Endorsement: Sayad, Chester, Smith for Des Plaines City Council
Ward 4: Sayad
In the race for Des Plaines City Council from Ward 4, longtime incumbent Dick Sayad is challenged by Mark Setzer, a firefighter on disability leave from the East Dundee Fire District. Sayad has been embarrassed by a criminal case brought against him after what he said was an accidental intrusion on a couple in his ward with whom he wanted to talk about a ticket they received related to snow removal. Unfortunately, Sayad's day in court won't come until after the April 7 election, but no one has yet produced evidence or claims to dispute his account that he thought he was entering a duplex apartment when he walked into an unlocked back door and knocked at a closed door inside. He left when asked, but the residents filed an official complaint two days later. The courts will no doubt sort out the legal response to Sayad's mistake, but the question for voters is whether it was serious enough to reject his bid for the city council, on which he has served diligently and responsibly for eight years. Our view is that the action was unfortunate and represented a little too much devotion to duty on Sayad's part, but does not by itself disqualify him. Sayad openly heralds his hands-on approach to an alderman's duties. This incident certainly should reinforce some limits of that approach, but ward residents also know that Sayad is readily accessible to his constituents and assertively dedicated to making sure they get the city resources they pay for. He can occasionally be a bit of a foil for new Mayor Matt Bogusz, but he emphasizes that he's willing to work cooperatively with the mayor and we look forward to seeing more evidence of that. The challenger is a sincere enough candidate, yet, while lack of political experience hardly disqualifies someone for a city council seat, Setzer doesn't offer a strong platform beyond his desire to "look for common ground" in decision making. He certainly can't boast an understanding of the mechanisms of city government equivalent to Sayad's. Sayad is a good city councilman, committed to the betterment of Des Plaines and the quality of life in his ward. He is endorsed.
Ward 6: Chester
The three candidates seeking the vacant Sixth Ward seat on the City Council present Des Plaines voters an embarrassment of riches uncommon in local-election contests. Herman Zelk is past president of the Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce whose decade of membership in the chamber includes eight years on its board of directors. He is familiar with the finances of the city and the needs of the ward and expresses the kind of collaborative leadership style that clearly would make him an effective council member. Malcolm Chester is a former executive with Pepsi General/Whitman, who has a law degree and direct experience in both corporate finance and government relations at all levels. He has held leadership posts in numerous public-affairs initiatives, including having chaired Illinois Clean and Beautiful and Keep Chicago Beautiful. He, too, demonstrates a polished leadership style, and an intimate familiarity with the finances and other issues facing the city. Mario Palacios, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2011, is a local businessman and former police and fire commissioner for the city. He was acquitted in 2011 of charges he misused his commissioner's badge, and that experience does not appear to reflect either his character or his candidacy. He sees a strong need in Des Plaines for an active, responsible voice for minorities in civic affairs, and he advocates creative proposals that go beyond the limits of minority populations to address the prosperity and quality of life for the entire city. All three candidates promote ideas of fiscal conservatism and stand ready to work effectively with other council members and the mayor while maintaining their individual independence. Minority representation within the institutions of Des Plaines is an issue for the city, and citizens who place the highest priority on that shortcoming have a strong candidate in Palacios. But ultimately, the candidacy of Chester offers the city an unusual depth and breadth of experience that ought not be passed up. Chester is endorsed.
Ward 7: Smith
Here, an appointed incumbent who had served previously as an alderman is challenged by a resident who has long been active in civic affairs in a bid to serve out the remaining two years of the term of Joanna Sojka, who died unexpectedly last year. Don Smith served as alderman for the Seventh Ward from 1997 to 2009, and was brought back to the council last October when Bogusz appointed him to fill Sojka's seat until the spring elections. Bob Porada served a year on the city's Consumer Protection Commission and eight years on the Zoning Board of Appeals. Porada shows a strong commitment to issues of the city and holds a particularly aggressive roll-up-your-sleeves approach to serving the infrastructure needs of Ward 7. But Smith's collaborative leadership style and intimate awareness of the issues confronting the city at large are skills needed on any governing body and especially on the Des Plaines council right now. He is endorsed.