By Igor Studenkov
For the Bugle
Niles voters will have fewer choices and more incumbents on the April 4 ballot than they had for the past four years – though that doesn’t mean there won’t be any competitive races at all.
Municipal elections happen every two years. Because most elections are staggered, the voters don’t usually elect entire boards at once – rather, they vote for about half of the seats.
This year, Village of Niles Board of Trustees, Niles Park District Board of Commissioners and East Maine District 63 races aren’t competitive at all, because the incumbents are the only ones on the ballot. But the Niles mayoral race, as well as the race for the Niles Library Board of Trustees, Maine Township government races and the races for most school boards, are another matter. The Niles-Park Ridge District 64 race in particular has no incumbents whatsoever, so no matter who wins the election, its board of education will have some new faces.
The last two Niles Village Board races have been competitive. In 2013, a slate lead by Przybylo faced off against a slate lead by then-trustee Chris Hanusiak. In 2015, the mayor’s Niles Forward Party slate faced off against an unofficial slate made up of made Hanusiak and attorney David Carrabotta, as well as incumbent trustee Rosemary Palicki. The Forward Party slate won decisively, and this year, incumbents George Alpogianis, John Jekot and Danette Matyas aren’t facing any challenge at all.
But in the mayoral race, Przybylo faces off against newcomer Steven Yassel. The challenger had previously attended Niles Stormwater Commission meetings to complain about flooding issues in his neighborhood.
In 2015, the Niles Public Library Board of Trustees saw a heated race as incumbent Linda Ryan joined with new candidates Tim Spadoni and Patti Rozanski to run in an unofficial slate against incumbents Morgan Dubiel and Chris Ball for three available seats. This year, only two seats are at play. Incumbent trustee Barbara Nakanishi isn’t running for re-election, but incumbent Rob Breit, who was appointed to fill a vacancy created after Matyas resigned from the library board in April, is. New candidates Dennis Martin and Dianne Olson, a Park Ridge-Niles School Dist. 64 librarian, are running as well.
As previously reported by the Bugle, Martin attended Oct. 21, 2015 and Nov. 5, 2015 library board meetings, raising objections to the library board changing employee retirement plans and increasing the tax levy.
During the 2015 election, three incumbent candidates for the Niles Park District Board of Commissioners faced two challengers, with Jason Trunco running for a four-year seat and Neil Cohn running for a two-year seat. According to the district, there are no challenges this time around – incumbent commissioners Julie Genualdi, Dennis O’Donovan and Christopher Zalinski are the ones on the ballot. All three are running for four-year terms.
The Maine Township election affects all cities and villages within its borders, but it would have the most direct effect on the unincorporated areas, where it provides the most services. This election is the only election where candidates are split along party lines. Democrat Gloria Ludwig, the current Des Plaines City Clerk, is running against Republican Peter Gialamas, an incumbent township trustee, for the township clerk position. The Republican slate for the township trustees includes incumbents Kelly Schaefer and Kimberly Jones, as well as Carrabotta and Susan Sweeney, president of Park Ridge Republican Women. The Democrat slate includes Niles Police Department officer Sherwin Weinberg, attorneys Thomas McGuire, and Claire McKenzie both of Park Ridge, and Alex Paterakos-Figueroa, the legislative coordinator of SEIU Healthcare labor union.
The two high school districts serving Niles, Morton Grove and Park Ridge will see noticeable changes. In Niles Township District 219, four candidates are running for three Board of Education seats, but only one of the candidates, Joseph Novick, is an incumbent. The new candidates include Richard Evonitz, who currently serves as the East Prairie School District 73 Board of Education president, as well as residents Virginia Camacho and Naema Abraham, both of Skokie.
In Maine Township District 207, four Board of Educations seats are up for election. Incumbents Jin Lee, Carla Owen are facing off against three challenges. Most notably, Dan Gott, of Des Plaines, unsuccessfully ran against incumbent State Representative Marty Moylan (D-55th) in 2016. Other candidates include Park Ridge residents Linda Coyle, an attorney for Canadian National Railway Company, and Aurora Austriaco, an attorney and the member of Illinois Court Commission.
The elementary school districts are a mixed bag. In East Maine District 63, which serves parts of Niles and most of the unincorporated Maine Townshop, four Board of Education seats are up for members are up for re-election – Alexandra Brook, Walter Gluzkin, Sheila Urban, and Krystal Zec. All of them are running unchallenged.
The Board of Education for the Niles Elementary School District 71, which is made up solely of Culver Elementary School, is in the same position, with incumbents Mathew Hollbrook, Dexi Karabatsos, Matt Glancy and Jill Brocar running for four seats. Victoria Luz, the Technical Services Supervisor at the Niles Library, is currently running against them as a write-in candidate.
In Niles-Park Ridge District 64, which serves Niles and Park Ridge, none of the Board of Education incumbents up for releection are running. This leaves six candidates new candicates competing for four seats. This includes Gregory Bublitz, the Director of Special Services at District 63, Larry Ryles, who ran for Park Ridge mayor in the 2013 election, Eastman Tiu, a teacher at Villa Park’s Willowbrook High School, Park Ridge Park District commissioner Richard Biagi and Park Ridge residents Alfred Sanchez, Michael Schaab and Norman Dziedzic Jr.