CALUMET CITY | Hope Allen used to be one of Mayor Michelle Markiewicz Qualkinbush’s personal secretaries and was a staffer on the “United To Serve You” slate that helped Qualkinbush re-election in 2009.
But times have changed. Allen considers herself a critic of Calumet City municipal government who thinks that Qualkinbush and all the incumbent aldermen ought to be replaced.
Allen said she will run for a seat on the City Council in the 2013 municipal elections. She lives in the 6th Ward on the city’s southeastern corner, which means she’ll be challenging Alderman Nick Manousopoulos, who is likely to run for re-election on the “Democrats United” slate that Qualkinbush is putting together for next year’s election cycle.
For her part, Qualkinbush would only say of her former ally’s campaign against her, “I wish her luck.”
As for Manousopoulos, Allen said she thinks he provides little to the residents of his ward, saying many of her neighbors with whom she has spoken do not even know who their alderman is.
“What he contributes to Calumet City is a restaurant and a free Thanksgiving dinner, that’s it,” she said, referring to the fact that Manousopoulos is the owner of Tom’s Restaurant, 894 Burnham Ave., and he has in recent years provided a free holiday meal to area residents.
But Allen, a Munster native who moved to Calumet City a dozen years ago, said she thinks the problem lies with all the incumbent officials, including the mayor to whom she was once loyal.
“They tend to think in terms of what they can get for themselves and their families and friends,” Allen said. “I care about all of Calumet City.”
Allen was on the city payroll until three years ago when, in an attempt to cut the city budget, the City Council eliminated her position along with others. Many of those people laid off have since been rehired, but not Allen.
She has filed lawsuits against the city concerning the way she was treated. One lawsuit is still pending, although on a few occasions City Attorney Burt Odelson has said they are “frivolous” in nature.
"What offends me the most about Hope Allen is that she has filed two frivolous lawsuits that cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and now she wants to represent the taxpayers?" Manousopoulos said. "That's wrong."
Qualkinbush has said Allen’s dismissal was because she had two full-time secretaries at the time, and Allen was the one not represented by a union contract.
But Allen has used her time in recent years to file many requests for financial data through the Freedom of Information Act. She said many of the financial details she has learned have turned her against the people she used to be aligned with.
Allen has until mid-November to get her nominating petitions in order to gain a spot on the ballot for the 2013 elections. She also said she is hoping that a third mayoral candidate crops up so she won’t have to pick between Qualkinbush or Wilson for mayor.
But Qualkinbush emphasized there is still a lot of time for candidates to get into the race for city government.
“We really won’t know until November who is, and isn’t, going to run for office,” Qualkinbush said.