This is the third in a four-part series of articles covering a Mayoral Forum held on Friday, March 15. The West Suburban Journal sponsored the event. Of the five candidates running for office, three showed.
The second moderator asked the candidates what the Village should do with its vacant properties.
Trustee Perkins insisted that the Village needs to be more aggressive in pursuing foreclosure programs. She said that banks that own foreclosed properties shouldn’t be allowed to leave the buildings in the shape that they’re in and that they should pay for the buildings to be boarded up. “The banks got bailed out, but they don’t want to help the people,” she said.
Ms. Trottie then interjected and asked about specific resources at the Village’s disposal designed to help with the foreclosure crisis.
Trustee Perkins mentioned that Housing Helpers, a nonprofit organization that purchases “vacant houses in Maywood with funds from a community restoration loan through U.S. Bank,” is still a presence in the community and that she would work with them as mayor. However, she noted the difficulty of boarding up homes before they’re broken into and stripped. “The point is this…we need to get the people the information…We’re not letting the people know that these programs are available.”
Trustee Guzman mentioned the West Cook County Housing Collaborative, which was recently given $12 million “for all [member] communities to benefit.
Mrs. Gooden, referring back to the moderator’s question on dealing with vacant properties and economic development, said that taxes in the Village are too high and that the Village needs to improve its image, particularly in the minds of contractors, who, she said, believe Village officials are too hard to work with.
The first moderator asked what each candidate would do to professionalize the department.
Trustee Guzman said that there are resources that need tapping into. As mayor, he’d reach out to the City of Chicago and the Cook County level. He said that suggestions like these “fall on deaf ears.” He also said that there’s a training issue within the department. If police are trained properly, then they can properly be held accountable. In the absence of proper training, he noted, liability (law suits) become an issue.
Trustee Perkins said that the first thing she’d do is find out who, within the department, has been trained and who thinks they’ve been trained “and who knows they’ve been trained…” She also mentioned community patrolling, stating that she patrolled herself for four years. “Two hours a night from Lake St. to Roosevelt Rd…So I know you can cover the town in two hours.” “When a senior tells you that they do not see any police officers in the street at night, the senior is not lying,” she said.
Mrs. Gooden agreed with Trustee Perkins, saying that the police department needs to have high visibility. She said that the police do the residents a disservice by puling up in front of their homes after they’ve tipped the cops off to suspicious activity. By doing this, the police become indirectly complicit in retaliation attempts. “When police come to residents after a call, they are telling on the residents who called.”
The issue of professionalizing the police department bled into the issue that the second moderator raised, which was whether or not to raise police salaries and to make the attainment of a college degree a requirement for employment in the department.
Trustee Guzman said that, in his estimation, the starting salary for a Village officer was about $35,000/yr. As they acquire more education, the salary goes up. He mentioned the Lateral Program, which expedites the hiring process by exempting qualified candidates from going through all of the steps required of a rookie recruit. He said that salary rates are determined by the Village Manager by recommendation of the Village Chief.
Trustee Perkins said that she personally feels that the Village pays good money. She said that the average policeman working over time in Maywood is making $100,000. She also said that the Village should change the personnel in charge of the Lateral Program, because its hiring process didn’t seem up to par. She said that police who make $100,000/yr. “need to do $100,000 worth of work.”
Mrs. Gooden said that higher education standards would raise the bar for the police department. “Education is a good thing,” she said. She also insisted on due diligence in the screening of potential officers, saying that the Village should look into various aspects of their personal lives to see if they’re fit to serve. In addition, she said that officers should be required to live in Maywood. “It makes a difference,” she noted.
The last part of this series on the West Suburban Journal’s mayoral forum will be posted tomorrow.