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Three trustee races slated in Oak Lawn

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Three of the six seats on the Oak Lawn Board of Trustees are up for election on April 7, and there will be at least one new face when voting is done.

While Trustees Tim Desmond (1st) and Robert Streit (3rd) are running for re-election, Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th) is stepping down after two terms. Newcomers William ÒBud” Stalker and Daniel Johnson, commander of Johnson-Phelps VFW Post 522 are vying for her seat. Quinlan, an ally of Streit, has endorsed Stalker as her successor.

In the 1st District, the match-up is the same as in 2013, when Trautsch was unseated by Desmond, a stationary engineer who owns Jack Desmond’s restaurant in Chicago Ridge. Trautsch was appointed in 2011 after Jerry Hurckes resigned. {{more}}

Trautsch was out campaigning on Tuesday and unable to talk, but said she decided to run again to give voters a choice.

ÒPeople need a choice, right?,” she said.

Trautsch has said that safety concerns need to be a bigger priority in Oak Lawn, which has seen a spike in burglaries.

Of the rematch, this week Desmond simply said, ÒThe people decided in 2013 that they didn’t want her to represent them.

ÒI’m very proud of my two years on the board,” said Desmond. ÒWe’ve increased the number of police officers and firefighters,” he noted. ÒWe brought in a professional company to run a troubled 911 center,” he added.

Streit and Quinlan heavily criticized Mayor Sandra Bury and the majority on the board for privatizing the 911 center, with Streit saying Monday that it puts the lives of residents and first responders at risk.

But Desmond called that Òpolitical posturing.” He said that Streit supported the idea of privatizing the 911 center when Quinlan first proposed it in 2010.

Among his first-term accomplishments Desmond listed founding a neighborhood watch program, and ÒShop Oak Lawn, Hire Oak Lawn,”  which gives residents doing home improvements a $100 discount on village permits if they use products bought in Oak Lawn and local tradespeople.

Several local home improvement, landscaping and paint stores also signed on, giving discounts on materials to residents, he noted.

Desmond also founded the Oak Lawn Jobs program, which connects high school students and graduates with local employers.

The trustee said his next goal is to work on improving 87th Street using a special assessment program to assist businesses already located there, and attract more businesses to the busy thoroughfare that forms the village’s northern boundary.

To help businesses make improvements, he would like the village to borrow money from a bank for the businesses. They would then pay a special assessment to pay it back to the village.

ÒThe village could borrow money at a much lower rate of interest than a small business, and it would not be a burden on the taxpayers,” he said.

Streit called Desmond Òa yes man” for Mayor Bury, saying Trautsch would be more independent. But Desmond sees it differently.

ÒI have had many disagreements with the mayor, but I don’t need to make a political issue of it. I prefer to discuss it privately” he said. Ò(The trustees) don’t have to always agree, but we can be courteous,” he added, contending that Streit is more interested in grandstanding and scoring political points.

ÒThe purpose of the board is to address the needs of Oak Lawn, not ourselves,” he said.

ÒI care deeply about this community,” said Streit, explaining why he is seeking his seventh four-year term on the board. ÒI have lived in Oak Lawn my entire life, and I am raising my children here,”  said the trustee, who has two opponents, Scott Hollis and John ÒJ.J.” Zurek. Hollis is said to be allied with Bury.

ÒThis mayor and this board are leading Oak Lawn in the wrong direction,” said Streit, who is known for stridently arguing his positions at board meetings.

ÒWe need a greater emphasis on public safety,” said Streit.

Besides opposing the privatization of the 911 center, which he contends puts residents and first responders at risk, Streit has also soured on the latest developments at the new Stony Creek Promenade at 111th and Cicero Avenue.

ÒWhen it was originally proposed by former Mayor Dave Heilmann, it was to be an upscale shopping center. But it has turned into a mediocre strip mall complete with stores you could see on any corner in Oak Lawn,” said Streit, criticizing the burger restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses now going in beside upscale stores such as Mariano’s and Cooper’s Hawk Winery.

ÒWe spent $30 million in public money (to acquire that property),” he said, Òand gave away our interest for $7 million.” He contends that developers spent $3 million and sold their rights for $28 million.

ÒI’d like to see better financial management and we need more of a focus on public safety,” he said, contending that the money Òsquandered” on the 111th and Cicero development would be better spent on hiring more police and firefighters.

ÒMy primary objective is to public safety. There has been a big increase in burglaries, and I am not going to be satisfied until every resident feels safe in their home,” he said.

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