Not all Wheeling trustee candidates support enforcing COVID-19 business restrictions

  • Upper from left, Mary Krueger, Mary Papantos, Laura Rodriguez and, lower from left, Jim Ruffatto, Kim Scanlon and Lee Waller are candidates for Wheeling village trustee in the April 6 election.

    Upper from left, Mary Krueger, Mary Papantos, Laura Rodriguez and, lower from left, Jim Ruffatto, Kim Scanlon and Lee Waller are candidates for Wheeling village trustee in the April 6 election.

 
 
Updated 3/30/2021 8:01 PM

Wheeling's trustee candidates disagree on whether village officials should confront businesses disobeying Gov. J.B. Pritzker's orders to restrict operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some support enforcing the controversial regulations, while others do not.

 

Six candidates are running for three seats with 4-year terms. They are: incumbents Jim Ruffatto, Mary Krueger and Mary Papantos; and challengers Lee Waller, Kim Scanlon and Laura Rodriguez.

Ruffatto, Krueger and Papantos are running independently, but promoting their campaigns together using the motto "Keep Wheeling Rolling." Waller, Scanlon and Rodriguez are part of the Moving Wheeling Forward slate.

All the candidates except Scanlon talked about the pandemic and other issues in questionnaires for the Daily Herald. Scanlon didn't complete a questionnaire but talked about the issue in an interview this week.

Ruffatto, a retired information technology professional who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the village board in 2019, said village officials review "all complaints and concerns" regarding COVID-19 safety efforts. Staffers work with the businesses to bring them into compliance, he said, and he raised no issue with that process.

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Papantos, a retired quality assurance professional, supports the current policy as well, saying a complaint only should be referred to the Cook County Health Department if a business refuses to remediate a violation.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, Wheeling has focused on helping businesses, not being punitive," said Papantos, who was appointed to the board in 2016 and won a seat in 2017.

Still, as tough as they have been for residents and businesses, Pritzker's edicts -- designed to stop the spread of the virus -- must be followed "if we want this to end," Papantos said.

Krueger, an executive assistant who joined the board in 2013 and was reelected in 2017, said she doesn't advocate directing staff to search for businesses violating Pritzker's orders. However, she feels any credible reports of violations that endanger public safety should be addressed by the village.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Waller, a business management consultant, emphatically opposes enforcing Pritzker's restrictions.

"The short answer is 'No!'" said Waller, who unsuccessfully ran for the board in 2017.

Rather, Waller said he'd speak with business owners to see how the village could help them stay afloat.

Rodriguez opposes enforcing pandemic-related business restrictions, too.

"We will encourage our businesses to follow precautionary measures, but we will not police them," said Rodriguez, a business owner and first-time candidate.

Scanlon, a manager of data center operations, said she doesn't support enforcing closure orders but would enforce social distancing, mask-wearing rules and occupancy restrictions in restaurants, the businesses typically targeted by Pritzker's orders.

"Most restaurant owners are responsible and would follow these restrictions," said Scanlon, a first-time candidate.

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