Maywood Mayor Formally Launches Re-election Bid In Front of Shuttered Funeral Home

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Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins announces that she’ll run for another term in the April 4, 2017 election during a gathering on Nov. 5. | Michael Romain 

Saturday, November 5, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins formally launched her reelection bid during a brief gathering on Saturday in front of the abandoned Corbin Colonial Funeral Chapel, located at 1001 Madison St. The announcement comes well ahead of the next municipal election in April 4, 2017.

“I need your help,” said Perkins before a crowd of roughly 30 supporters. “I have only one agenda and that’s to move Maywood forward.”

Perkins, who was elected to her first term in 2013 after defeating then two-term mayor Henderson Yarbrough by less than 200 votes, cited a list of achievements she claimed during her four-year term.

Since her election, the mayor said, the village has completed all of its annual financial audits. The board had been behind by several years in filing the reports before rapidly catching up during Perkins’ term.

She also noted the imminent construction of a new train depot at the Metra stop on 5th Ave. and Main St and future plans to use Madison Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district funds to pay for capital improvements on the street where she was making her announcement.

But the most aggressive defense of the mayor’s record and her future plans came from her surrogates, who flanked her during the Nov. 5 gathering.

Trustee Isiah Brandon, the mayor’s main ally on the Board of Trustees, framed Perkins’ reelection as a referendum on the current board majority.

“I was talking to a group of seniors the other day who said, ‘Brandon, where’s the change?’ I said, you guys sent an awesome lady to represent you, but you guys failed to send her some help! You cannot expect results if you still have remnants from the past,” Brandon said.

He was referencing the board majority that the mayor’s supporters believe has been a thorn in her side since she first got in office.    

In 2013, Perkins, who ran as an independent, narrowly defeated Yarbrough, but the two-term mayor’s slate, the Maywood United Party, swept the three trustee seats that were being contested.

First-time Maywood Trustees Antonette Dorris and Michael Rogers, and incumbent Melvin Lightford all won or retained seats. Maywood United Party member Ron Rivers rounded out that early majority.

In the 2015 election, Yarbrough successfully won a bid for an open trustee seat on the Maywood United Party ticket, which also included Rivers, who successfully won his bid for reelection. Brandon, who ran with the Peoples Choice Party, also secured one of the three open trustee seats up for grabs that year.

“You cannot expect change dealing with leftovers,” Brandon said.

Although no one at the rally mentioned those “leftovers” by name, it’s widely understood that they refer to the Maywood United Party apparatus that, at least until Yarbrough’s 2013 defeat, had dominated village politics over the former mayor’s two terms in office.

In fact, Perkins’ supporters said, their decision to use the abandoned funeral chapel as a background to the mayor’s reelection announcement was largely symbolic of the failures produced during Yarbrough’s tenure.

A narrative of past failures

“This business shut down during Yarbrough’s last four years,” said Princess Dempsey, Perkins’ campaign manager, who has herself been mired in the war of attrition between Perkins and the mayor’s board opponents.

In 2014, the board voted 6-1 to ban Dempsey’s staffing firm from providing temporary employees to staff the mayor’s office, a move that Dempsey and the mayor, who provided the lone dissenting vote, said was politically motivated. 

“There will be no more shut downs,” said Dempsey, referencing the funeral home, which Perkins’ supporters said was forced to close due to the village’s high property taxes.

According to a June 2009 West Suburban Journal report, the chapel’s owner, Randy Corbin, said that his 2008 second installment property taxes were $110,000 — a burden that village officials did nothing to help ease, he claimed.

Corbin also said that in 2008, in order to make parking more accessible, he purchased a vacant lot nearby. The zoning permit needed to do the necessary renovations was approved a year after he applied for it, he told West Suburban. And when he purchased an alley adjacent the chapel, the village didn’t grant him easement rights.

“Had easement rights been amended, I would not have had to purchase the alley and would have qualified for TIF incentives,” Corbin told West Suburban the time.

Brandon said Corbin would have been present at Perkins’s reelection announcement, but is currently out of town.

Perkins indicated that the failed funeral chapel fit within a pattern of failures by her opponents on the board.

In addition to Corbin, the mayor emphasized the missed opportunity for the village to develop the corner of 1st Ave. and Lake St.

In 2013, at the beginning of Perkins’ term, a developer approached the village looking to build a new facility that would house retail establishments and a Maywood branch of Hinsdale Community Bank.

The developer, InSite Real Estate Investment Properties, said that they would complete the new facility by September 2014, but the board failed to marshal the five-vote supermajority among trustees that was required to vacate an alley near the land targeted for development.

The alley vacation was necessary in order for the project to be completed, Maywood attorney Michael Jurusik said at the time. 

Trustees Audrey Jaycox, Rivers and Dorris, who were in support of an offer to purchase Lake St. and 1st Ave. by a different developer, would not vote for the alley vacation, thus effectively shutting down the bank and retail center proposal. Yarbrough wasn’t on the board at the time.

“Economic development has been at the table in the Village of Maywood, but the leadership has failed to act on it,” Brandon said at the Nov. 5 announcement. “We had a bank at the table, we had a Starbucks at the table, but these people said no and they expect for you to support them. In April, we’re going to send them a message.”

Perkins, who is running as an independent, has aligned herself with a group of four other independent candidates to form a quasi-slate known collectively as the People’s Choice Party.

The group includes three candidates —  Rolando Villegas, Kimyada Wellington and Elijah Goodwin — running for the three trustee seats up for grabs in April. Tamika Commier is the group’s candidate for clerk.

Perkins is also supporting two candidates, John Rice and Sinaria Lee, who are running for the Maywood Park District Board of Commissioners, which records indicate has only one seat up for grabs in April.

“Get ready, get ready, get ready!” shouted Brandon, who said that the mayor’s young campaign colleagues — the trustee and clerk candidates are all in their 30s and 40s — would be the fresh majority she needs to enact what Perkins’ supporters described as the mayor’s pro-business agenda.

“Send her some help!” said Brandon.

Not exactly alone 

Recent board decisions, however, seem to complicate the claim that Perkins is completely outgunned on the board. Perkins has voted with Rogers — who, although he ran with Maywood United, has exhibited a strong independent streak since taking his seat  — Brandon and, ironically, Yarbrough on several significant 4-3 decisions in recent months.

Yarbrough’s vote in August, for instance, proved the decisive factor in blocking a proposal — strongly supported by Trustees Dorris, Lightford and Rivers, but strongly opposed by Perkins, Brandon and Rogers — to relocate the mayor’s office from its existing location at 125 S. 5th Ave to the village’s administrative headquarters at 40 Madison St.

Perkins, Yarbrough, Brandon and Rogers also comprised the four-vote majority on a decision that granted a Class M liquor license to Lacey’s Place, a video gambling bistro attempting to setup shop at 611 W. Roosevelt Rd.

The decision prompted outrage among some residents who are against video gambling in the village and even a last-minute attempt by Yarbrough to reconsider his affirmative vote — a move that Rogers, Brandon and Perkins blocked.

Last month, Perkins and company comprised the four-vote majority that blocked an attempt by Dorris, Lightford and Rivers to introduce an ordinance that would allow property owners to remove local landmark status from properties by appealing directly to the Board of Trustees, a process that many critics of the proposal felt undermined the village’s Historic Preservation Commission.

And Perkins encountered very little pushback when, during a meeting last month, she proposed hiring a full-time grant writer who would identify state and federal funds Perkins said the village is missing out on — something she has said she’s long wanted to do.

Still, the mayor and her supporters said during Saturday’s announcement, a fresh slate would go a long way toward establishing a clean break from a political apparatus, the Maywood United Party, that evokes bad memories for some people.

None of the People’s Choice trustee and clerk candidates have elected experience in the village, a factor that is refreshing to some residents and cause for concern for others, said Wellington, adding that, when she’s out canvassing, people look at her youth and relative obscurity in local politics as either an indication of new ideas or of inexperience.

“I think some people look at us like, ‘Where did you come from?” Wellington said. “But whatever the response, I just like the exchange. I like talking to people about what I want to do for Maywood. I’m not interested in the dirty politics.”

Jim Brewer, 64, a retired professional basketball player whose high school playing days at Proviso East have earned him local renown, could be one of the mayor’s most popular surrogates.

Brewer, who ran unsuccessfully for Proviso Township Democratic Committeeman against Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough in 2014, said that, while he isn’t eyeing elected office anytime soon, he’s fully supportive of Perkins.

“I think that she’s the only one who doesn’t have outside interests,” he said.

Perkins’ formal announcement comes a few days after Dorris formally announced that she’ll run for mayor on the Maywood Visionary Party slate, which includes Lightford, businessman Joseph A. Wilson and real estate broker Drena Lanier as trustee candidates. Project manager Steven R. Smiley is the slate’s candidate for clerk.

The sitting clerk, Viola Mims, is running on the My Maywood slate, which comprises mayoral candidate Mary “May” Larry, a village liquor commissioner; and trustee candidates Marcius Scaggs (a former trustee appointed by Yarbrough), Tanya Butler (a sitting Maywood Public Library commissioner) and Sammie Rogers, Jr.

Earlier this year, Yarbrough reportedly announced that he would also run for mayor in April. For Brandon, however, it’s Perkins against the field.

“She’s going to win this election,” the young trustee said confidently on Saturday. “This election is already done, but it’s up to us to send her some help.” VFP

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3 thoughts on “Maywood Mayor Formally Launches Re-election Bid In Front of Shuttered Funeral Home”

  1. Run Perkins Run, Maywood loves you. We the citizens of our village anoint you Mayor for life…… Never again will we return to the old days of Yarborough 😦

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