The three Des Plaines 7th Ward hopefuls have different priorities, with one candidate calling for more transparency in city government, another wanting to attract new businesses and the third focused on cleaning up corruption within the city's police force.
Candidates vying for the seat on the April 9 ballot are John Malloy, 55, a part-time event supervisor for Sportservice Corp. United Club at Chicago's Soldier Field, and Joanna Sojka, a business and finance administrator at a Chicago university who left her age blank on a campaign questionnaire.
Former Des Plaines police chief Joseph Kozenczak also is running -- as a write-in candidate. Kozenczak, 69, now a private investigator, ran unsuccessfully for the open 7th Ward seat in 2009. He lost to current 7th Ward Alderman Dan Wilson, a retired high school math teacher, who is not running for re-election.
Sojka said her top priorities, if elected, are for the city council to have open communication, accessibility and transparency with residents. She said she would like to set up a Web page where 7th Ward residents could read about what transpires at city council meetings and share ideas with aldermen. She also advocates sending out newsletters to constituents via email and using social media to connect with residents.
"I want to see Des Plaines move toward being more sound, stable, fiscally responsible," Sojka said, adding that the city needs to protect gambling revenues from Rivers Casino and pay off the city's bonded debt.
Malloy said the city's biggest problems are businesses closing or leaving, the high home foreclosure rate and small businesses and tradesmen struggling for work.
"Des Plaines has to become a partner with business," Malloy said. "We have lots of opportunity to improve things. The casino isn't the biggest thing in the town. It's everybody that's not working."
Malloy said the city needs to make its regulations and building code simpler. "We need somebody that's a real estate pro to get some businesses in (downtown)," he added.
Kozenczak, who was chief of detectives for the Des Plaines Police Department and part of a team of investigators from Des Plaines and Cook County who captured serial killer John Wayne Gacy, said he is concerned about the department's reputation after recent police scandals.
A retired Des Plaines police commander is accused of padding overtime hours, and 13 rank-and-file Des Plaines police officers are facing suspensions for violating department rules and policies related to "irregularities" with the reporting of hours worked on traffic safety campaigns. Several officers and the department also have been named in lawsuits accusing the officers of using excessive force.
"It's very embarrassing for me," Kozenczak said. "My whole career was spent here in law enforcement. It's very difficult for me to sit by on the sidelines. I just felt that there should have been maybe closer observation of what was happening within the police department ... closer working relationship between the elected officials and administrators."
Kozenczak said, if elected as a write-in, he would like to get on the city's public safety committee to offer input and influence how the police department is run.
His other priorities include resurfacing streets in the 7th Ward, improving infrastructure citywide, and making sure casino revenues are used in a "fiscally responsible manner."