Three candidates in Des Plaines' 6th Ward tout experience
Whoever is elected alderman in Des Plaines' 6th Ward this April will be a new face to the council -- but not necessarily the community.
The three candidates have each served on a volunteer board or panel, and they say they would each bring their backgrounds and experiences to the job as an elected official.
Malcolm Chester, Mario Palacios and Herman Zelk are seeking election to the 6th Ward seat, which is up for grabs since 8-year incumbent Mark Walsten must step down due to voter-imposed term limits.
Chester, an attorney and consultant, is a member of the city's economic development commission, but it's because of his unhappiness with the lack of activity of the volunteer panel that he decided to run for elective office.
While on the commission, Chester said he's worked on the Cook County 6B property tax break program, a business ambassador effort, and the city's program to upgrade downtown awnings, but the group hasn't met since last April, when Mayor Matt Bogusz hosted a reorganizational meeting.
"I became very frustrated and said, 'Look, if I'm going to get involved, I might as well do something where I can actually accomplish something rather than sit on a commission that nobody seems to want to convene.'"
Chester says he's concerned about the threat of state funding cuts to local government, and thinks it would be prudent for the city to put some of its share of casino revenues into reserve to avoid having to raise property taxes in the future.
Palacios ran unsuccessfully against Walsten four years ago. A human resources professional and businessman, he is proposing the creation of a city inspector general to investigate wrongdoing by city officials.
He said if elected he would bring diversity to city hall, and help residents navigate city services, from pothole repairs to paying tickets.
"The public in general is not educated about where to go. If they don't speak English, it's even tougher," said Palacios, who speaks Spanish.
Zelk is a lifelong resident of the ward, head of a Bolingbrook IT firm, and former president and board member of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce.
He says he's running to help drive initiatives already in the works, including development within tax increment financing district 7.
He also wants the city to spend more on flood control projects.
"I want to bring my brand of professionalism to the council to see if we can learn to work together a little bit more and move forward," Zelk said.
Zelk has Bogusz's endorsement, but said that he'd retain his independence.
Chester said he would address the current "division" on the city council by trying to take "emotion out of the thing and focus everyone on trying to pull on the oar at the same time."
Palacios said he doesn't have a problem with current aldermen or the mayor, and would embrace good ideas that come from any of them.
Palacios' last candidacy was marred by allegations that he impersonated a government official, but he was later acquitted of those charges, and during an interview with the Daily Herald Editorial Board Friday, said that the city's administration at the time was trying to discourage him from running.
Palacios said the arrest occurred after he presented a Des Plaines fire and police commissioner badge at the Skokie courthouse.
He said his wife gave him the badge as a memento when he stepped down from the commission in April 2010, and he only presented it at the courthouse when he was asked to empty his pockets during a security check. He was there to file a candidate statement of economic interest.
The three candidates are scheduled to appear at a forum sponsored by VFW Post 2992 at 7 p.m. Monday at Arndt Park Fieldhouse, 1990 White St.
A Spanish interpreter will be provided.