Wheeling candidates discuss pensions, airport changes
On the eve of early voting, Wheeling residents had one last look Sunday at most of the candidates running for village trustee in the upcoming election.
Pensions, tax increment financing districts, the Chicago Executive Airport and the environment were among the issues discussed at a League of Women Voters forum held at Indian Trails Library.
Three village board seats will be decided in the April 2 election. Seeking them are incumbents Ray Lang, Joe Vito and David Vogel; and challengers Asher Horcher, Maryann Rodriguez Liguori and Deborah Wilson. Vogel did not attend Sunday's forum.
Vito said one of the biggest challenges facing Wheeling is the village's employee pension obligations.
"We just cannot keep pace with the benefits that we have to pay," he said. "The only way to do it is to redraft the legislation to allow for defined contribution pension plans, instead of defined benefit plans, which is what we have now."
The village needs to use its ties with state legislators to push for that reform, he added.
Wilson said the village manager had an intriguing solution "that I hope he pursues" when he suggested combining the various fire and police pensions to eliminate the administrative costs.
She also addressed potential airport expansion, saying she worked as part of Citizens Against Runway Expansion to oppose talk of lengthening the facility's runway. Airport officials recently announced they were abandoning any consideration of a longer runway.
"I think that those efforts that I did with CARE is what actually compelled the current (village) board to take their stand (against runway expansion)," she said.
Lang, who also serves on the airport board, said he prefers shifting the runway as opposed to making it longer.
"There is a possibility of corner-to-corner shift, where you can move noise actually away from folks that are really having issues," he said.
Responding to a question about the village becoming more environmentally friendly, Horcher said she would be interested in potentially offering incentives for more environmentally friendly sources of power, such as solar panels or even small wind turbines.
"If they are small enough, and also asking new developers or people who are interested in building in Wheeling to have a higher standard of care with their environmental impact," she said.
Liguori said she would favor putting a cap on trucking companies operating in the village.
"We have FedEx, we have multiple industries, and, yes, we need trucks and we have the train, but I would look towards putting a cap on how many more trucking companies that we're going to let in this town," she said.