Kadner: Bury’s vision for Oak Lawn politics
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org March 14, 2013 10:50PM
Sandra Bury, candidate for mayor in Oak Lawn. talks in her office at Complete Vision Care along 95th Street in Oak Lawn, IL on Thursday March 14, 2012. Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 16, 2013 4:03PM
In the raucous world of Oak Lawn politics, where former running mates become enemies and longtime political foes mysteriously join forces, Sandra Bury promises truth and tranquility.
Bury, 51, an optometrist, is running for mayor against incumbent David Heilmann.
She promises to restore peace by bringing transparency to village government. She said she will ask elected officials to voluntarily disclose conflicts of interest at every meeting.
And she seems to think that people who might cut a back-room deal would be honest about it.
“A good leader encourages teamwork,” Bury told me during an interview at Complete Vision Care.
She purchased the shuttered Southwest Auto Radiator Shop building, 6209 W. 95th St., in 2005 and redesigned it into a modern 3,500-square-foot vision center. Five other optometrists now work out of the business.
Billing herself as “a business owner with a better vision for Oak Lawn,” Bury told me that ethics is a priority in her campaign for mayor.
“There have been too many back-room deals in Oak Lawn, where frat brothers, business friends and others have been given preferential treatment. Every action the village takes results in confrontations because people don’t trust each other. You can put an end to that by doing business in the open.”
Bury has never held elective office, although she is past-president of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club, where she chaired a fundraising drive to build a 911 Responders Memorial.
Over the past 14 years, she said, she has used her vacations to visit underprivileged countries throughout the world with other optometrists to provide glasses and eye care to the poor. Locally, she has volunteered her services to South Suburban PADS, an organization that helps the homeless.
She moved to Oak Lawn in 1979 with her parents from the Marquette Park area of Chicago, after attending St. Rita School and Maria High School.
Bury attended Northern Illinois University, majoring in the visual arts and drawing but discovered after graduation that there were “very few job openings for people with those credentials.”
She graduated from the Illinois School of Optometry in 1995 and worked seven days a week to pay off her college loans.
“I’m not a politician,” Bury told me. “I decided to run for office because as an optometrist you hear people talk, and I didn’t like what I was hearing about Oak Lawn government.
“I started going to village board meetings and didn’t like what I saw. The mayor seemed to antagonize the public. He didn’t let people talk.
“There’s a public participation section of the meeting, but you can only talk about items on the agenda and sometimes the items on the agenda are listed as ‘village manager’s report’ with no details.
“And then some people are held to the two-minute time limit and gaveled into silence if they continue to speak while others are allowed to go on and on. I was just disgusted.”
Heilmann, an attorney and former Oak Lawn Park Board president, originally ran for mayor in 2005 with a slate of candidates for trustee that promised to bring a new era of governance following the long reign of former Mayor Ernie Kolb.
But it wasn’t long after the election before several of his running mates joined forces with Heilmann’s political enemies, claiming he had arranged to hire the law firm of a friend to represent the city.
Accusations of ineptitude and corruption began to fly, a new law firm was hired, another law firm was hired to launch an investigation of the first one and, in retrospect, those were probably the good old days.
Trustee Bob Streit, who once accused Heilmann of all manner of skulduggery, is now one of the mayor’s staunchest political allies.
Although Bury seems like an earnest, nice, successful businesswoman, she doesn’t hesitate to say that she appreciates the efforts of some of the trustees who are among Heilmann’s worst critics, such as Alex Olejniczak (2nd), Thomas Duhig (4th) and Thomas Phelan (6th), who is not seeking re-election.
The only reason she did not form a political slate of candidates with some of them, she said, is that village Clerk Jane Quinlan wanted to run as an independent, and “I didn’t want to run a candidate against her.”
But it seems to me that if Bury really wanted to create the appearance of a fresh state for Oak Lawn politics, she wouldn’t embrace those who have helped create the turmoil.
“I just believe they’re good people who have good hearts,” she said. “I saw Alex in the community during the recent (power outage), bringing generators out to the homes of disabled people so their chair lifts could work. That’s just the kind of person he is.”
Bury contends that she also wants to create a better climate for small businesses in Oak Lawn, saying property taxes “are way too high and forcing businesses to close.”
I pointed out that school districts typically represent about 60 percent of a property tax bill, with municipalities taking a very small share.
“That’s true,” she conceded.
I asked why, if she wanted to lower the property tax, she hadn’t run for a local school board, and she said, “That’s a good point.”
However, she did stress that she believes the village government goes out of its way to attract large businesses but ignores existing merchants who need help.
When asked if she approved of the job village manager Larry Deetjen has done, however, she said she had no criticism of his performance.
And although she said residents have complained about increases in vandalism and gangs, she offered no criticism of the police chief or his department.
For more information about Bury, you can visit her website at sandraburyformayor.com.
“I just believe Oak Lawn deserves better leadership,” she said. “My focus will always be on what’s best for our residents.”