Oak Lawn mayoral race features two different visions
BY BOB RAKOW Correspondent April 3, 2013 4:26PM
Sandra Bury (left) and Dave Heilmann during a Oak Lawn mayoral candidate forum at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School Tuesday, April 2, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 5, 2013 2:57PM
Two very different visions for the future of Oak Lawn were presented Tuesday night at a mayoral debate between incumbent Dave Heilmann and his challenger, Sandra Bury.
The candidates participated in a one-hour debate at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School. About 400 people attended the forum, which was moderated by the League of Women Voters of the Palos-Orland Area.
Heilmann, who is seeking a third term, promoted the village’s future, including retail development and enhancements to public safety.
“You have to make Oak Lawn a destination,” Heilmann said. “Don’t fight about it, just get the job done.”
He added that fighting among the mayor and trustees leads to bad decisions.
Bury agreed that the fighting among board members must cease.
“If you remove all the reasons for fighting, all the fighting will go away,” she said, adding that electing trustees who agree with Heilmann is not a solution.
Bury emphasized the need for transparency and ethical conduct among village officials and called for an end to back-room deals and secret meetings. She criticized Heilmann, claiming he attacks residents seeking information and does not sufficiently advocate on behalf of the village.
Bury supports term limits and would require board members to publicly declare conflicts of interest.
“The path we are on must be changed,” she said.
Bury also said she would work more closely with the business community and the Chamber of Commerce.
“There is so much more that we could be doing than we’re doing now,” Bury said.
She said serving as mayor would be another way in which she could give back to the village where she has lived for nearly 35 years.
Bury, an optometrist, in 2005 built her office at the site of an old muffler shop. She said interactions with patients led her to keep an eye on Oak Lawn politics, which led her to regularly attend village board meetings.
“I was appalled. My concerns turned to alarm,” she said.
Bury has served as director of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce and president of the Oak Lawn Rotary Club. She also has assumed leadership positions in many professional organizations.
“I think I know my way around how to run a meeting, Mayor Heilmann. I have credentials,” Bury said, responding to criticism that she has not previously held public office. “I have a plan.”
Heilmann stressed his political experience, which includes two terms as mayor and 13 years as an Oak Lawn Park District and Worth Township commissioner.
Heilmann said the village must have ambitious growth plans rather than take a “wait-and-see position.”
He said the development of the property at 111th Street and Cicero Avenue, which is to include Mariano’s Fresh Market as an anchor tenant, will lead to future growth.
“I think the possibilities are endless,” he said.
Christ Medical Center and the future of video gambling venues were two of the issues on which the candidates disagreed.
Bury drew applause when she said the hospital should pay service fees to the village to help defray the costs of village services.
“The burden of their success should not fall on the village,” she said.
Heilmann reiterated his proposal for the village to work with the hospital to build a wellness center on the Beatty Lumber property. The center would include the village’s senior center. Heilmann’s proposal calls for the hospital to pay $1.7 million to build the complex and staff the center with various health care professionals.
“I believe you work with them,” Heilmann said.
Bury said she did not want the village to become a mecca for video gambling.
“This is not what the community is built on. I will work to stop it,” she said.
Heilmann said he expressed reservations about video gambling facilities, and said the village board can repeal the ordinance allowing them at any time.
“It’s new to the village of Oak Lawn. We have to evaluate it,” he said.
Bury heads the Oak Lawn First Party, which also includes incumbent trustees Alex Olejniczak (2nd) and Tom Duhig (4th) and challengers Mike Carberry (6th) and Tim Desmond (1st). The party did not slate a candidate for village clerk.
Heilmann’s Mayor’s Independence Party includes clerk candidate Missy Moran and trustee candidates incumbent Cynthia Trautsch (1st), Julie Misner (2nd), Tim Reilly (4th) and Carol Sheahan (6th).
Terry Vorderer and Joe Sorrentino are running independent campaigns for trustee in the 4th and 6th districts, respectively. Village Clerk Jane Quinlan also is seeking re-election.