Wednesday, January 28, 2009

UPDATED-- Gurnee Mayor and Trustee race heats up!

UPDATE-- Mayor Kovarik took exception to the EYE and sent us an email so I added her comments to the blog in blue.

Politics is wild in Gurnee! When Don Rudny defeated Dick Welton who had been Mayor for 28 years in 2001 he set off quite the chain of events. Under Welton the village made some huge moves that paid off in the form of Gurnee Mills, and Great America, that gave the village unlimited funds or so it seemed. Today Gurnee is struggling to cope with the economic downturn more then most communities. Gurnee is not struggling. Our revenues have slowed the same as all communities across the U.S. but our base is diversified so we have not suffered as much as others. We are making the appropriate adjustments to spending daily. Our reserves/capital is well in excess of what is required by ordinance and we have no plans or need to touch them.

When Kristiana Kovarik (pictured) ran and won in 2005, one of her main campaign assistants was former Mayor Dick Welton who was involved to level scores with then Mayor Don Rudney, who was defeated by Kovarik, the EYE is unsure of Weltons current position with Kovarik. Mayor Dick Welton was not one of my main campaign assistants nor was he even in the inner circle. Mayor Welton did support me however because he continues to love this Village and wanted only the best for it. As for this election season, Mayor Welton did sign my nominating petition but I cannot speak for him on the level of his support. Mayor Welton will most likely support whoever he thinks will do the best job for the Village. He is not a vindictive person who would participate just to level scores.

The Gurnee board is a contentious one, refusing to seat the Mayors appointment to fill her seat she vacated when she won the Mayors chair for many many meetings. (I can't find any links that contain the full story to illustrate the issue or I would provide a link.) The Gurnee Board is not a contentious one. We are there to do the people’s business and that is what we do at each meeting. While it did take a few months to fill the open Trustee seat we have all moved on since then and have even had an election since those events took place.
For the Waukegan News Sun-- GURNEE --
Familiar names and a familiar issue -- the economy -- will color the ballot for the April 7 consolidated election in Gurnee. Petition packets for the election, which will decide the next mayor, three trustees and village clerk, have been taken by incumbent trustees Hank Schwarz and Jeanne Balmes, former trustees Tom Chamberlain and Mark Ratfelders and former trustee candidates Bob Kofler and Tony Maniscalco. Candidates must file their nominating petitions between Jan. 19 and 26.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik, who won election as the village's first female president in 2005, has not formally requested nominating petitions through Village Hall. But those mulling a run for office may take packets without signing for them -- or produce their own petition. Kovarik, 51, is expected to make an announcement on a possible second bid for office during a Saturday fund-raiser for two not-for-profits at Direct Buy of Gurnee.

Chamberlain said that despite pulling a petition, he is not planning to challenge Kovarik. Nonetheless, he blasted her, claiming she has failed to deal with a sharp dip in sales tax revenues. Chamberlain was elected to three terms as trustee before suddenly resigning two years ago over what he claimed was Kovarik's failure to keep board members apprised of vital information. "The village is in worse shape than it has been in the history of Gurnee because we have an incompetent mayor," Chamberlain said. Kovarik, long at odds with Chamberlain, said she's waiting to see "how Christmas turned out."

According to the latest figures available through the Illinois Department of Revenue, the village's sales tax share for September and October 2008 dropped $550,000, or 18.4 percent, from the same two months in 2007. Kovarik said her administration is scrutinizing expenses and putting a hold on budget-approved items, like new technology, vehicles and conference trips. The village has also put off hiring for nine municipal positions that were vacated by people who retired or otherwise left, Kovarik said. "Not a day goes by that we're not making adjustments for the drop in revenues," Kovarik said. "We may have to cut some programs. We're asking is it a 'have to have' or a 'nice to have.' Right now it's got to be a 'have to have.'"

Maniscalco, 50, a former Navy man and Gurnee restaurateur who made an unsuccessful bid for trustee four years ago, is expected to announce a run for mayor. He said he regrets having supported Kovarik over former Mayor Don Rudny in 2005 in the wake of a two-year court battle in which Maniscalco was ultimately cleared by a jury of DUI and disorderly conduct charges by Gurnee police. "This town needs help," Maniscalco said. "I've always cared about the community and the businesses and the people. We have to take our community back."

Trustee Jeanne Balmes, who owns Gurnee Flowers by Balmes and who was first elected in 2001, quashed rumors that she planned to run against Kovarik. "I'm not dissatisfied with Krysti," Balmes said. "We don't always agree on everything, but at least you can talk to her and reason with her. She's approachable."

Ratfelders, who served as trustee from 1991 to 1999 under former longtime Mayor Dick Welton, is also expected to run for a trustee seat. Kovarik's attempt to appoint him to the board in 2005 was blocked by trustees, including Chamberlain, who pointed to his vote to approve a controversial Jewel-Osco project at the northwest corner of O'Plaine Road and Route 120. After Wal-Mart announced plans for a nearby store in Waukegan, that Jewel was not built.

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