SAUK VILLAGE | Candidates for village president were asked about their past loyalties as much as their future plans during Saturday’s election forum in Sauk Village.
Residents in the audience wanted to know if the candidates supported or opposed former President Lewis Towers and the appointments to village manager and police chief he made during his tumultuous three and a half years.
Current trustee and president candidate Enoch Benson said that was a loaded question. Benson stated he ran on Towers’ ticket and Towers made some mistakes. But he then attacked the other trustees who are candidates.
“These trustees were more interested in their own power than the good of the village,” he said.
Current Village President David Hanks, who took office when Towers resigned, said he reached out to Towers when he was first elected.
“I tried to collaborate with Lewis Towers when he was elected,” Hanks said. “But it was a one-sided conversation.”
Bernice Houston, a Towers ally running for the office, said nothing had been done to help the people of the village in the past four years. She did not refer to any of Towers’ appointments or state whether she was for or against them.
Derrick Burgess, who ran against Towers, said that he foresaw the issues with Towers’ appointments.
“Lewis Towers had no experience with municipal government,” Burgess said. “Then he appointed people with little or no experience. It was a bad combination from the beginning.”
Economic development was another hot topic. One resident said “as many as 70” businesses have left the village in the past few years. What were the candidates going to do about it?
Burgess, who has been the Economic Development Committee chair for the past several years, said business and building owners are reluctant to invest.
“I talked to business and building owners about investment,” Burgess said. “But those discussions didn’t make much progress. I want to talk to our business community about building a downtown.”
Hanks said the reason no one wants to invest is because of the high crime rate.
“As a village, we have to significantly reduce our crime rate before we can see the benefit in terms of business," he said. "My administration is working with the Cook County Economic Planning Commission on what we can do to reduce crime and return business.”
Benson said it the water situation that hampers economic development.
“Businesses do not want to come to a community with such contaminated water,” he said. “We have to show investors we have solved the water problem.”
Houston said that businesses will go where the residents are.
“We have had many more people leave than enter the village,” Houston said. “We have to resolve our vacant home problem.”
Sauk Village has 500 empty homes; the majority are foreclosures.