The Obvious Difference
(DeKalb Candidates Forum 2005)
The rules for discussion at the DeKalb Candidates Forum (March 15, Best Western Inn) allowed each mayoral candidate two minutes to address a question followed by one minute to rebut their opponent's comments. Those rules were adroitly followed, by challenger Frank Van Buer and incumbent Greg Sparrow, until this question from the audience was delivered by moderator Chris Doyle, publisher of the Daily Chronicle:
"Tell us what your opponent's greatest weaknesses are and then take twice as long to describe his greatest strengths."
Instead of taking the full six minutes allotted the discussion was completed in less than four minutes. But for the 265 people in attendance, and the listeners of WLBK 1360 AM this brief session brought the politics of campaigning back to reality.
Sparrow recalled how Van Buer had once been his teacher, one who the Mayor had respected and admired. Sparrow remembered his teacher giving him an A for a grade in his class.
Van Buer recalled Sparrow with pride and respect for the accomplishments his student had made. He reminded his former student that Van Buer, the teacher, did not give As, his students earned them.
This race is about issues and philosophy not personality and integrity because there is no lack thereof.
The issues important to the sponsors of the candidates forum; the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, DeKalb County Building and Development Association, DeKalb County Economic Development Corporation, the Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek, the DeKalb Area Association of Realtors and RAMP Center for Independent Living are primarily focused on the local economy.
Sparrow believes the "ball is rolling" in DeKalb towards a thriving economy with a balanced tax base close to his goal of 50-percent residential and 50-percent other. He believes that more growth is needed to reach that goal and that a balanced tax base is the surest way to reducing residential property tax.
Van Buer thinks that perhaps the ball is rolling too fast and that the city administration needs to be more deliberate in its management of growth. He is not comfortable with tax abatement packages such as that offered at Park 88 to Target Corporation. As a county board member he voted against the Target incentives and would be more stringent in that area as mayor.
It is hoped that for the remainder of this campaign season the political spin of personal attacks diminishes and that the philosophical differences between the mayoral candidates are more fully explored. That philosophical difference exists in the races for the DeKalb District #428 School Board and the city alderman races as well. Further discussion of their differences is needed as well. The result would be informed voters.
Exceptions to this philosophical difference on economy and growth management are in the race for DeKalb Township Supervisor and in the race for 6th ward alderman.
Challenger Mike McCoy believes that current township supervisor, Pat Lavigne, does not earn her $49,000 per year salary and that this salary amount is unjustified for the work load and responsibilities of the office. Lavigne, of course, disagrees. However, McCoy's promise to donate 25-percent of his salary, if elected, to local charities does not mask the fact that, no matter how admirable donating is, the tax payers will still pay $49,000 per year for the township supervisor position.
Jesse Perez and Dave Baker both appear to be more aligned with Greg Sparrow on their growth and economy stances. Perez, the challenger, has learned that he does not meet specific residency requirements set forth by the Illinois Board of Elections. Those new laws (passed in July 2004) require that a candidate live in his ward at least 12-months prior to running for the office. Perez has lived in DeKalb for more than five years but he was not a resident of the 6th ward for the 12-months preceding this election. He stated that should he win the election and someone challenged him on the law to prevent him from taking office he would sue. Baker responded by questioning why Perez would want voters to elect him to a lawsuit.
The evening forum was not only informing but at times it was downright entertaining.
In the 4th ward session, Chris Doyle, who did a masterful job as moderator, asked challenger Donna Gorski to describe the differences between her and incumbent Mike Knowlton. For those sitting in the audience who are informed on the two candidates' positions the obvious difference is their stances on growth and economics. Gorski is probably the most ardent opposition to any further residential development or corporate incentives in DeKalb. Knowlton's stance aligns with Sparrow's.
But Donna Gorski let the audience know that we had overlooked a most obvious difference.
"The first big difference," she replied, "is I am a woman and he is a man."
These are my first-hand observations from the DeKalb Candidates Forum. I'd love to read yours!