Mundelein mayor stands by 2015 comments on unwed parents, gay marriage
Nearly two years after creating a political firestorm by criticizing the legalization of same-sex marriage and blasting unwed parents during a public Independence Day speech, Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz is standing by the remarks.
"I'm comfortable with the statements I made," Lentz said during a recent interview that also included fellow mayoral candidates Holly Kim and Ray Ladewig.
Lentz said his only regret about the 2015 speech was not clarifying that discussions of out-of-wedlock births should include the father's role.
Kim called the speech "divisive" and said it "had no place at a patriotic gathering meant to recognize those who served our country."
Ladewig said he is disappointed Lentz hasn't apologized for the comments, which led some people to call for the mayor's resignation.
"I would have apologized and realized the offensive points should not have been made at a public Independence Day forum," he said.
Kim and Ladewig, who are challenging Lentz for a four-year term in the April 4 election, have taken heat for public stands they've made, too.
Lentz has been mayor since 2013, the same year Kim was elected to the village board. Ladewig is a business owner who served on the village's plan commission for 13 years.
Lentz made the controversial speech at the Fort Hill Heritage Center as part of Mundelein's Independence Day bash.
Near the midpoint of his remarks, which can be found on YouTube, Lentz said he wanted to "address the elephant in the room" and started talking about the Supreme Court's then-new ruling in favor of marriage equality.
He called the court's ruling part of an ongoing "moral crisis" in the nation. Lentz went on to discuss people having children without being married, saying high out-of-wedlock birthrates are part of a "crisis against the family" in the U.S.
Many Mundelein residents blasted Lentz on social media, calling the remarks offensive. Others supported him.
At a parade the next day, people waved rainbow-colored flags and held signs supporting gay rights. Some turned their backs as Lentz passed.
In his recent Daily Herald interview, Lentz said the context of the speech was important, in that it was delivered shortly after the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage.
"I would not give the same speech today," he said.
Social issues "have no role in municipal government," Lentz added.
"I've learned that Mundelein voters would prefer the mayoral candidates not really spar over social issues," he said.
In a follow-up interview, Ladewig criticized Lentz for using his office to publicly voice personal beliefs.
Kim said Lentz is "out of touch with his constituents."
Ladewig and Kim were at the center of separate controversies in recent years.
Ladewig was fired from the plan commission in February 2015 after he wrote a letter published in the Daily Herald critical of economic development efforts in town and the staff responsible for them. He said he wrote the letter because he had "serious" questions and felt like he was being "laughed at" by village officials.
Ladewig received overwhelming support from the public, and many defended him at the meeting at which he was fired.
"To this day I feel I did nothing wrong," he said.
Lentz said Ladewig's letter "created a negative environment" that would have prevented the plan commission from operating properly.
Kim was the focus of criticism in June when she announced forums about staging public protests and defending your rights when dealing with police.
At the time, Mundelein Public Safety Director Eric Guenther called the topics "a bit perplexing."
Lentz called the forums "anti-police."
"This is not the type of forum (a) trustee should host, and (it) is certainly inappropriate for an aspiring mayor to be involved with," he said.
Kim said she doesn't regret organizing the gatherings. They were designed to teach people about their rights and reduce animosity between police and the public, she said.
"I think I'm ahead of the curve here," she said.