CRYSTAL LAKE – The candidates running for Crystal Lake City Council had the opportunity to face off Thursday at a League of Women Voters-sponsored candidate forum.
Five candidates are seeking three open seats on the City Council. Longtime incumbents Ralph Dawson and Jeffrey Thorsen were joined by Cameron Hubbard, who recently was appointed to fill a council vacancy. Newcomers Chuck Ebann and Jim Tomasello also are vying for one of the four-year terms.
The candidates fielded questions from the audience on a range of topics, from a decision to put decorative columns along Route 14 to decriminalizing marijuana.
While their responses to some topics varied, one thing all candidates agreed upon was that Crystal Lake is on the right path.
Each candidate said he was concerned about filling empty storefronts, specifically in the former Walmart building. The incumbents touted the city’s success in attracting new businesses, while the newcomers promised to do more.
“We have got a team that are actively pursing [new businesses],” Dawson said. “I don’t think two weeks go by and Crystal Lake is not interviewing people to fill them.”
But many properties are privately owned, so the city’s hands are tied, both Dawson and Thorsen said.
Ebann wants to see the city continue efforts to fill open spaces and applauded its economic development incentives.
“I would encourage us to continue doing the proactive things we are doing – going to various
conferences, advertising, anything to keep the Crystal Lake name out there,” Ebann said.
When asked about the Crystal Lake watershed, each candidate promised to protect it.
“[The most important thing is] keeping those ordinances tight and not letting companies or builders get away with variances, and making sure that we protect that in the future,” Hubbard said of how he would protect the watershed.
Thorsen said the city’s watershed ordinance is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough.
“I don’t think we can’t rely on ordinances alone,” he said. “We have to proactively protect that watershed.”
Tomasello said he would have voted against the decorative columns in the Virginia Street corridor and said he is against “frivolous spending.”
“I don’t like it,” he said. “I think it was big waste of money, and I don’t see the purpose of them, they seem out of place.”
The most striking difference in the candidates’ platforms came when they were asked how they would vote on decriminalizing marijuana. The issue came before the city council in recent months on a recommendation from the now-retired police chief. The matter was deferred until the new chief could review it.
Ebann said he would reject decriminalization if it came up for his vote, while Dawson and Hubbard said they would research it more. Thorsen said he would defer to the police chief’s recommendation, and Tomasello said he likely would support it.
Early voting for the April 9 election starts March 25.
The McHenry County League of Women Voters will host a forum for the McHenry mayoral candidates at 7 p.m. Thursday in the conference room of the Shah Center, 4100 W. Shamrock Lane, McHenry.
Mayor Sue Low and former Mayor Steve Cuda are facing off in the general election April 9. At the forum, they will be given time to explain their positions on the issues. Questions from the audience also will be accepted.
For information, call Susan Fugleberg, voter service representative for the League, at 815-455-3677.