Above: Village Trustee candidates (seated on stage, from left) Saad Abbasy, Rob Collins, Maureen Grady-Perovich, and Jerry Zeldenrust participated in a Candidate Forum hosted by the Lansing Public Library on Tuesday, February 28. Library Director Lisa Korajczyk (at podium) welcomed those in attendance. Lansing Journal Publisher Melanie Jongsma (green jacket) and Managing Editor Josh Bootsma (not pictured) moderated the forum, and journalist Jennifer Yos (at table) ran the time clock. (Photo: Quinton Arthur)
Candidate forum covers budget, economic development, gaming, cannabis, and other topics
By Paul Czapkowicz
LANSING, Ill. (March 2, 2023) – A large crowd gathered at the Lansing Public Library on February 28 to learn about the four candidates who are running for three, four-year terms to serve as Village Trustees.
Voters will decide on April 4 among two incumbents, a former trustee and a first-time candidate. Early Voting begins March 20.
The four answered a variety of questions and were given the opportunity to share their goals and views at the forum that was conducted by The Lansing Journal. Managing Editor Josh Bootsma and Publisher Melanie Jongsma served as moderators.
Three of the candidates (current Village Trustees Saad Abbasy and Jerry Zeldenrust, along with newcomer Robert Collins) belong to the Village Voice Party.
Former Village Trustee Maureen Grady-Perovich is running with the Lansing First Party of which she is the founder and lone member.
Questions were formed by The Lansing Journal and members of the public. Some questions were presented to all candidates for a response, while others were specific to individual candidates.
Saad Abbasy (Village Voice Party)
Abbasy was elected to the Lansing Board of Trustees in 2019 and is board president and a coach for Lansing Little League.
Abbasy is a financial regulator at the National Futures Association and identified the village’s infrastructure and fiscal responsibility as two of his main areas of concern.
He said Lansing needs to have a five-year capital plan to responsibly prepare for infrastructure projects.
“Many of you might not know that Lansing has over 90 miles of roads that we manage as a community, and that takes financial planning ahead to to be able to repair those,” Abbasy said.
He said fiscal responsibility includes slowing the growth of the Village’s tax levy.
“My professional experience, my municipal experience, and my community service make me a well-rounded candidate for the position of Village Trustee,” Abbasy said.
Jerry Zeldenrust (Village Voice Party)
Zeldenrust was appointed as a Village Trustee in 2017 and won election to the board in 2019.
He served Lansing as a police officer for 29 years and spoke of the importance of continued staffing of the village’s police and fire departments.
He also stressed economic development and mentioned “the restructure of Torrence Avenue from one end to the other.”
“It’s beautiful to see the new businesses that are coming, and that’s just the beginning,” Zeldenrust said.
He said being a trustee is more important than just winning a political race.
“For me it’s more like being allowed to be a steward of what our predecessors have established as a way of life here,” Zeldenrust said.
Rob Collins (Village Voice Party)
Collins serves as police chief for the Village of Dolton, is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and owns Elegant Design Photography in downtown Lansing.
Collins feels strongly about public safety and sees a tie-in with economic development.
“A safe community also attracts good, reputable businesses,” Collins said. “And Lansing residents deserve a variety of good choices as to where they dine and to where they shop.”
Collins mentioned seeing that the police and fire departments are trained and staffed and said he wants to make sure every effort is made to keep the Lansing community a safe one.
“That’s why I’m proud to serve on the Lansing Board of Fire and Police Commissioners, so that we can ensure that we hire the best of the best fire fighters, the best of the best police officers,” Collins said.
Maureen Grady-Perovich (Lansing First Party)
Grady-Perovich served as a Village Trustee from 2017 to 2021.
She has 43 years of experience as a registered nurse and has earned a doctorate in Nursing Practice.
Grady-Perovich said public safety and the management of finances are priorities, along with making sure the needs of village employees, residents and business owners are met.
“As the only independent trustee candidate, I promise to use my advanced education and experience with municipal government to do the research needed in order to make knowledgeable, evidence-based decisions when casting my vote regarding issues coming before the Village Board,” Grady-Perovich said.
Differences among the candidates were noticeable when certain topics were addressed during the forum, including: gaming, cannabis, and the hiring of an economic development director for the village.
“I feel strongly that we need our own economic development person,” Grady-Perovich said. “I think that that person can take over some of the duties that our village administrator has had to take on.”
Collins was the only other candidate to raise his hand when asked if Lansing should hire a full-time economic development director.
When the question was asked whether Lansing should welcome a cannabis dispensary, Grady-Perovich was the only candidate to not voice a personal objection, provided that it not be near a school nor in the family-oriented area of Ridge Road.
“But I think it is a wonderful opportunity for revenue within the Village of Lansing,” Grady-Perovich said.
Collins said he is not in favor of a dispensary.
“But if we had to do it, I would agree with that location is absolutely important,” Collins said.
Abbasy said it is hard to deny that a dispensary would bring in money.
“I would hope that we can make that revenue up somewhere else,” Abbasy said. “It’s not what I necessarily want for my community.”
Zeldenrust was the most adamant in his objection to a dispensary. He said much of his time as a police officer was spent giving talks in schools about the dangers of marijuana.
“I have a big problem with cannabis dispensaries in our town or any other town,” Zeldenrust said.
Zeldenrust also explained why he has consistently voted against allowing gaming in village establishments.
Zeldenrust said he has witnessed addictions in his own or extended family.
“It also goes to what type of village that I want to leave to our kids and grandkids,” Zeldenrust said. “So I don’t think gambling has a place in our local businesses.”
Abbasy said ideally there would not be a need for gaming in restaurants but explained why he has voted in favor of some gaming proposals.
“Our businesses are facing tough times in our community,” Abbasy said. “They’re fighting against high property taxes from our county. They’re dealing with high costs of paying wages because of state mandates and county mandates. They need revenue sources.”
Collins was asked to respond regarding whether the negative vibe of Dolton politics might carry over into Lansing if he were elected.
He said as chief of police in Dolton he has made sure the police stay unbiased and out of politics.
“My affiliation with Dolton absolutely has nothing to do with the place that I live and lay my head,” Collins said.
Public portion of forum
Penny Sumner, a resident of Lansing since 1976, asked the candidates if there are plans for senior housing in Lansing.
Collins said he was unaware of any, and Abbasy said plans would be considered if presented by developers.
Grady-Perovich said she is in favor of adding senior housing.
“Anytime we can keep our seniors in their hometown I think is a great idea,” she said.
After the forum concluded, Sumner said it was an educational experience.
“I thought that it was very well managed and the time keeper was right on it,” Sumner said.
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