Kadner: A slice of Pavoni in Crestwood
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org March 13, 2013 10:36PM
Crestwood mayoral candidate Dino Pavoni, owner of Simply Slices pizza parlor, at his business in Crestwood, Illinois, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 11:24AM
“Did you ever hear of the Stockholm Syndrome?” asked Dino Pavoni, his hands slashing through the air for emphasis.
“People in Crestwood, it’s like they’re victims of the Stockholm Syndrome because they’ve lived under the rule of the Stranczeks for more than 40 years.”
Pavoni, 51, the owner of Simply Slices Pizza, 14208 Cicero Ave., is one of three candidates running for mayor of Crestwood in what will be the post-Stranczek era.
Chester Stranczek was mayor for 38 years, and when he retired his son, Robert, took over in 2007. Robert is not seeking re-election next month.
Pavoni, who has never held elective office and homeschooled his seven children, has lived in Crestwood his entire life. But of the three candidates running for mayor, he probably is the least well known.
The other two candidates, Lou Presta and John Toscas, are village trustees.
“I think it’s to my advantage that I haven’t been on the board,” Pavoni said.
Some of his campaign issues are quite simple.
“I would be available to people in the community,” he said. “If people want to talk to the mayor, they could find my phone number on the website.
“You can’t contact the mayor in Crestwood, and as a businessman I learned the first thing you have to do is keep your customers happy. Talk to them. Listen to their complaints.”
Pavoni said he would also make people feel welcome at village board meetings.
“The board meetings are open to the public, but the public certainly doesn’t feel welcomed,” he said. “I would make sure every trustee had a nameplate in front of their seat at village board meetings. Right now, you don’t even know who some of those people are if you’re coming to your first meeting.
“And each meeting I would assign a trustee to be a greeter. Just shake peoples’ hands as they’re coming in and say, ‘Welcome to the village board meeting.’ Let them know they’re important.”
Pavoni said even simple public documents, such as copies of the village budget, are too difficult to get in Crestwood.
“There’s way too much secrecy here and not enough communication,” he said. “You know there’s a reason for that.”
Pavoni said he’s outraged that Crestwood kept former Police Chief Theresa Neubauer, under federal indictment in the village’s tainted-water scandal, on the payroll.
“I asked a police chief in another town what would happen if someone was indicted there, and he said they would be put on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome,” Pavoni said. “That’s how it’s done. But here, we not only pay her $60,000 a year but pay her attorney fees.
“What does that tell you? It tells you someone here doesn’t want her talking to the federal government.”
Although Pavoni said he would spend a week in every village department if elected and cut wasteful spending, he also said he would increase police salaries.
“We have only a handful of full-time police officers here, and the rest are part-time and earn $12.50 an hour. You can’t guarantee the public safety paying police officers $12.50. You can’t keep good employees paying that kind of money. They go somewhere else where they can earn a living.”
Pavoni’s son, also named Dino, is a Crestwood police sergeant.
“They’re spreading a rumor that I’m running to make him chief,” Pavoni said. “He will not be the chief if I’m elected.
“I would hire a new chief by going to the Illinois Police Chiefs Association and telling them Crestwood is looking for candidates, and I want them to send me the resumes of qualified people.
“The chief here makes $60,000, and that’s not enough to attract a qualified person. We would have to raise the salary to remain competitive.”
Pavoni also has a problem with the mayor’s salary.
“The mayor is paid $6,000 a year. Well, you can’t expect a mayor to be available on that kind of money. I think the salary was kept low to discourage opposition to the Stranczeks. I would raise the salary.”
When I asked, “So you want to run for mayor and then raise your salary?” Pavoni said, “Not right away. Down the road.”
Another area where Crestwood has been too cheap, according to Pavoni, is public health.
“We don’t have health inspections in restaurants here,” he said. “At least I’ve never had one. I’ve had restaurants in Orland Park and Frankfort, and they have regular health inspections.
“The public health budget here is $600 a year. A business license in Crestwood costs $1. If you increased the business license to $100, you could raise $60,000 and have a real public health inspector. We need a professionally run health department because a food-borne illness outbreak here would make the water scandal look like chump change. You have to protect the public’s health.”
Still, he said he would find a way to balance the village budget without increasing taxes.
But getting people in Crestwood to believe in change is difficult.
“As I talk to people here, they tell me they don’t even believe the water scandal happened,” he said. “They believe the news media made it up.
“You don’t have the federal government come in and indict people, you don’t have the FBI confiscate your city’s computers, unless something bad happened.
“Chet Stranczek called his truck company Cresco, and Crestwood is known as Chetco.
“This is our chance to really change things. I think I’m the guy who can make those changes.”