The future of the vacancy left by former Des Plaines Mayor Marty Moylan after he resigned on Dec. 31 remains unclear following a city council meeting on Jan. 22. While the position has been temporarily filled by a Des Plaines alderman, council members have not determined which alderman, or aldermen, will serve as mayor for the duration of time until the consolidated election in April, when a new mayor will be elected.
Des Plaines City Council voted 5-3 to put an amendment to the city code on first reading (ordinances typically undergo two readings before being approved), which specified the governing body’s authority to set the term for an acting mayor to be less than the full period of time until a new mayor is elected.
The issue of appointing one or more aldermen to serve as mayor until the election evoked considerable debate at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
Seventh Ward Alderman Dan Wilson, who voted against the measure, said appointing one alderman to serve the entire period would be beneficial to Des Plaines because certain business, including recent objections to petition signatures in the election, would be handled better by a single person. Additionally, he said, it’s better for communicating with members of the business community and there’s a learning curve when it comes to acting as mayor.
“I’m still having trouble finding a compelling reason why we would change — the benefit from going one to another would be?” Wilson said. “I can’t get my mind around it.”
Wilson made a motion to reject the ordinance amendment. He said Eighth Ward Alderman Michael Charewicz, who has served in the role of acting mayor since the city council meeting on Jan. 7, should fill the position until a new mayor is elected.
“I urge all of you to support me and go along with rejecting the mayor of the month club,” Wilson said.
Fifth Ward Alderman James Brookman, who voted in favor of the ordinance amendment, said the change does not prevent city council from appointing one alderman to serve the remainder of the term, but, rather, clarifies their authority to set the term limits of acting mayors to be less than the complete period.
In a memo sent from Peter Friedman, the city’s attorney, to city council, he stated Des Plaines has home rule authority for aldermen to set an acting mayor’s term limit to less than the entire time period, regardless of being specified in the city code. However, it is best practice to be explicit about it, Friedman stated.
“It’s a technical item, really, to codify what we’re actually doing at this point,” Brookman said.
Aldermen appointed Charewicz to the position of acting mayor until the meeting on Jan. 22, or until his work as chairman of the three-member electoral board reviewing the petition objections was complete.
In addition to Wilson, Second Ward Alderman John Robinson and Third Ward Alderman and mayoral candidate Matt Bogusz voted against amending city code. Bogusz said leadership took consistency, and city council members owed it to taxpayers to deliver consistency.
Besides Bogusz, Sixth Ward Alderman Mark Walsten and Tony Arredia, former mayor of Des Plaines, are also running for mayor.
“I think that this whole conversation is a really great example of what’s been going on here at city hall,” Bogusz said. “I think that a lot of times we are talking a lot about ourselves, and not enough about what’s going on outside of this chamber, out on the streets. And I think that everybody is ready and willing for this body to really rise above differences, disagreements.”
Fourth Ward Alderman Dick Sayad said he agreed with Brookman, and the ordinance amendment would not cause aldermen to rotate acting mayors each month.
Sayad said he put residents first and disagreed with Bogusz.
“Mr. Bogusz, I take an offense at what you just said,” Sayad said.
Sayad, currently the longest-serving alderman on city council, said he spent time reviewing meeting documents multiple times and provided information to new residents on an ongoing basis.
“Don’t ever say that about me or any of these aldermen,” Sayad said. “I go out and pass out welcome packets for 10 years to my residents. Have you ever done that? So don’t say that I’m not caring about these people. I care about every one of them. I’m not here to put politics ahead of this, and you are.”
Sayad said he did not receive any complaints from residents regarding the acting mayor position.
“[Residents] want this thing to be operating as perfect as possible and I think it’s being done,” Sayad said. “And I think with the staff we have here it’s working right.”
Wilson’s motion to reject the city code change failed, 5-3, and he said he was struck by the word “dignity” on the City of Des Plaines official seal.
“Somehow I have a hard time connecting changing mayors every month with the dignity of the city,” Wilson said.
Brookman said aldermen who serve as acting mayor would have an opportunity to learn more about the office and gain valuable knowledge.
“I think changing from one alderman to another doesn’t cause a lack of dignity to the city,” Brookman said. “I don’t quite understand that at all.”
Al Brown, Des Plaines resident, said he agreed with Alderman Wilson.
“When you’re having this ability to change all the time, it looks like you guys can’t work together,” Brown said.
Brown said it was only a few months before the election in April.
“I mean, how much does it take to decide among yourselves one person, get it over with, go onto business that really counts for something? — that’s my opinion,” Brown said.