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Mayoral Candidates Take Questions from LWV and Elmhurst Residents Sunday

Candidates answered questions on Hahn Street, TIF, sustainability and getting along.

The three Elmhurst aldermen vying to be Elmhurst's next mayor participated in the League of Women Voters candidate forum Sunday afternoon. Questions posed to them from both the League and from audience members focused on tax increment financing, how they would work to bring the council together and development of Hahn Street, among other things.

One of the first questions asked by the audience was, "Do you have aspirations for higher office?" Elmhurst's former mayor, Pete DiCianni, was elected to the DuPage County Board before finishing his term as mayor.

All three candidates answered, without hesitation, that they are not seeking higher office and would serve out their full term if elected.

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Why They're Running

Each candidate pointed to their experience and love of Elmhurst as reasons for running.

Alderman Diane Gutenkauf, who has served the 1st Ward since 2007, is campaigning on transparency, fiscal conservatism and her 25-year work history with nonprofits.

"We are entering a new era in Elmhurst government where transparency is the norm," she said.

She also wants to protect taxpayer money "100 percent of the time" and she said she is "proficient at doing more with less."

Seventh Ward Alderman Mark Mulliner, the council's longest-serving alderman (since 1999), said his experience working with large government bodies and his long service on City Council sets him apart. He said Elmhurst is a $100 million corporation and should be treated as such.

"We have a skilled staff hired to do their jobs, and we are there to set policy, not to micromanage," he said. "That's what I do—set policy and get out of the way and let staff do it."

Sixth Ward Alderman Steve Morley, who has served on City Council since 2007, wants to maintain Elmhurst's character as a "great place for my kids and theirs to grow up." He said it's important not to lose site of what's best for the city.

"I want to be mayor because I care deeply for this town and its future," he said.

Tax Increment Financing

The candidates were asked to defend their positions on that was approved last year.

Morley sees TIF 4 as an "economic engine" that will reduce reliance on property taxes. He said the TIF will benefit all taxing bodies, and that he proposed adding Conrad Fischer and Churchville schools to the TIF to benefit Elmhurst School District 205.

"We will enter a revenue-sharing agreement (with District 205) that is five to 10 times greater than if the TIF had not been established," he said.

Gutenkauf said TIF 4 was a good idea—at first. She did not vote for the TIF once the Hahn Street property was taken out of TIF 1, the "downtown" TIF, and moved into TIF 4.

"I did not support the final map," she said. "We should have left Hahn Street within TIF 1 like we promised" instead of extending it for another 23 years in TIF 4.

Mulliner said economic development is a necessity on the north end of town.

"I want to make one thing clear," he said. "We lost four car dealerships in the last four years. The (TIF) system has been very effective at Lake and Walnut. This is an opportunity for us to increase the tax base and reduce property taxes."

All three candidates said they would not support TIFs 5 and 6, slated for York and South Street, and on Riverside Drive, until one of the existing TIFs is retired.

Green Practices

Another one of Gutenkauf's priorities is green infrastructure to reduce flooding. She said a model would be Chicago's Green Alley program, which is "three to five times more effective" than dedicating large areas of open space to water retention.

She said she has been an Elmhurst Cool Cities supporter since 2007 and helped create a sustainability policy for the city.

"We now use biodeisel and partner with Elmhurst College on recycling events," she said.

Gutenkauf said she has hosted an Energy Impact Illinois event in her home, installed permeable pavers on her own driveway and drives a fuel-efficient car.

Morley said a balanced approach to sustainability practices is needed. He said it is important to encourage residents to act together as a community to achieve sustainability goals.

"These decisions require an examination of cost and benefits," he said, adding it is a priority and he welcomes suggestions from the Cool Cities coalition.

Mulliner said sustainability is "very critical." He said the city is changing its fleet to hybrid and biodeisel vehicles, and a research project is under way on Pine Street to see if it makes sense to use permeable pavers. But the city must be careful not to do "something symbolic" that will cost a lot of money, he said.

Hahn Street

The Hahn Street development project has been stalled for more than six years. Mulliner said the ultimate goal is to have developers bring fresh ideas to the project.

"We have to let them be creative and make sure what we come up with is a solution that can be built in the next few years," he said.

Just because Hahn Street is in TIF 4 doesn't mean it has to stay there for 23 years, he said.

"After it's paid itself back, we can release it early," he said.

Morley said Hahn Street "is a tough one."

"It was slated to begin before I was elected to office, then stumbled along for seven or eight years," he said. "We need to get these properties on the tax rolls as fast as possible. I have my own opinions, but the key is, what is its highest and best use?"

More than 20 developers are interested in the site, he said, adding he thinks it should be a mix of residential and "unique" retail.

Gutenkauf said Hahn Street, now that it's in TIF 4, should "fuel a lot of other development in TIF 4."

"I really would like a project that gets that property value up quickly and generates revenue to help fuel some of that north York development," she said.

Working Together

City Council council members are sometimes at odds with one another. An audience member asked how the candidates would bring members together.

"I have a reputation for working together with fellow aldermen," Morley said. "The most important thing is communication prior to the meetings. Then a lot of issues, challenges and misinformation can be addressed before we get in front of cameras."

Alderman generally agree on 85 percent of the issues brought before the City Council, Mulliner said.

"It's that small, 15 percent that is contentious," he said. "Dissent is not a bad thing. It's that thread of information that will build a stronger case."

Dissenting voices are an important part of the mix so that aldermen can hear all of residents' concerns, Gutenkauf said. But the discourse must be respectful.

"The difficulty has to do with the lack of respect for dissenting opinions," she said, adding it is the mayor's job to encourage respectful conversation.

The aldermen also answered questions about flooding, infrastructure and intergovernmental cooperation. Their complete answers to the League's questions are posted on the League's website.

Elmhurst Patch also will post reports on school and park board forums.

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Steve L February 25, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Gutenkauf looked like the only one up there who knew what she was talking about - I didn't agree with everything she said but at least it was clear she had a handle on it. She's also the only candidate (for mayor at least) who has come to my door to discuss Elmhurst. She's got my vote.
Kirsten Powers February 25, 2013 at 09:45 PM
I agree - Diane Gutenkauf came to my door. I quizzed her on school funding, TIF issues, and infrastructure... she is clearly thoughtful and educated about all of these issues. I haven't totally made up my mind about who to vote for, but I appreciated Diane reaching out to voters, and she clearly wants what is best for Elmhurst.
Sam Abney February 25, 2013 at 11:27 PM
So, wait a minute Diane. Out of one side of your mouth you say you were against TIF 4 because of the inclusion of Hahn street. Then, later, out of the other side of your mouth you say Hahn street should fuel growth in TIF 4 and that you hope to get the property values up at Hahn to generate revenue to fund more growth on north York. If it were up to you, Hahn street wouldn't be in TIF 4. Can't have your cake and eat it too Diane. Which is it? Pro growth or pro CAVE?
Vincent Russell February 26, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Any person, business or government or otherwise, that tells a fellow colleague to "shut up" during an open public forum (Diane Guternkauf did this during a recent Elmhurst City hall meeting!), especially in front of a 5th grade student who was "Mayor for the Day", has neither the qualifications, nor the wherewithal of the kind of leader Elmhurst needs. Steve Morley Mayor!
Bob Ganoosh February 26, 2013 at 03:26 AM
Steve Morley comes with the fluff answer: ""I want to be mayor because I care deeply for this town and its future." Right... I care about the Chicago Cubs, doesn't mean I should be their GM. Crappy answer. Uh... then, Diane shouts at someone to shut up in a city council meeting and then says this: "The difficulty has to do with the lack of respect for dissenting opinions," she said, adding it is the mayor's job to encourage respectful conversation. Even though I don't agree with Mark Mulliner 100%, he's getting my vote compared to the other two...
TE February 26, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Just look at who is behind each candidate. Morley has the support of the behind closed doors group past and present. Deals are made and then the taxpayers are given the dog and pony show to make it look like there is transparency. It will be like 4 more years of his mentor Pete with less look at me. Then there is Diane the non-profit, who if elected will be bulldozed by the little boys club Morley runs. What really is her plan for economic growth that the city desperately needs? The shut up issue came from Pete's and the Morley clubs disrespect of women in leadership fear. Finally as always in politics it comes down to the settle candidate. Mulliner is that guy that can work to control the Morley boys club, and will give the citizens the transparency that has been missing during the Pete for himself years. His temperament would be a breath of fresher air to the ego filled past. Will Elmhurst voters really get the truth from these candidates and move this great town back to the top? One thing for sure any of these 3 will be better then look at me Pete!
Tim Jacobsen February 26, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Great question TE, let's look at who's behind each candidate: Gutenkauf - the CAVE group. Claire Cronin, Paula Pezza and that ilk. Mulliner - nobody...literally. Except his wife and three core supporters (Brinkmeyer, Howard and Kubiesa, wife of former, and fired, city attorney Ken Kubiesa), Mulliner has no support. Morley - broad based support of family, friends, business associates (he is a businessman in town), Elmhurst Chamber members, Dan Cronin, several key PTA members from south side schools, many local elected types (almost everybody who has picked a horse in this race has sided with Morley), and the list goes on. Of course, anonmyus hacks will all scream "frat club" (ignoring the fact that Leader and Polomsky are backing Morley), "back room deals" and so on, but the general public knows what it knows. This town is in GREAT shape and is only getting better. Morley has the track record and accomplishments to prove it. Mulliner has a twig. Gutkenkauf has..well, she took a robo call phone poll which led her to believe we should all just "shut up". This city deserves great leadership, this city deserves Steve Morley.
Tim Jacobsen February 26, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Sorry, forgot one of Mulliner's supporters. Charles "No Show" Mueller.
Bob Ganoosh February 26, 2013 at 04:49 PM
"Morley has the track record and accomplishments to prove it." Do share...
Steve L February 26, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Is there anything that you can point to that Morley has accomplished on city council? Is there anything he can name that he's done for Elmhurst? I sat through the forum and heard a bunch of vague allusions to Morley's love of Elmhurst and his dedication to serve our community. But I didn't hear one thing he's done. Has he done anything?
R U kidding February 26, 2013 at 06:05 PM
Morley was the driving force behind continued funding of the "GOT IT" campaign to increase local shopping. Unfortunately, throwing $50,000 a year to the Chamber of Commerce, which then charges a 10% "management fee" for a concept few merchants and shoppers alike understood; or GOT! The taxpayers GOT IT, let's hope it cure-able, and we won't be plagued by it next year
honest abe February 26, 2013 at 06:14 PM
yeah - keep yapping Tim. the problem with endorsements is that they don't vote. just ask susan rose. 4 years ago, she spent 113 large for a distant second place finish, while pete spent approx 65 for 38% of the vote. marcucci, and many others, backed susan, so just keep telling yourself that Mark has no support. very funny you are ...
not mike hasssan February 26, 2013 at 10:09 PM
oh No - i want "tim jacobsen' (or is it tj, or frank) to keep talking: i want to hear whether timmy wants a RE-PETE of the last 4 years. I want to know if "Tim Jacobsen" wants 4 MORE-LEY years of Pension Pete style politics.
Elle M February 27, 2013 at 01:45 PM
I met Mr. Mulliner for the first time last night at Hamburger Jones. When he spoke to the entire crowd he had full command of the facts and was persuasive too. Then when I spoke to him In a smaller group, he was very cordial and listened to both myself and my friend who I had asked her to come to the event with me. I am convinced he would make an excellent mayor now that I have met and heard him. Elle M
SJM March 04, 2013 at 02:22 AM
Mark Mulliner has the experience, dedication and character to be a great mayor. Hope Elmhurst makes the right choice!
The Publican March 15, 2013 at 05:55 AM
I go out of town for a few months and all Hell breaks loose. Mr. Russell, I invite you to look at the tape as I did when I heard about this event. I thought the accusations were out of nature for Ald. Gutenkauf. After reviewing, did Gutenkuaf snap - yes. Was it unfortunate - yes. However, was she provoked by the assinine badgering she was getting from the mayor and alderman Wagner - yes. These two misogynists were double teaming her and provoking her while all she wanted to do was finish her thought without getting interrupted. Also, Chris Christie tells as female Dr. to "shut up" because she called the 600lb gov "overweight" and he is hailed as a national hero. Double Standard ? Lastly that little girl saw a woman standing up for herself after being harrassed by two bullies. That should be the lesson taken out of this sorry event. No I am not done.. The Attorney General just chastised Alderman Morley for breaking the law as committee chairman of zoning and planning. Gutenkuaf is on tape saying that the group was getting off topic and Morley went on and on behind closed doors discussing his grand views for the city - safely out of earshot of the taxpaying public. Typical for the frat boys. The rules don't apply to them.
The Publican March 15, 2013 at 06:06 AM
TE I like Alderman Mulliner and think he could be a fine Mayor. Unfortunately, I do not think he can win. He will be the Syzypaniack (sp?) in this race. Gutenkauf is Susan Rose and Morley is Pete. I think Susan Rose would have been an excellent Mayor four years ago. Gutenkauf is getting huge support from the women in town who are fed up with the frat-boys running rough shot over the council. I am hoping Alderman Mulliner sees the writing on the wall and endorses Ald. Gutenkauf in the final days of the race. They could make a formidable team with her as Mayor and Alderman Mulliner as the floor leader on the city council if they throw in together. Morley would be more of Pete, only worse. Pete wasn't very bright. Morley is much more clever.
CheKeroauc March 18, 2013 at 05:29 PM
I'm not impressed with any of these candidates. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the real power in Elmhurst is with the city manager, not the mayor.
D L March 18, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Did anyone hear the three mayor candidates on WGN radio last week? What did you think?

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