uniform or not, to go out on patrol in marked cars at least once a month.
“It needs to be village-wide. Marked police cars cut down on crime,” he said.
However, Bury said Police Chief Michael Murray is already doing that, moving officers around and increasing patrols as necessary. The chief did mention doing that at a recent village board meeting.
“It was being done even under the previous chief,” said Bury.
Streit also criticizes the decision to reduce fire department staffing, and rely more on overtime.
“We’re looking to find ways to do more with what we have. We do need more police and paramedics, but I see no need for more firefighters,” said Bury. “Fire Chief George Sheets has assured me that there has never been a threat to public safety. Especially with mutual aid between departments, there are always enough firefighters responding,” she said.
Streit has pledged to “make residents proud” of him if elected, and Bury said she is proud to serve Oak Lawn as its mayor.
Along with the mayoral race, there are trustee elections in three of the six village districts. The issues mirror those in the mayoral race, since three allies of Bury are running against three of Streit. In District 2, incumbent Alex Olejniczak is running for a fourth four-year term against Streit ally Glenn Schlesser, a former 911 dispatcher and current captain in the Village of Thornton Fire Department.
In District 4, incumbent Trustee Terry Vorderer, who retired from a 34-year career with the Oak Lawn Police Department, is being challenged in his bid for a second term by John Koss, also a Streit ally. Koss has his own business, Creative Door and Window, and works full-time as a BNSF railroad conductor.
Michael Carberry is stepping down after one term as 6th District trustee. There will be a change in that seat no matter who wins. But a familiar face, Tom Phelan, is seeking to retake the seat he held four years ago. He is a Bury ally, and is running against Jozettemarie “Jo” Palermo, a commodities trader and ally of Streit.
Village Clerk Jane Quinlan is running unopposed.