Lincolnwood trustees vie for village president post
by JASON MEREL
Lincolnwood trustees Georjean Hlepas Nickell and Jesal Patel discussed issues facing the municipality as they vie to replace outgoing village president Barry Bass in the April 6 consolidated election.
Patel is running on the Lincolnwood Alliance slate with candidates Jean Ikezoe-Halevi (incumbent), Grace Diaz Herrera and Mohammed Saleem for three open trustee seats, and village clerk Beryl Herman, who is unopposed.
Nickell is running as an independent mayoral candidate with candidates for trustees Ronald Cope (incumbent), Stewart Solaka and Raul Tomsa.
Nickell, who is a managing partner in a private real estate and development company, has been a village trustee since 2017 and has also served on the Lincolnwood School District 74 Board of Education from 2005 to 2015.
Patel, who is a certified managing broker and owner of Patel Realty, has been a trustee since 2007, following an appointment to the village’s Sign Appearance Review Board in 2005.
“There are a variety of areas in which I feel my opponent and I differ,” Patel said. “As can be seen from the 100-plus meetings we attended together as trustees we have rather different styles of discourse. We also have differing views on finance, development, zoning, and other matters of great importance to the village.” Patel and Nickell have verbally sparred during meetings on many occasions.
Patel said he has a conservative approach to the village code with an aggressive mindset towards development that is focused on strengthening the tax base. He said this has improved the quality of life for Lincolnwood residents during his tenure.
“My extensive and prominent experience in business and government has given me the knowledge and proven ability to do this job,” Patel said.
“I have diligently and successfully sought to reduce expenses and deny no-bid contracts,” Nickell said. “I have held vendors accountable for errors which in one instance resulted in a $50,000 credit to the village.”
She said she participated in the coordination and meeting with representatives of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which resulted in a $1.4 million grant for the village’s storm water management program. Nickell said she actively lobbied for Cook County COVID-19 relief funds available and Lincolnwood received an amount equal to the Village of Schaumburg, a much larger municipality.
“Clearly the greatest contrast between myself and my opponent is the respect I have consistently shown residents, my preparedness to best represent their interests and ultimately my conduct in this campaign,” Nickell said. “All board meetings are archived on the Lincolnwood village Web site and can verify with certainty my position on issues and resistance to raising any taxes. This clearly contradicts the literature mailed out to the community by my opponent’s party.”
Nickell and Patel agreed that more work needs to be done on updating the village code. Nickell said chronic delays in plan review, processing, and inspections continue to be problematic and an assessment to identify and improve the process in the village’s building department is long overdue.
“An efficiency study is necessary to improve our process and reduce the time and red tape for residential and commercial development applications,” she said.
Patel said that there are a number of areas that are in need of revision within the code.
“We should be looking at the requirements for transition yards between commercial and residential uses. Often an impediment to developing a vacant or underutilized property is the negative impact on an adjacent residential use.
stablishing acceptable standards that will allow development to occur and protect residents from those negative impacts will be essential for the village,” he said.
Both candidates were asked how they intended to bring more businesses into Lincolnwood and expand its tax base.
“With the current mayor’s support, I was appointed chairperson of the newly-established Long Range Plan Committee which recommended developing a formal plan for the North East Industrial District,” Nickell said. “This area near Lowe’s sat stagnant as an underperforming 23-year TIF, expiring last December after shifting the tax burden to residents for over two decades.
“With the approved plan and aggressive marketing we can create a new energy into what was once an obsolete manufacturing district bringing our community more opportunities for restaurants, entertainment and a much needed new source of revenue,” she added. She said improving the aesthetic appearance and improving aging infrastructure would help to bring in more businesses to Lincolnwood.
“Whether using tax incentives to retain and expand existing businesses, creating TIF to assemble property and make public improvements, developing concept plans to attract developers, revising our code, or simply suggesting that a parcel might be underutilized, I have taken active steps to expand the tax base in Lincolnwood,” Patel said. “Aside from development efforts, I have worked to increase sales tax revenue for the village to keep the property tax burden from the village government among the lowest in the area.”
“I have proven my ability to retain and bring new business to Lincolnwood,” he added. “Starbucks, Chipotle, Vitamin Shoppe, Verizon, Five Guys, Meatheads, Loeber Porsche, Ziegler Cadillac, the Carrington, Stefani Prime, Libanais, and of course District 1860 all have my fingerprints on them as a trustee.”