Giarrante declares victory in Joliet

Tom Giarrante

April 5, 2011 9:16:59 PM PDT
Joliet has elected its first new mayor in 20 years, and Highland Park will be getting its first female mayor ever.

His closest opponents were Jan Quillman and Warren Dorris.

About 15,000 votes were cast, and the former firefighter, longtime local barber and long-serving city councilman won by slightly more than 1,000 votes.

Tom Giarrante had the endorsement of nearly every major union with a presence in Joliet. He won in a nine-way race thanks in part to a pledge to cut city services only as a last resort. That's despite the city's 27-million dollar budget deficit.

"Joliet is facing a tremendous shortfall, but Joliet knows how to survive tough times," said Giarrante.

Joliet, the state's fourth largest city, is facing the same problems plaguing many municipalities. For years, casino revenue has eased the taxpayer burden, but, like other tax revenue, it has declined, leading some to question whether Joliet can continue to subsidize amenities like a ballpark, the Rialto Theater, and a local water park.

The retirement of Art Schultz, Joliet's mayor for the last 20 years, now leaves those tough choices in the hands of his longtime ally on the city council, Tom Giarrante.

"Some of the opponents were talking about selling this or selling that, abd I said: 'How am I going to go out and sell the city of Joliet when those people come here and see for sale signs on these great amenities?'" said Giarrante. "As for the budget, yes, it's almost 10 percent of our budget is shortfall - it's going to take all of us, everything is on the table."

Despite having weathered a tough nine-way race, Giarrante says the real work lies ahead of him.

Voter turnout in the Joliet mayor's race was about 19 percent.

Highland Park gets first female mayor

In Highland Park, history was made Tuesday when for the first time in 142 years a woman was elected to run the city.

Tuesday night, Nancy Rotering declared victory, winning by 22 votes.

At the center of the campaign in Highland Park, spending and economic development.

A recent tax hike prompted concerns from residents and the candidates.

Councilwomen Teri Olian and Nancy Rotering worked together on the city council.

"It was so close, we worked really hard, and we walked every precinct," said Rotering. "We rang thousands of doorbells, we made thousands of phone calls, and our work paid off, and I'm really pleased."

"I'm very proud of our community for all of the support that they gave me, and we have a wonderful, wonderful place here, and I'm proud to live here," said Olian.

In Schaumburg, for the first time since 1995, longtime incumbent Al Larson faced a challenger. Brian Costin, 31, ran on an anti-tax platform.

Larson says a drop in sales tax revenue made the property tax necessary, and Tuesday night, Larson declared victory.

Larson said he won because of "residents of Schaumburg who feel as though the leadership that myself and my fellow board members have provided for the last 37 years has led Schaumburg in a great direction to become one of the premier communities in the northwest suburbs."

In Naperville, 16-year incumbent George Pradel faced two challengers, Doug Krause and Kenn Miller. Pradel won by a large margin.

Residents in Chicago Heights went to the polls early, it seemed, as it was the second busiest early voting site, according to the Cook County Clerk's office.

David Gonzalez beat out Joe Faso to become the next mayor of south suburban Chicago Heights.

In northwest suburban Elgin, where unemployment is near 12 percent, incumbent Ed Schock and his record of redevelopment is losing to longtime council member Dave Kaptain, who ran on a leaner-budget campaign.

School funding issues also decided Tuesday night

Tuesday's elections also determined whether some suburban school districts will get the funding they sought.

Voters in Wilmette have approved a referendum that will raise property tax rates to cover a budget deficit in District 39.

It appears Oak Park Elementary School District 97 will also get the property tax increase it sought.

In Mokena, for the third time in 18 months, Elementary School District 159 asked for a tax hike, and for the third time in 18 months, voters said no.

A request to issue $85 million in school building bonds for Lockport Township High School District 205 is getting a thumbs-down from voters.