Rolling Meadows mayoral candidates talk about downtown revitalization
Three longtime Rolling Meadows residents are pitching their credentials to voters, who will decide April 4 on who will serve as mayor for the next two years.
Alderman Mike Cannon of Ward 1, Alderman Len Prejna of Ward 2, and zoning board Chairman Dave Whitney are seeking to fill the remaining time on former Mayor Tom Rooney's term. Rooney stepped down in November after being appointed to the state senate; the city council appointed Ward 7 Alderman Tim Veenbaas as acting mayor until the election.
Rooney on Friday told the Daily Herald he's endorsing Prejna because of his presence at networking events where he encourages businesses to come to town.
Prejna, a 33-year resident and alderman since 2013, said he wants the city to market the city's Kirchoff Road downtown, which includes the former Dominick's site, as a "destination location" that could attract medium-sized "boutique" stores and restaurants. He favors commercial development -- with perhaps one-third of it residential -- for the now-vacant property.
He proposes the city hire a communications, marketing and events manager, and bring back a partnership with the chamber of commerce to attract new business to town.
Cannon, a 25-year resident and alderman since 2011, said there's been a "fighting atmosphere" during much of his time on the city council, for which he criticized Rooney for not helping reach consensus.
"I think the mayor's job is to try to bring people together, not to aggravate the fight," Cannon said.
Cannon proposes the city get involved in the 11.5-acre Dominick's site by arranging a land-lease deal to lure a restaurant, while also saying the mayor should bring three or four parties to the table to encourage both residential and commercial development.
He also proposes increased funding for road repairs -- perhaps borrowing by way of a bond issue -- while also dedicating more to shore up the city's police and fire pension funding liability.
Whitney, a 38-year resident and member of the zoning board for the past 18 years, also favors a mixed use for the Dominick's site, with perhaps lower-cost senior housing in the back and retail and restaurants along Kirchoff. He said the same level of effort going into development of the Dominick's site should go into the Sam's Club on Golf Road that has been closed since 2010.
Whitney, who works as manager of telecom expense management at U.S. Cellular, said he has led teams and developed savings -- experience that he would bring to the job of mayor. And though he is not an alderman, he said "new faces and new ideas may be exactly what is needed to rejuvenate the council."
He also said he wants to increase involvement in city boards and commissions, especially among the city's underrepresented Hispanic population.
The candidates will be at a League of Women Voters forum at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at the Rolling Meadows Library, 3100 Martin Lane.