Gloves come off in 55th District debate
With less than two weeks to go before Election Day, candidates in a hotly contested Northwest suburban race for state representative sparred Wednesday night on issues ranging from their fiscal records to airport noise.
Democratic state Rep. Marty Moylan is being challenged by Republican Mel Thillens, a businessman and Park Ridge park board president, in a race for the state House's 55th District seat.
During a debate at Des Plaines City Hall, Thillens took aim at Moylan's proposed legislation that would give property tax breaks to homeowners affected by noise from O'Hare International Airport, saying it would put a "scarlet letter" on some homes, lower property values and shift the tax burden to others. Thillens accused Moylan of being the "biggest cheerleader" for O'Hare expansion more than a decade ago but now changing his tune.
"It's like when an arsonist sets fire to your house, then calls 911, and wants to be called hero of the day," Thillens said. "(The legislation is) a good example of Marty Moylan hurting the people he claims he's trying to help."
Moylan said years ago he was for expansion when towns like Des Plaines and Park Ridge dropped their opposition. He says runways that were supposed to be used rarely are now being used regularly.
Moylan said his bill would provide "much-needed" tax relief to those who live near the airport. He says he's also written Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, encouraging her to push for more home soundproofing.
Moylan, in turn, fired back at Thillens, accusing him of raising taxes during his tenure on the park board with 2 percent and 5 percent levy increases in two separate years.
In contrast, Moylan said that during his tenure as mayor of Des Plaines, he helped reduce the city's debt from $90 million to $40 million, built up reserves from nothing to $18 million, and held the line on property taxes.
Moylan, elected mayor in 2009, stepped down in 2012 when he was elected to the state House.
"Our tax levy was zero. We eliminated unnecessary positions. Isn't that what every conservative says? Eliminate waste and unnecessary jobs? Done it," Moylan said.
Thillens said the park district has a balanced budget, growing surplus, well-funded pensions, and residents who enjoy its services. He disputed a Moylan ad accusing him of raising taxes by 50 percent, saying it is an example of "Springfield math."
"Only in Springfield does 2 percent plus 5 percent plus 0 percent equal 50 percent," Thillens said.
The two candidates are set to debate again Monday, Oct. 29, at the Park Ridge Country Club during a luncheon hosted by the Park Ridge and Des Plaines chambers of commerce.
The 55th District includes parts of Des Plaines, Elk Grove Village, Park Ridge, Rosemont, Mount Prospect, Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows.