Six file for three Downers Grove Village Council seats, including one left undefended
Two incumbents and four newcomers are running for three council seats, but Commissioner Bill Waldack has decided not to vie for a third term.
Maintaining the village’s financial status quo — specifically, keeping core services funded while otherwise reigning in spending — has encouraged four newcomers to run for Village Council while convincing one incumbent to step aside.
In all, six council candidates have filed for the April 9 Downers Grove election, including two incumbents. The third incumbent up for re-election, Commissioner Bill Waldack, announced last week that he will not seek a third term, partly over disagreement in the board’s long-term funding focus, he said.
Incumbents Bob Barnett and Marilyn Schnell submitted their re-election paperwork on Nov. 19, the first day of the candidate filing period. By Monday’s deadline, four challengers had joined them on the ballot: Greg Hosé, Don Jankowski, David Olsen and Susan Walaszek.
Although some outlined new spending priorities, the new hopefuls roundly backed keeping a trim village government.
“I think what the council did right is they really kept their arms around spending,” Jankowski said. “From my perspective, I’d like to see it continue.”
Jankowski, a principle at PricewaterhouseCoopers, also has served on the Downers Grove Economic Development Committee’s executive board since its creation in 2006.
“I’ve gotten to see businesses come and go — when the sale tax became a smaller part of revenue than property tax,” he said. “Hopefully we’re going to see that trend reversed.”
He said he wants to maintain and attract businesses in part to expand the tax base, easing the burden on the rest of the village’s taxpayers.
Walaszek, a lawyer and human resources compliance consultant, also praised the council’s direction. She said she wants to adhere to the village’s long range financial plan.
“I think there’s always room for improvement,” she said. “I’d like to take a more active role in making Downers Grove the No. 1 village in the county — not just to work but to live and play."
Hosé, a lawyer who serves as chairman of the Downers Grove Plan Commission, points to his experience making tough decisions under public scrutiny. He had an unsuccessful run for Village Council in 2011, when he finished sixth out of nine in a race for three seats.
At the top of his platform this year is a focus on infrastructure. The village can realize savings by funding road repair now instead of road reconstruction later, he said.
“It costs us four times as much to replace a road — as we did with our $25 million bond issuance earlier this year,” he said. “It’s a pound of cure over an ounce of prevention."
Olsen, a regulatory affairs adviser for a commodities trading firm, acknowledges that at 24, he is younger than the rest of the field, but he still has managed a political resume. He was student body president at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — a position that offered some municipal experience through town-and-gown relations, he said — and he is a Republican committeeman.
“I think I can bring some fresh energy, some fresh perspective,” Olsen said, “an independent voice into the room for our village.”
With Waldack’s departure, the council is guaranteed at least one new face next year. Waldack decided to step aside partly because he disagrees with the board’s funding priorities.
“I’ve been fighting the core services ideology for years, and it looks like it is going to continue,” he said in an interview last week. “‘If it isn’t police, fire, public works, we aren’t going to fund it.’”
He pointed to the 2009 decision to cut the village’s taxi subsidy program by $50,000, or about a third. The cuts meant that seniors using the program could only purchase up to $60 worth of vouchers for cab rides, and they had to pay more for the program.
“Say an average trip is $10. You try to get all your trips done in one month,” he said.
Slashing the taxi program was just one aspect of nearly $2.6 million in cuts that year to balance the budget during the recession. But the next year, when Waldack proposed restoring funding for about $1.20 more in property tax per $95,000 of home value, the plan did not find favor with the majority of the board, including then-Mayor Ron Sandack. (Schnell, however, did come out in favor of restoring funding for senior programs.)
In leaving the board, he’ll turn his attention to the Senior Home Sharing Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to providing affordable housing to seniors. He’s vice president of the board, and he’s poised to move up the president position this year.
“In Downers Grove, they cut back on transportation for seniors, and I have an opportunity to expand the model for other communities. So my services might be better served somewhere else,” Waldack said.
“I don’t need to be the lone voice for those programs.”
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