LANSING | In most municipal elections, the political battle for mayor or village president is the draw.
Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case in Lansing this year.
The candidates seeking to be village president admit voters will be showing up because of interest in referendums on the April 9 ballot.
Those referendums ask residents to approve a 10-cent increase in the share of the property tax levy assessed by the Lan-Oak Park District. Residents also are being asked to give village officials permission to use the electricity aggregation process to negotiate lower utility rates for them.
Those two referendums are on the election day ballot, in addition to a village president race that is a replay of the 2009 elections pitting Village President Norm Abbott with former Village Trustee Donald Sciackitano.
Both say they see the referendums, particularly the property tax hike measure for the park district, as being the issue that will draw people to the polls.
“Normally, we’d get about 5,000 people to turn out for a municipal election. Yet we might get an extra 1,000 people this time whose main reason for voting is that referendum,” Abbott said.
“An extra 1,000 voters could make a big difference.”
Sciackitano would not go so far as to put a figure on it, but he said that during his campaigning in Lansing, he has seen the interest both for and against the property tax hike referendum.
For the record, both village president candidates say they are sympathetic to the desires of the park district, which says the extra $450,000 raised by a property tax increase would be used to improve the quality of the public parks in Lansing.
“They (the park district) haven’t had any kind of increase in nearly 20 years,” Abbott said. “We in the village didn’t approve a tax levy increase because we realize times are tough, but the park district has a legitimate need.”
Expressing a similar thought was Sciackitano.
“We need good parks in order to maintain the quality of life in Lansing," he said. "If I am elected (village president), I will want to work with the park district to help them achieve their goals.”
Yet this is not the totality of election day in Lansing – where the top of the ballot will be the choice of a new member of Congress. Candidates are Democrat Robin Kelly, Republican Paul McKinley and Green Party member LeAlan M. Jones, along with independents Curtiss Llong Bey, Marcus Lewis and Elizabeth “Liz” Pahlke.
Lansing residents will be asked to choose between village clerk and trustee candidates who are aligned with either Abbott’s Lansing Village Party or Sciackitano’s Progressive Action Party, with incumbent Village Clerk Patty Eidam running against the slates as a political independent.
Local voters also will pick from among seven candidates wishing to fill four posts of four years each on the Lansing School District 158 School Board, while another candidate, Robert Bonifazi, is running to fill a two-year vacancy on the School Board.
About the only local board that won’t be competitive will be the Thornton Fractional Township High School District 215 School Board, where three incumbents (Richard Dust, LeeAnn Revis and Roger Yochem) are running unopposed and the fourth spot on the board is being sought only by Joe DelReal, who in 2009 ran unsuccessfully for an aldermanic post in Calumet City.
Sciackitano said he believes all of these different boards work together for the benefit of all Lansing residents.
“You remove one cog, and all the parts don’t work properly,” he said.