Mayor and Business Executive Spar to Represent IL 28th Senate District
Park Ridge chief financial officer says Roselle mayor’s statements are 'not true.'
Mayor Gayle Smolinski, of Roselle, and Jim O’Donnell, a business executive from Park Ridge, both claim to possess the ability to improve the state’s business atmosphere and financial health. But they disagree on the relevance of their distinct backgrounds, and what their experiences reveal about what they would accomplish in Springfield.
The prevailing candidate will run against incumbent Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat for the 33rd District. As a result of the new election map, Kotowski will run in the 28th District.
Smolinski, who has been mayor for 19 years and was the chairman of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus in 2006-2007, said O’Donnell and her disagree on the importance of prior public service experience.
“I have a very regional perspective of what the needs are in the communities, and on top of that I’m also close with the mayors of the individual towns, and so I know their individual concerns,” Smolinski said.
O’Donnell said Smolinski was a “career politician,” while he has worked for years on behalf of businesses, and is well-acquainted with the issues the state faces. He said we have a state that’s in a world of hurt, economically, and it has a terrible business climate.
“I’m running on a platform that says we need to improve the business climate in this state, we need to get our financial affairs in order,” O’Donnell said. “I’ve spent my career balancing budgets and creating jobs. That’s who I am and why I’m running.”
Smolinski said O’Donnell had a checkered voting and donation history. She said he voted as a Democrat in six of the last nine primaries.
“If there’s one difference between us, it might be who’s a Republican,” Smolinski.
O'Donnell Challenges Smolinski's Statements
O’Donnell said that during the course of the campaign, Smolinski has made false claims regarding his political affiliation Roselle’s deficit, and Roselle’s deficit.
O’Donnell confirmed he took Democratic ballots in primaries, but, he said, that did not indicate he was a Democrat. O’Donnell said while it can’t be verified, he voted for Republican candidates in the general election.
“She started off this game by saying, ‘Oh, I didn’t increase taxes to handle this problem. I somehow did it by conservative spending,’” O’Donnell said. “It’s just not true. Tell the truth, that’s all I’m saying. That’s as much baloney as walking around saying Jim is a Democrat.”
O’Donnell is the chief financial officer at Camcraft, a precision turned parts manufacturer in Hanover Park. As part of his responsibilities he has been the government relations representative for more than 10 years, and he has served on a number of government relations committees, like trade associations, most recently the Tooling and Manufacturing Association, he said. It is his first time running for public office.
Smolinski Defends Tax Increases
Smolinski has been mayor of Roselle for 19 years. She has a background in public service including positions as village trustee, chairman of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and president of the DuPage Mayors and Managers.
Smolinski said Roselle was faced with a million dollar deficit in revenues at the end of 2008 as a result of diminished sales tax and income tax. She said a number of fees, including the liquor license fee and the entertainment tax, also known as a user tax, were raised to address the problem, but there was not an increase across the entire population.
“We didn’t pass a massive tax increase in order to deal with our problem,” Smolinski said. “We sat down and we cut.”
Smolinski gave an example with her executive assistant’s tax bills. She said her assistant brought in her tax bills from 2000 to 2010, and, during that time, her taxes when up, roughly, from $363 to $463, about $10 per year.
“I guess if you want to make an issue, you can say we raised taxes,” Smolinski said. “I think $10 a year, what can I say, I don’t think that’s a horrendous thing that we’ve done. It’s not like the 67 percent income tax increase.”
Smolinski said O’Donnell did not understand that in government, and especially local government, whether or not revenues go down, services including 24-hour police and fire services, paramedic services, snowplowing and street repair must continue to be provided.
“The one thing that Mr. O’Donnell is missing with this business experience is that if your revenues decline, then you can shut down the second or third shift, or you can lay off workers, and you just don’t make as many widgets, or whatever it is, because there’s not the demand,” Smolinski said. “We just can’t say, ‘Oh, well, we’re going to lower taxes, and guess what we’re going to cut out, the midnight shift, no one’s going to be patrolling the village.’”
O'Donnell: Residents Being Property-Taxed Out Homes
O’Donnell said he has met many residents who are being property-taxed out of their homes. He said the increase in Smolinski’s example was about 30 percent over 10 years, and when all of the taxing authorities that appear on property tax bills, perhaps there are 10 or 12 of them, it all adds up.
“By the time you add up all the little bits, and it happens year-in and year-out, and you’ve got people that are on fixed incomes — now, it’s not a little bit anymore,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a lot. And it becomes unaffordable for residents.”
“The story [Smolinski] gave about the property taxes, and it’s just a little bit, that’s what Democrats do,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said until he confronted Smolinski at the Daily Herald, she was “going around telling people, ‘Well, you know, I fixed this deficit.’ At this point I’m not so sure she fixed it, but I’m not challenging that. She said ‘I didn’t raise taxes to do it,’ and I went, whoa, wait a minute, that’s not true. She also said they didn’t borrow any money. That’s not true either. The debt went up. They have borrowed money. So just tell the truth. We got enough politicians here that don’t tell the truth.”