OSWEGO – Oswego native Linda Porter said she grew up in the village and remembers when the village had gravel roads. She said she has been back in the village for about 23 years after being away at college.
Porter said she came to the Oswego Village Candidate forum because she wanted to hear what the three village president candidates’ and the nine trustee candidates’ priorities are, especially the newer candidates’ in relation to incumbents’. She said she was particularly interested in what the candidates had to say about economic giveaways and impact fees that building project developers pay to benefit participating taxing districts.
“Because the school district is in dire need right now,” Porter said.
Porter was one of about a few dozen people that attended the Oswego Village Candidate forum hosted by the Oswego Area Chamber of Commerce Monday night at the Village Hall, 100 Parkers Mill. The three village president and nine trustee candidates are challenging for one village president and three trustee seats and a four-year term on the Oswego Village Board.
Moderators asked candidates questions about what they think are the most important topics and issues in village government that need to be addressed. They also asked candidates what they think is the role of the Oswego Area Chamber of Commerce within the village and what their visions are for a better business climate in Oswego.
Incumbent Oswego Village President Gail Johnson and her trustee candidate running mates Dominick Cirone, along with incumbents Karin McCarthy-Lange and Ryan Kauffman, talked about a proposed Metra station still being a viable option for the village and wanting to continue business development in the downtown area.
Johnson said there was a time about five years ago where people would have considered Oswego “closed for business.”
“And we’ve changed that,” Johnson said. “We’ve opened the doors.”
Johnson and former Village President Budd Bieber also were involved in a brief verbal confrontation during Johnson’s comments about ten minutes into the forum.
“Where are the mom-and-pop shops?” Bieber said. “Where’s the pedestrian safety on Washington Street?”
Village president candidate Troy Parlier, who has lived in Oswego for more than 20 years and is a math teacher at Thompson Junior High School, and his trustee running mates Brian Thomas, Terry Olson and James Marter II also participated in the forum. Parlier, Thomas, Olson and Marter are the only candidates listed as Republican on the April 2 ballot, where the rest of the candidates are listed as Independent.
Parlier said he would want to work with existing businesses, particularly small businesses, to better the business climate for Oswego.
Marter, who has served on the village’s plan commission, said he would want to consider adding more business development along Orchard Road, since he has heard there are as much as 30,000 cars that drive down the road every day.
“There’s a lot of potential economic boost,” Marter said.
As someone who grew up in Oswego and has since seen his friends move away from the area, Marter said one of the biggest issues he’s heard from constituents are tax increases and expensive housing costs.
“It comes down to the fact that we’re making it harder and costlier for people to live in Oswego,” Marter said.
Village president candidate Joe West, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has lived in Oswego for more than 30 years and a current village trustee, also touched on the importance of directing more funds to area schools while participating in the forum with his trustee candidate running mates Amir Ghaemi, Shawn Beaudette and Kit Kuhrt.
Ghaemi, who has lived in the Oswego School District since 2008, said he was initially inspired to run for local office after becoming familiar with issues that affected local schools and how decisions made by the village board affected those issues.
Ghaemi said he has had concerns with lack of transparency with the current village board and what he called the “blind growth” trend. He said there are projects that have been approved and looking to get approved that cost millions of dollars in fees that are basically being given away.
“The current administration seems to be solely focused on the development of downtown at any cost,” Ghaemi said.
None of the trustee candidates spoke about new sources for drinking water, the expansion of Douglas Road or pedestrian safety on Washington Street.
Porter said she feels all of the candidates are predominately on the same page after hearing what they had to say at the Monday forum. Although Porter said she felt a lot more knowledgeable about the candidates after hearing their opening statements and answering panel questions, she said she still hasn’t decided who she would vote for.
However, Porter said she was disappointed by the forum’s attendance and local political participation across all age groups overall.
“This should be standing room only,” Porter said.
Don Marrone, an Oswego resident for 14 years and a former member of the village’s plan commission, said he came to the Monday event because he wanted to have a better idea of what all of the candidates were about overall.
“I really wanted to hear more about them than just names on a ballot,” Marrone said.
After hearing the candidates, Marrone said he still is leaning more toward voting for the incumbents and wanting to see them get another four years in office.
“They need to finish what they’ve started,” Marrone said.