Regime change unlikely in elections in suburbs
by RUSS STEWART
There is a fundamental difference between municipal politicians in Chicago and municipal office holders in the Cook County suburbs: Those in Chicago always give grief, while those in the suburbs occasionally engender hilarity.
There are 30 townships and 120 municipalities in Cook County, and all have elections in 2017, some in February but the bulk in April. Most will be dreary affairs for time-wasting, under-paying, politician-intriguing, career-stifling offices which are steppingstones to political obscurity. They are to Illinois politics what the Class A minors are to baseball — a lowly farm team.
Some are lifetime jobs, or part of the "family business." Regime changes are rare, and the 2017 outcomes are mostly a foregone conclusion, but there will be a handful of titanic and expensive battles, with Chicago politicians such as Mike Madigan deploying their precinct troops.
*Maine Township: Encompassing Park Ridge and Des Plaines, it’s the quadrennial season to be jolly, with the boisterous escapades and fantastic foul-ups of the local politicians providing endless amusement for the local electorate. The biggest guffaw emanates from Des Plaines, where the boy-wonder mayor, Matt Bogusz, who was elected in 2013 at age 26, decided to change the city’s motto from "City of Destiny" to "Good Move."
"Bogusz’s Blunder" evoked a huge controversy, especially the fact that he hired a public relations firm and paid it $180,000 to concoct the new motto. Normally there is a no-cost contest and people submit suggestions. Bogusz’s aldermanic critics publicly and colorfully bemoaned the fact that "Good Move" sounded like either a laxative for chronic constipation or a successful bar pick-up. Bogusz countered that "Good Move" was meant to be an encouragement to move into or do business in the city. The "City of the Good Move," or "Good Move City," died aborning. The aldermanic cabal prevailed, and "Good Move" was flushed away. Voters surely thought, "We elected these dolts?"
The mayor’s job is term limited to 8 years, with the mayor paid $9,600 and the aldermen paid $2,000 annually. One of the city’s eight aldermen, Malcolm Chester, is opposing Bogusz. The rap on Bogusz is that he’s arrogant and ambitious and that he rarely shows up at City Hall. At $9,600, who can blame him? Des Plaines residents get what they pay for. Rosemont’s mayor will earn $260,000 in 2017, and Des Plaines has the casino. Bogusz earns $800 per month; Bradley Stephens will earn $712.33 per day.
Bogusz’s mentor, former mayor Marty Moylan, helped get him elected in 2013. Moylan now is a Democratic state representative who is tight with Madigan and the unions but who will now back Chester. If Bogusz wins in 2017, he’ll be termed out in 2021, and he will run against Moylan in 2018 or 2020. "Bring it on," Moylan said. He was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote on Nov. 8.
The other blunderer is township Republican Committeeman Char Foss-Eggemann, who beat township Supervisor Carol Teschky in 2014 for the post by 2,058 votes. There are more factions than fingers, the main adversaries being "township" versus ideological conservatives. After state Senator Marty Butler died in 1998, the party plunged into a battle between the pro-choicers, led by state representative Rosemary Mulligan, and pro-lifers, led by Bob Dudycz. The once-vibrant organization collapsed, losing the state Senate seat in 2006 and the Mulligan’s House seat in 2012. Mulligan, the township Republican committeeman, bungled her petitions and didn’t get on the ballot, handing her seat to Moylan.
Foss-Eggemann is aligned with talk show superstar Dan Proft and the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank funded by Governor Bruce Rauner and others. In 2016, with gobs of money, she backed Donald Trump, Bob Dold, Mel Thillens and Dan Gott. All lost in the township, Trump by 33,424-21,519. Only Dan Patlak won, for the Board of Review.
After Teschky announced her retirement last summer, Foss-Eggemann anointed Roger Schubert for the job, but then Schubert withdraw and Trustee Laura Morask, a sometime ally of Teschky who once was elected as a Democrat, was selected at the December caucus. The Republican Party is in a shambles, although Foss-Eggemann did get her ally, Susan Sweeney, who lost to Moylan in 2012, slated for township trustee. State Senator Laura Murphy, the Democratic committeeman, slated no Democrat for supervisor, assessor or road commissioner, but did file four trustee candidates. Dysfunction is the norm.
In Park Ridge, the 2015 death of Mayor Dave Schmidt, a no-nonsense, cost-cutting conservative Republican, created a vacuum. Schmidt headed another Republican faction. The acting mayor is Marty Maloney, an alderman who is unaligned with anyone or any faction. The election is nonpartisan. He is opposed for the $10,000-a year job by attorney Lucas Fuksa, but he should win easily.
*Norridge: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is retiring in 2018 after 20 years, and the "exit strategy" of Tom Benigno, his chief deputy, is to become Norridge’s mayor. That’s called downsizing, although some might think it’s a route to another pension. Benigno tried in 2013, flooded the city, which contains only 11 precincts and 14,572 residents, with 13th Ward payrollers. He spent $131,417, and his campaign was run by Marty Quinn, Madigan’s alderman. (The ubiquitous Quinn ran the losing 2016 campaign of Merry Marwig against Republican state Representative Mike McAuliffe.) Democrat Benigno lost 1,910-1,403-266 to James Chmura, the candidate of the incumbent crowd which ruled since 1948, when the village was founded. Joe Sieb was the mayor for 47 years.
"They were stumbling all over each other," Chmura said after his 2013 win, referring to the army of Madigan workers, five or six per precinct. "People resented it, and resented them." Benigno’s muddled message was that it was time to replace the "Sieb machine," but voters clearly perceived that they had a choice between an insider outsider and an insider insider. Benigno was an interloper.
So what’s changed since 2013? Chmura has been a competent but lackluster mayor like his predecessors, including Sieb. Benigno has been more involved in the community, and he spends his off hours campaigning door to door. If the 2013 turnout of 3,579 remains the same, all it will take is a switch of 200 2013 Chmura voters for Benigno to win. Surely, mighty Madigan can do that. A Benigno spokesman acknowledged that Benigno was a "late comer" to Norridge politics and that he "lacked resources" in 2013, meaning that he didn’t, like Chmura, have a slate for mayor, clerk, and three trustees — which he has now. That’s nonsense. Benigno had at least 50 precinct workers, and he outspent Chmura’s 4-1.
Benigno’s spokesman said that his theme is that he is "an option" if voters want change. He said that economic development and "rising crime" will be issues. Chmura will argue that Norridge, which has low bonded indebtedness, will be pillaged by Benigno, Madigan and their lawyer and development cronies.
In neighboring Harwood Heights, after tempestuous elections in 2013, 2009, 2005 and 2001, Mayor Arlene Jezierny has finally settled in. Her 2017 United Team Party slate is unopposed. Jezierny is a Republican, and she helped McAuliffe win by 3-2 in 2016. The village has only five precincts, and Jezierny won 993-856 in 2013.
Norwood Park Township, which includes the two villages, went 5,470-5,124 for Clinton on Nov. 8, a remarkably good showing for Trump.
In Rosemont, with four precincts, Bradley Stephens, the son of village founder Donald Stephens, is, as usual, unopposed. Stephens has $351,286 in his campaign accounts, and he is probably the best paid, least overworked mayor in America. Rahm Emanuel earns only $216,210. However, the 4,202 residents have no complaint, as the ever-burgeoning revenue from the convention center, restaurants, bars and commercial properties make the village a veritable utopia — a cash cow, and the money has to be spent somewhere.
In Niles Township, which includes Niles, Skokie, Morton Grove and Lincolnwood, regime change is a fantasy. It’s called the "Land of Lang," run by Democratic township Committeeman Lou Lang, who has been a state representative since 1987 and who is chairman of the local Caucus Party, which dominates the municipalities and the township. Lang has $1,095,981 in his legislative account and $700 in the township party account, which has a debt of $665,000 to Citizens for Lou Lang.
The only blip for Lang was Morton Grove. Until 2013 the Republican-aligned Action Party was dominant, but then Action Party trustee Danny DiMaria ousted one-term Action Party Mayor Dan Staackmann in the caucus and was elected 1,556-679 with Caucus Party backing. Staackmann is back for a rematch as an independent, but the Action Party is defunct.
Clinton won the township 32,816-13,007, and the heaviest anti-Trump vote was in Skokie, a once heavily Jewish bastion which is now loaded with Filipinos, Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indians, Pakistanis, Hispanics and an array of Middle Eastern Muslims. The Jewish population is less than 20 percent. However, there is no political diversity in Skokie or the township. The Caucus Party incumbents, mostly Jewish, are in control, and nary a non-Anglo name is to be found on the ballot.
In Skokie, Mayor George Van Dusen, who has been in office since 1999, is unopposed, as are all the township candidates. In Niles, Mayor Andy Przybylo, a longtime trustee, a county employee, and until recently the co-owner of the White Eagle, is opposed by Steven Yasell for a second term, having eradicated all 2017 opposition in the 2015 trustee election. In Lincolnwood, Mayor Jerry Turry is opposed by Barry Bass.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.