Among the top issues for candidates vying for a chance to represent Des Plaines' 8th Ward are flooding, fiscal responsibility and economic development.
The race to represent the ward is wide open with the impending departure of veteran Rosemary Argus, who cannot seek re-election due to city term-limit regulations.
Only two hopefuls remain -- Michael "Mike" Charewicz and Pat Mauro -- after candidate Austin Stanton dropped out of the aldermanic race Sunday, citing family health issues. Stanton's name still will appear on the April 5 ballot, but he wrote that he would immediately resign if he were elected.
He threw his support to Charewicz, 55, an auto mechanic, 30-year Des Plaines businessman and past president of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Mauro, 44, owns a sewer construction company in Des Plaines and is a member of the Des Plaines Economic Development Commission.
During a recent candidate interview, Charewicz said the city has a master plan for improving storm sewers that is working.
"Now we have to take care of the sanitary sewers," he added. "We have too much water in the sanitary sewers."
Mauro said the city's aging infrastructure allows for excess surface water to get into old clay pipes through cracks, forcing them to run beyond capacity during heavy rainfall.
Mauro said the only solution is investing more in the city's infrastructure.
"I'm motivated by the budget," he said. "Once you resolve budget problems, you'll find ways to fix these problems."
The city also needs to explore obtaining federal funding, Mauro added.
Both Mauro and Charewicz agree city leadership needs to do more to encourage economic development.
"We should be soliciting to get other (diverse) types of businesses into Des Plaines," Mauro said.
Mauro said officials need to look beyond the current city programs offered to businesses seeking financial help to make improvements to building facades and awnings.
Charewicz said the city offers programs to help businesses that businesses often don't know about and the city needs to do a better job of publicizing them. Officials also need to work on filling vacancies, making it easier for businesses to get permits, and improving communication with the community, residents and chamber of commerce, he said.
Both candidates criticized the city's use of tax increment financing districts, an economic development tool which has been controversial. Of the city's five special taxing districts, three are ailing.
"TIFs have been managed poorly," Charewicz said. "Right now I can't imagine why we need another TIF. I think we need to shore up and work on the TIFs that are already there, already working and develop them into economic engines instead of economic liabilities."
Mauro said the city has to evaluate each TIF district individually.
"It just seemed like our town just hop-scotched it all around … there's too much going on at one time. If the TIFs are used correctly they can be great," Mauro said.