At the historic Choo-Choo Restaurant in downtown Des Plaines, Third Ward Alderman Matt Bogusz told a room packed with supporters, “I’m running for mayor.” The crowd responded with cheers and loud applause.
Bogusz made the announcement flanked by Rep. Elaine Nekritz, of the 57th Illinois House District, a Democrat from Northbrook, and Jean Paxton, owner of the Choo-Choo.
Bogusz told supporters that when the city was threatening to tear down the Choo-Choo Restaurant in 2008, he created a website, savethechoochoo.com, to ask those in favor of preserving the landmark restaurant to submit notes of support that could be sent to the city. Des Plaines officials received more than 8,000 emails in support of preserving the Choo-Choo, Bogusz said.
Paxton was visibly upset as Bogusz recalled the period of time when city officials were trying to convince her to relocate or move the restaurant, located at 600 Lee St. Bogusz gave her a hug, and continued.
“It was an emotional thing then because I don’t think either one of us knew what to expect,” Bogusz said. “I think we both knew that we needed to do something, but we didn’t know how it was going to work, if it was going to work. But what we found was a huge out-pouring of support from our community, and I’m proud to say that at 8,000 emails later, they backed off. They said, ‘I get it; I understand.’”
Bogusz said the Choo-Choo Restaurant was the type of business Des Plaines needed more of.
“This business is doing exactly what we want it to do, exactly what city hall wants every business in Des Plaines to do, to bring folks from here at home and from afar together to enjoy some hamburgers and spend some time in Des Plaines,” Bogusz said.
Bogusz said during the time he had served as alderman, the city had reduced its debt from, at it’s peak in 2005, $102 million, to $58 million as of the 2013 budget, maintained a zero percent tax levy and increased savings from $1 million to $18 million. Bogusz said his campaign will be about contrasting the work of the current city administration with that of the administrations of 10 years prior to it, when taxes were raised every year, he said.
“Debt is down, taxes are flat, savings is up and the Choo-Choo is still here today,” Bogusz said.
Bogusz, 26, grew up in Des Plaines and represents the same ward he called home. He graduated from Notre Dame College Prep and Northwestern University, and worked as an intern for Nekritz. He has served as alderman of the Third Ward since 2009, and as chairman of the Finance Committee since 2011.
In an interview with Patch, Paxton said, in 2008, the city presented her with options to move the Choo-Choo to a section of land the city owns in the Elk’s Club parking lot, or to relocate in a storefront behind the bus stop on Miner Street. Paxton said the building would never survive the move, and its location made it easier for moms with children to visit from the train station. Moving it behind the bus stop would not be attractive to customers, she said.
“You can’t tear this building down; you can’t tear it down no matter who owns it,” Paxton said. “The Choo-Choo is Des Plaines; Des Plaines is the Choo-Choo.”
Nekritz said of Bogusz in her introduction that he had lots of ideas, energy and enthusiasm.
“He brought all that as an intern, and now I think he’s really demonstrated that his judgment is really good as well,” Nekritz said. “And those, I think , are some ideal qualities for a public servant.”
Bogusz is the third candidate for Des Plaines mayor to announce his campaign. Former Des Plaines mayor Tony Arredia and Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten are also running to fill the seat.
Mayor Marty Moylan won his bid to represent the 55th Illinois House District on Nov. 6, and has said he will step down from his role as mayor sometime in December. At that time, aldermen would select one alderman to serve as interim mayor until the election in April.