Romeoville mayoral candidates quarrel over debates and debt
By Bob Okon email@example.com March 31, 2013 9:14PM
Former Chicago Bears player Steve McMichael | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 2, 2013 6:20AM
Steve McMichael missed another Romeoville candidates’ night last week, adding another twist to the unusual campaign that features the former Chicago Bears lineman making a bid for mayor after renting an apartment in town one year before the election.
A drive through Romeoville indicates interest is high in the campaign. Signs for McMichael and incumbent Mayor John Noak are so plentiful that in at least a couple of yards there are signs for both candidates.
But McMichael has been a no-show at the two candidates’ forums held for the campaign, contending that one was “a dog and pony show” organized by an ally of the mayor and saying he could not make the other because of a previous engagement.
Asked where he was Thursday instead of attending a forum for village candidates that was organized by the Romeoville Chamber of Commerce, McMichael said he did not have time to talk.
“I’ve got stuff I’ve got to do, and I don’t have any comments for you right now,” McMichael said Friday when called on the phone. But he did take the time to mention that he would hold his own one-man forum Saturday at the restaurant in town that bears his name.
McMichael also would not discuss his claims that the village has amassed tens of millions of dollars of debt under Noak, a claim that the incumbent mayor said is far from the truth.
“Mr. McMichael is making an allegation that all that debt came in while I was mayor, and that’s just not true,” Noak said.
Noak said Romeoville has added $7 million in debt since he became mayor. It includes $1 million borrowed to pay off old debt at a better interest rate, he said, and another $6 million to buy open land in compliance with a referendum approved by the voters.
Noak did not count $10 million in bonds recently approved to build an athletic center in Romeoville, saying those bonds had not been issued yet.
Adding the athletic center debt, however, falls short of the $139 million in new debt that McMichael claimed in a news release issued earlier in March.
Noak said the total debt of the village amounts to $112.3 million, although that figure was only counting principle. McMichael’s numbers counted principal and interest, and Noak would not answer when pressed as to whether his number included interest.
Noak last week issued a fact sheet countering several statements that McMichael has made in the campaign.
“There are a number of issues that Mr. McMichael is throwing out there that simply don’t hold water,” Noak said.
Whether they do or not, McMichael does not appear ready to debate them. He did call on Noak to organize a legitimate debate, but Noak said it was not up to him to put together a forum for the two candidates.
McMichael also said that the first of the two candidate forums was tainted by the fact that it was organized by Ken Griffin, a village trustee who filed a complaint against McMichael’s campaign that was later thrown out by the state election board. Griffin acknowledged consulting with Noak before filing the complaint.
“This is what Noak calls a fair and substantial forum, but this is what I call a dog and pony show designed to be anything but fair,” McMichael was quoted saying in his news release.
Noak countered that Griffin is president of the Grand Haven Civic Club, which sponsored the forum. Besides, the mayor said, Griffin only introduced candidates while questions were posed by people in the audience.
“Virtually every other candidate for village office, township office, and a lot of the library candidates attended,” Noak said.
The mayor also questioned McMichael’s contention that he had walking pneumonia the day of the Grand Haven forum, saying McMichael attended a well publicized event the next night in which former Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka endorsed him for mayor of Romeoville.
“He made a miraculous recovery the next night and was able to attend his fundraiser in downtown Chicago,” Noak said.