Voters in Lansing will choose between incumbent Norm Abbott and challenger Don Sciackitano for mayor -- technically, village president -- on April 9. The voters should look closely at how the village is being run now.
Village President Norm Abbott has professionalized the town administration, including hiring top-notch department heads and a village administrator to handle day-to-day operations. This frees up the mayor to set policy, handle politics and promote economic growth bringing jobs to the village. As a result, Lansing has become a model for other south suburban communities.
Sciackitano would revert to the old way of running the village, with the mayor handling the daily nuts and bolts of the village as well as setting its direction and acting as its chief salesman. He told us he’d get rid of the village administrator, a professional who is bringing greater efficiency to the village operations.
Under Abbott's leadership, the village is attracting new businesses, including Peterbilt Trucking, several new restaurants and a new super Walmart that expects to hire 175 employees. Don't forget Abbott's time in office included the Great Recession, too.
Sciackitano talks of the need for economic development and the loss of some businesses, but he offers no specific plan for how to move the village forward. Abbott has demonstrated success.
When Abbott took office, the village's finances were troubled. Lansing has paid off $1.2 million in unpaid bills inherited from the previous administration. He also took the unpopular but necessary step of repealing the overly generous retirement benefit for police and fire personnel. Unfunded pensions, we all know, got Illinois in trouble. Abbott also privatized the village's trash collection, a further necessary step to shore up Lansing's finances.
Through early retirement and attrition, but without layoffs, Lansing's payroll has shrunk by 63 employees, to 282.
"It's been a very difficult four years," Abbott said.
All this attention to the village's finances is paying off, however. Lansing's bond rating is up to A1 now. By the end of summer, Abbott hopes, the bond rating will be AA and some high-interest bonds could be refinanced at a much lower rate.
Sciackitano talks of building coalitions, holding events that have included hosting Jim Nesci's cold blooded creatures show for families. He has brought together African Americans, Hispanics and young people, all minority groups he needs to possibly win. He’s fond of saying he will ”bring the people together.” But he offers no solid action plan for the village to show what he would do if elected.
Perhaps Abbott could provide for greater inclusion, but the village's finances and professionalizing the staff serving the citizens of Lansing were more urgent priorities.
Abbott has shown he can make tough, sometimes unpopular, decisions to turn the village's finances around. He’s helped cultivate quality business, creating jobs. He has developed a professional staff hard at work to fulfill the village’s clearly stated goals.
Abbott grew up in Lansing. He’s served the citizens well, including cutting his pay as mayor. He cares about his community.
Lansing must not go the way of the state of Illinois. It needs to stay the positive course set by Abbott.
It’s an easy choice. We endorse Abbott.