After successive civil wars in Barrington Hills over the need for greater or less regulation of outdoor lighting levels and commercial horse boarding, the 2013 race for village president has come down to a basic battle over the budget.
Political newcomer Martin McLaughlin said he's challenging 8-year incumbent Robert Abboud partly out of surprise that those earlier debates didn't produce any other candidates and because he believes voters deserve an alternate choice.
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McLaughlin said he's particularly concerned with legal costs, that taxes haven't gone down proportionally with property values, and that he sees a budget that's doubled in the last eight years.
"At some point someone needs to stand up for the residents of the village and say, 'Enough is enough,'" McLaughlin told the Daily Herald editorial board this week.
But while McLaughlin said he's seeking a gentlemanly debate far removed from the stridency and personal attacks that have characterized the village's earlier 21st-century presidential races, Abboud said he sees McLaughlin's platform as an attack on facts.
Abboud produced figures for the village's levy and budget from 2006 to 2013. The 2006 levy was $5.76 million, and after gradually rising to $6.57 million in 2009, it came down by several hundred dollars in 2010 and has been the same since.
The 2006 budget, when the village shifted from a May 1 to Jan. 1 start to its fiscal year, was $7.05 million. But after starting at $8.12 million for its first full January to December fiscal year in 2007, it went up gradually to $8.6 million in 2010 before gradually coming down to $8.28 million in 2013.
Abboud said the legal fees McLaughlin is complaining about make up 9 percent of the village budget, the rest of which is aimed at police protection, road maintenance and protecting the environmental character of the village.
Abboud added that he and the rest of the village board serve without compensation, unlike in neighboring Hoffman Estates where village president is considered a paid full-time job.
Any talk about cutting the budget in Barrington Hills raises the question of how many police officers residents want to fire or how many potholes they want to endure, Abboud said.
And that also takes into account fighting for the environmental protection of the village, like current efforts to stop Insurance Auto Auction from opening a site in neighboring East Dundee, which Abboud sees as a threat to the underground water supply all Barrington Hills homes rely on.
"I don't know what issue is more important than clean water," Abboud said.
McLaughlin said he agrees 100 percent with the goal of stopping Insurance Auto Auction from locating nearby. But he said he finds fault in Abboud's confrontational approach in dealing with East Dundee, which only invites the possibility of more legal fees being spent when diplomacy might be the solution.
And if a legal fight is inevitable, McLaughlin said he wants to see more of the other villages that also use the aquifer paying their fair share rather than leaving it to Barrington Hills alone.
Abboud said his service on several different municipal councils, including the Barrington Area Council of Governments, proves his ability to work well with others and search for diplomatic solutions.
Nevertheless, McLaughlin said he believes a different management style is possible, and that he has no desire for either himself or the village to be in the media spotlight. He cites the confrontational approach to the Insurance Auto Auction issue and the fact that the village ever got so deeply embroiled in the horse boarding debate as examples of when a different approach would have been preferable.
"We can't afford to create controversies where they don't exist," McLaughlin said.
While both candidates agreed that protecting the character of the village is of high importance, McLaughlin insisted it could be done with less cost.
Abboud said his own tenure has already demonstrated through a stable budget and tax levy that this goal can be achieved cost-effectively.
"Protecting the character of Barrington Hills is of absolute importance, but it doesn't cost an infinite amount of dollars to do so," Abboud said.