La Grange trustee candidates spar over issues at Citizen's Council forum
LA GRANGE — Candidates running for trustee introduced themselves to residents and laid out their vision for the future of La Grange at at forum held at Village Hall March 13.
The forum was hosted by the Citizen's Council of La Grange, a nonpartisan, volunteer organization that seeks, evaluates and recommends residents for public office.
The six candidates running for three open positions on the village board quickly broke into two factions presenting separate visions for how the village should be managed.
Trustee Bill Holder, David McCarty and Trustee Mark Langan—who are endorsed by the Citizen's Council—said La Grange is functioning with a lean budget and more cuts would have to come with a reduction in services that residents expect and desire. They also aligned themselves with Tom Livingston, who is running unopposed for village president.
Candidates Joan Hoigard and Jeff Tucek largely aligned themselves with Trustee Micheal Horvath, who said the board needed to make decisions that would keep resident's quality of service, but also reduce property taxes and fees.
The most stark differences between the candidates came up during questions about the village's budget and represented a divide between the candidate's opinions on the roll of the village board and how to best serve residents.
Trustees Langan and Holder pointed to the village making $1.5 million in cuts to the budget in recent years, while still being able to maintain a high quality of service. Further cuts, they argued, would result in a loss of services and residents enjoy and want.
"I think it's getting close to too much," said McCarty of the budget cuts.
The three Citizen's Council endorsed candidates also said the village hires top-tier talent and needs to rely on their expert opinion—an issue that came up between board members several times last year over staff recommendations to purchase or upgrade equipment.
Tucek agreed that the level of service needs to be maintained, but lobbied throughout his answers that the village needs to be run as a private sector would. Tucek said La Grange residents are at their breaking point with taxes and the board will need to find new ways to stretch the budget.
Horvath too said that cutting taxes and fees needs to be a priority, which he said could be done by finding more areas to trim through careful consideration.
Hoigard, though aligned with Horvath and Tucek, kept her comments more folksy and said she was running for a trustee position to add diversity and an analytic eye to the board. To a question about how the Village should continue to develop downtown La Grange, Hoigard said keeping the Village's good businesses should be a priority, in addition to adding more diversity of offerings—as much as she loves the restaurants.
All six candidates could find common ground on the issue of safety along 47th Street. While they didn't go into many specifics, all said the Village will need to work closely with the state on behalf of residents to achieve their goals and promised to make crossing safety a priority going forward.