Wednesday, March 25, 2015 || By Michael Romain
On Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22, Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO) held its annual candidates forum for individuals running for open seats on the Maywood Board of Trustees, the Maywood Park District Board of Commissioners, and the school boards for districts 89 and 209. Elections are April 7.
Below are candidate responses to questions asked during Saturday’s trustee forum. They don’t include opening or closing statements:
What do you feel the village can do differently to improve the appearance of properties and the appearance of the village overall? How do you see code enforcement’s role in correcting problem properties and crime (as this is seemingly an age-old problem that fails to get addressed)?
Mary ‘May’ Larry: She insisted that the village needs to be more diligent in its approach to abandoned homes and should remove favoritism from the enforcement process. She also stressed that residents should “be good neighbors.”
Henderson Yarbrough: He stressed the importance of an effective village manager who holds “everybody accountable” and a board that holds the village manager accountable.
Trustee Ron Rivers: He said that the village should fully staff the code enforcement department and empower the manager to enforce the codes that are on the books. He claimed that, currently, the village only has three code enforcement officers. He also stressed that residents have a responsibility to maintain the town’s appearance. “Each one of us, as residents, owes it to each other to comply with codes and help your neighbor,” he said.
Marcius Scaggs: He said that the village has allowed homeowners to “slice and dice up single family homes” into multiunit properties. He stressed the need to restore those properties to their original states. He also stressed that the village should partner with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and “do other things than just make vacant lots and tear down buildings.” He said that “code enforcement needs to be pushed” and suggested the village explore options such as cleaning up and renting out vacant properties.
Readith Esther: She said that it’s important that the village set high expectations for the town’s general upkeep and that it employs a village manager who has “expectations of excellence” and is able to enforce high performance standards.
Joe Ratley: “You can’t start with the village manager until you get a competent board,” he said. He noted that the board should hold the manager’s “feet to the fire” and ensure that he knows what code needs and expects the department to do its job. He also stressed partnering with the police department as well on code enforcementt measures.
Isiah Brandon: He said that the respect level within the village should increase among residents and village employees, adding that if workers “can’t do their jobs, they need to leave.” He also stressed the need to “look to outside agencies”such as the Cook County Land Bank for help with efforts to rebuild and maintain the property base. He added that the “culture of respect starts with the board.”
Tanya Butler: She emphasized that the code department “needs to be restructured” and revamped. “I totally concur with everything everybody up here said about code enforcement,” she noted, adding that it is unfair that the burden of maintaining properties is placed on senior citizens. She said the village should assist them with keeping their properties up to code.
Cheryl Ealey-Cross: She said that many abandoned homes in the village are the result both of the recent flooding and the economic crash of several years ago. “There’s crisis but the board can’t address it,” she said, adding that the board needs to hire a qualified village manager to assess the strengths and weaknesses of code enforcement.
For those who have served as a trustee before, why should we reelect you to another elected position given we have seen quite a bit of dilapidation in our community on the current officials’ watch?
Cheryl Ealey-Cross: She said that she was appointed, which doesn’t equate with having been elected; however, she added that “there’s work to be done” and that “I’m the only sitting trustee asking the tough questions and letting the public know what needs to be done.”
Joe Ratley: “The board that’s been in place for the last eight years and the majority in the last two years have not been competent enough to move this village forward,” he said. “Anybody who serves on that board should not be reelected under any circumstances due to the fact that the community is not moving forward.”
Readith Esther: “Working on any board or in any capacity, it is important that you learn how to work with people,” she said. She noted that residents need to learn “how to vote [based] upon issues,” not on the personalities of those making the motions.
Marcius Scaggs: “It takes a majority to move anything going forward,” he said. “And if you sat there and was not part of the majority, your voice can be heard a thousand times” but it won’t matter. He said this is why it takes a team to govern. He said that when he had served as a trustee in the past, he tried to do right “but got outvoted.”
Ron Rivers: “We need a board that’s going to work together and pull for the common good in the same direction,” he said. “With the economic downturn, all of these villages have experienced” problems, he added.
Henderson Yarbrough: He said that residents should reelect him based on his past accomplishments. “I don’t completely agree with the premise of the question,” he said, adding that there was progress made during his tenure as mayor. “I just named $17 million worth of progress that’s been made,” he said, referencing money that he argued was brought to Maywood on his watch.
For those candidates who have never served as a trustee before, what would you bring to the table that you feel has not been brought by other officials before you?
Tanya Butler: She said that she’ll bring her experience from serving on boards and committees both within and outside the community. “Also, because I live here and I care about my community, I want to see it flourish.”
Isiah Brandon: He said that he hopes to increase the level of conversation on the board, adding that the present trustees on the board have focused too much on “petty politics.”
Mary “May” Larry: She referenced her skills as a grant writer and her assistance with a summer youth grant as a testimony to her value-added to the board.
What, specifically, does Maywood have that is appealing to business or industry to come to Maywood? What would you do to facilitate growth and development? What is your plan for the Maywood Market property?
Mary “May” Larry: “We need investors here in Maywood,” she said, touting her relationship with the Church of God in Christ and Magic Johnson. She said she had personally spoken with him and he told her that he’d be willing to take a look at Maywood.
Henderson Yarbrough: Inspiring investors starts with the manager and building services and pride within the community. He said that residents should speak proudly about their town, as opposed to negatively. He also emphasized Maywood’s historic housing stock as an advantage.
Ron Rivers: “Maywood is a diamond in the rough,” he said, referencing the town’s proximity to major highways, two airports and railroads. Echoing Yarbrough, he said that residents should “stop beating Maywood up.”
Marcius Scaggs: He said that Maywood has a lot of historic value that would have even more value if all of its residents bought into the community. He said that the village should also engage major employers such as Tony’s and Mariano’s in productive dialogue.
Readith Esther: She said that Maywood “needs to come together” and that the board should stop getting on television and downplaying the village. She said that the village needs professional examples among staff and community members to work to attract business.
Joe Ratley: He said that, currently, Maywood has leaders who lack vision and who can’t take advantage of its prime location.
Isiah Brandon: He said that the current board has “turned down economic development,” citing the failed Wintrust Bank negotiations as an example. “Wintrust Bank should have been on First Avenue,” he said, adding that the board can’t talk about needing economic development when it is turning down development.
Tanya Butler: She said that the community needs to develop what it already has and that the traffic flow into Maywood should be improved by way of additional Eisenhower entrance-exit ramps.
Chery Ealey-Cross: She lauded the town’s location and its homes, but said that it lacks leadership in the economic development department. “We don’t think like marketers and developers,” she said.
Some candidates addressed questions about their real and/or perceived weaknesses.
Isiah Brandon, is [your nonprofit] Youth on the Move in good standing with the Secretary of State? And if not, do you still receive any funds?
Isiah Brandon: “The organization is currently under a restructuring phase and we are currently working on switching our board around,” he said.
Henderson Yarbrough, when you took over Maywood ten years ago, the village was in great fiscal condition. When you left two years ago, the credit rating had gone down and finances had gone down. As trustee, how can you bring to Maywood what you couldn’t as mayor?
Henderson Yarbrough: “I disagree with the premises of part of that question,” he said, noting that he thinks “we made progress” during his two terms in office. He said “every city and village around” was affected by the downturn in the economy. “Some mistakes were made, of course, but we learned from our mistakes. As long as we honestly dealt with the problem and continued to work to overcome it, that’s what I will continue to do if elected to be on the board of trustees.”
Mary “May” Larry, some of us noticed you’re running for two elected offices [trustee and park district commissioner]. Can you enlighten us on your rationale for that?
Mary “May” Larry: “We’re in a deficit here,” she said. “There’s a storm that is hovering over Maywood.” She said that she was proud to give back to the community and that she has ample time to devote to both offices.
Marcius Scaggs, while serving on the special events commission was admirable, you seemed to disappear between elections. What village activity have you been involved in since then?
Marcius Scaggs: “In between elections, I did not want anything to be said I had anything negative to do with the impact of what the current regime is doing,” he said. “I did not speak ill about anybody, that is not my character,” he said. In addition, he noted that personal reasons, such as taking on a second job, took up much of his time.
Ron Rivers, what have you brought to local government in the last four years?
Ron Rivers: He said that he negotiated the grading of the village’s unpaved alleys and have worked with trustee Melvin Lightford on fishing trips for area youth. VFP