WHEATON — Questions regarding district finances dominated the discussion among candidates running for the Community Unit School District 200 Board of Education at a candidate forum March 14.
All nine of the candidates running for four board positions were present at the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce and League of Women Voters' candidate forum. This gave voters an opportunity to hear candidates speak on a variety of issues chosen by the attendees themselves. Candidates for the Wheaton City Council and Wheaton Park District Board of Commissioners also participated in the forum.
The candidates running for CUSD 200 include incumbents Ken Knicker, Barbara Intihar and Joann Coghill, and newcomers Brad Paulsen, Bruce C. Fogarty, Janet "Jan" Shaw, James Mathieson, Kyle Nenninger and Harold Lonks.
Much of the CUSD 200 candidate discussion focused on whether educational funding in the district will be able to meet students' needs, as well as what each candidate would propose to do regarding district pensions, depending on what happens at the state level.
Candidates acknowledged the role of the state in the future finances of the district, but many focused on the importance of preparing for state decisions so that additional funds do not need to come from the taxpayers. Some candidates, including the three incumbents, discussed CUSD 200's policy to have a balanced budget to ensure its finances are in order.
Candidates also were asked whether they supported the proposal for a new Jefferson Early Childhood Center.
Paulsen, Fogarty, Intihar, Coghill and Knicker said they supported the new Jefferson Early Childhood Center, while Shaw and Lonks said they did not, although both agreed something needs to be done to address the issues with the current Jefferson facility.
Mathieson and Nenninger did not say how they will vote on the referendum measure. Mathieson said he will look at Jefferson as part of the total work that needs to be done on all district properties, while Nenninger said he is still looking into whether a less-expensive option makes sense.
Races for four out of the five open seats on the Wheaton City Council will be uncontested, with incumbent John K. Rutledge running in the south, incumbent Todd Scalzo in the west, W. Thoreson "Thor" Saline in the east and John R. Prendiville for the at-large seat.
Saline currently sits on the council as an at-large member after being appointed to complete Jeanne Ives' term following her resignation to serve in the Illinois General Assembly, and Prendiville is a former councilmember and mayoral candidate.
The only contested race for the city council is in the north district, where candidates J.T. del Alcazar, Alberta Adamson, incumbent Phil Suess and Ted Rodgers are all vying for the seat.
During the forum, candidates were asked about their ideas to fill empty storefronts in the downtown area.
Rodgers said the key is to have a central vision and comprehensive plan to create excitement for the area. Del Alcazar suggested creating a team that would interview businesses that went to other towns to find out what made them decide against settling in Wheaton.
Adamson said the city should use its cultural and historic sides to draw people to the area while Seuss said the city should ensure the downtown is an affordable place to do business, making it competitive with other areas.
There are three open positions on the Wheaton Park District Board of Commissioners. Four candidates are running for the positions, including Jane Hodgkinson and incumbents John F. Kelly, Steve Fieweger and Mark C. Schobel. Although Hodgkinson is a new candidate for the board, her previous experience includes serving as the executive director of the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association for 30 years.
Fieweger was unable to attend the forum, where candidates discussed finding ways to increase funding for the park district without increasing taxes and partnering with other park districts whenever it makes sense.
The Wheaton municipal election will take place April 9. Early voting will begin March 25.