By Dee Longfellow

For The Elmhurst Independent

On Sunday, Feb. 21, the community was invited to a virtual presentation of a Candidate’s Forum by the Elmhurst League of Women Voters for those seeking office in the upcoming April 6 Consolidated General Election.

While there were segments featuring the District 205 School Board candidates and contested aldermanic races, this week the Independent presents the comments of the candidates for mayor, who include 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Bram, 5th Ward Alderman Scott Levin and 7th Ward Alderman Mark Mulliner.

Opening statements began with Bram saying he had represented the 3rd Ward for 20 years.

“I have a city-wide reputation as a listener and for helping all residents, not just the 3rd Ward,” Bram said. “I have taken the lead with storm water management and always pursued the best answers. I am always asking questions and continuing to listen to all sides of a situation.”

Scott Levin has served the 5th Ward for 10 years. He mentioned in his opening statement that he had chaired the Public Affairs & Safety Committee and was currently serving on the Finance Committee. At one time, he served as acting mayor for six months while Elmhurst was between mayors.

As a business attorney, Levin has represented various cities in business and zoning matters. He has served the state of Illinois as Deputy Director of the Criminal Justice Authority.

“I am an independent critical thinker,” he said. “I believe in doing the right things for the right reasons, things that will benefit the entire community.”

A life-long resident, Mark Mulliner graduated from Lincoln, Bryan and York and served District 205 as its Director of Technology, so he has a good connection with the school district. He is also longest-serving alderman on the Council at the present time, often sitting in for the mayor in his absence. He has served on most committees, most recently on Public Affairs & Safety. In the community at large, he served on the committee that brought the new Library building to Elmhurst and took steps to maintain the historic Wilder Mansion.

Each candidate’s priorities

The first question posed was about the priorities each candidate had for the City of Elmhurst.

“The most important thing is to address post-pandemic economic recovery,” Levin said. “We need to support our businesses and make our community attractive to new people. We must identify new efficiencies without taking away from the current high level of services we provide our residents.”

Levin added that he would like to review the City’s Comprehensive Plan as well as the current commissions and forums to make sure they are operating efficiently.

Mulliner agreed that the most important thing is to recover from the pandemic and its economic challenges.

“We also need to create a bi-annual meeting between the School District, the Park District and the City to be more cohesive for the community overall,” he said. “It would allow us to share economics and bring down costs. We need to continue to promote economic development but as we do it, we need to balance the need for green space.”

“My priority is the community itself,” Bram said. “In doing what’s best, I envision a two-platform goal to improve our financial standing. We have a lot of capital improvements needed, and we need to finance our pension liability.”

Bram would also like to train firefighters to provide advanced life support when the firefighters and paramedics are on a call – at this time, it’s only paramedics, he said.

Diversity, equity, inclusion

The second question was about whether or not the City is doing enough about diversity, equity and inclusion.

Mulliner began with a mention about the new RESPECT Elmhurst initiative, a program spearheaded by Community Bank of Elmhurst.

“We need to sit down and start talking together and respect each other,” he said. “I am supporting a new program called RESPECT Elmhurst because it will cause us to get together and focus energy on working together, doing the right thing for everybody, no matter who they are. In order to improve those issues, we must have that conversation and we have to listen to one another.”

“Diversity and inclusion are important for everyone within the City of Elmhurst,” Bram said. “I have learned a lot about this from residents who have expressed concerns – I have grown by researching this matter, talking to the backyard caucus and the diversity campaign. This is not a short-term fix, it’s something that continues on. We need to re-evaluate our training.”

Levin pointed out that he had gone to high school in Evanston, which is known to be a diverse community. 

“The events of last summer [with the peaceful demonstrations] have critically changed the viewpoint of the City and the nation – even our law firm has sensitivity training programs now,” he said. “If I am elected, the Mayor’s office will be open to those concerns so we can fully support our community.”

Affordable housing

The next question brought up affordable housing.

“Elmhurst has less than 10% affordable housing, it currently has 8.2%,” Bram said. “We’ve never submitted a plan to change this, but one of my goals is not only that we reach the 10% but also to submit that plan by the end of this year.

“Affordable housing needs to be looked at. Northbrook passed an ordinance that anything with five units or more must include affordable housing. We must open our vision as to what we need for first-home buyers and seniors as well.”

“Affordable housing is a tough topic,” Levin said. “We can’t just declare it if it doesn’t make sense for the community. One of the problems is, if people want to downsize, there’s nothing in Elmhurst that is affordable. Then they end up moving to Villa Park or some other more affordable community.”

“At one time we were exceeding 10%, but we need to have our affordable housing up to those standards again,” Mulliner said. “We need to ask our builders to include X amount. I do understand the issue of housing stock in Elmhurst, that it’s difficult to find affordable housing. The first place to look is multi-family housing.”

The candidates were also asked about sustainability, police and fire pension funds, the budget, and public art initiatives including the Elmhurst Centre for Performing Arts.

In closing statements, all candidates thanked the Elmhurst League of Women Voters and urged everyone to vote on Tuesday, April 6.

For more information or to hear the candidates for yourself, view the embedded video at my.lwv.org/illinois/elmhurst or visit the LWVElmhurst YouTube Channel. You will find listings for the races for District 205 School Board, Mayor, Aldermen in Wards 1 and 3; and, Aldermen in Wards 2 and 6.

 

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