Casino would be 'economic engine' for Cal City, mayor says

2013-05-05T00:00:00Z Casino would be 'economic engine' for Cal City, mayor saysGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 05, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CALUMET CITY | If Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush were to have her way, she and her colleagues on the City Council would “brainstorm” in coming years to resolve the problems caused by increasing numbers of home foreclosures.

Qualkinbush said she thinks the increasing number of houses in Calumet City that sit vacant is behind many of the problems the city faces these days.

“I certainly don’t have the answer, but I would like to sit down with the council and brainstorm to see if we can come up with ideas of what we can do,” Qualkinbush said. “I think we need to get folks back into those homes.”

Yet Qualkinbush, who last week was sworn in to another term as mayor, admits the future for municipal government in Calumet City is uncertain.

In fact, Qualkinbush said the city’s ability to do things lies heavily with the Illinois General Assembly — whose package of issues under consideration includes a casino gambling proposal the mayor hopes will someday result in a casino based in Calumet City.

“Having a casino in Calumet City would be such an overwhelming economic engine for us,” she said. “It would make it possible for us to do so much more for people if we had those kinds of tax revenues coming in.”

But Qualkinbush isn’t about to predict what, if anything, the Illinois legislature will do on the issue, although she expressed joy Thursday that the Illinois Senate approved a gambling expansion bill that includes among its provisions creation of a new casino to be located somewhere in Thornton, Bloom, Bremen, Rich, Calumet or Worth townships in southern Cook County.

“It’s great that they approved that, but it’s not done yet,” she said.

Third Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones, who also serves as a south suburban lawmaker, said he expects casino gambling will be among the final issues considered by the legislature before their scheduled adjournment for the summer on May 31.

Even if the legislature approves a south suburban casino, Calumet City would have to deal with political interests in places like Lynwood, Ford Heights, Chicago Heights, Homewood/East Hazel Crest and Country Club Hills which have said they also want a casino.

Qualkinbush also said the future will be similar to recent years where municipal business often was dominated by the economic recession that caused declines in tax revenues for the city.

“We’re going to have to continue to work on our budget,” the mayor said. “We’re still not where we want to be.”

Agreeing with that was City Treasurer Gerald Tarka, who said he will continue to work to ensure the city has sufficient revenue to maintain itself.

“There are still goals to be set, and challenges to be met,” he said.

Newly-sworn-in 4th Ward Alderman Ramonde Williams is sticking by the rhetoric of his campaign, saying he wants the city to do more to support programs aimed at providing youths, particularly teenagers, with constructive activities to participate in.

“Some teenagers just need guidance,” he said, while adding he will be relying on his aldermanic colleagues to help him learn the procedures of municipal government. “I am a neophyte who hopes they will show patience with my questions,” he said.

For Jones, he said his priority as 3rd Ward alderman for upcoming years is to win over the support of people in his ward who did not vote for him. In the Feb. 26 Democratic primary, he defeated Wilbur “Will” Tillman by only 33 votes.

“I want to make an effort to heal the past election wounds,” Jones said. “It ought to be a challenge to all of us to get all people involved in their city.”

While 7th Ward Alderman Antoine Collins said he too wants to try to appeal to all Calumet City residents, who he says are the ones who put the aldermen into public office in the first place.

“We ought to try to reciprocate (their electoral support) at all times, and not just at election time,” Collins said.

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