Skokie mayor announces re-election bid
Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen
Updated: September 25, 2012 4:38PM
SKOKIE — Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen this week announced that he will run for re-election next spring after having served as mayor in the village since 1999.
Van Dusen will head the slate of the ruling Caucus Party, which holds every seat on the Village Board, including six trustee positions and the village clerk spot.
Van Dusen emphasized Skokie’s solid economic status despite a spiraling economy that has led to a difficult recession during the last few years.
“The Village Board and I have led Skokie through the worst financial crisis in our history since the Great Depression,” the mayor said. “Through it all, we’ve maintained premier service, the highest level of public safety, improved economic develop and job expansion while maintaining a 22-year freeze on the property tax levy.”
Village leaders have championed the property tax levy freeze every year it’s been in effect by emphasizing that municipal property taxes have remained at or below the level of 1991 taxes. While there was some consideration to end the property tax freeze during more recent difficult economic times, the village managed to maintain the freeze by implementing conservative budgeting. It also launched a new energy tax that village leaders believe was a fairer way to generate needed revenue.
During his most recent term, Van Dusen and his Village Board have undertaken a packed agenda. His comments tomorrow will note the opening of the new Skokie Police Station and the downtown CTA Yellow Line station — some 10 years in the making — as well as a new fire station and a refurbished public works facility.
Van Dusen has served as mayor when the Skokie recycling program was enhanced and when major economic development projects were launched, such as the Illinois Science + Technology Park in downtown Skokie and a new Oberweis Dairy and remodeled Kaufman’s delicatessen in the West Dempster Street area.
Under Van Dusen, a flurry of new restaurants in downtown Skokie have opened and infrastructure improvements to McCormick Boulevard, Dempster Street, Skokie Boulevard and Old Orchard Road have been undertaken, he said.
The village has not been without controversy during the mayor’s tenure. Despite decreasing crime statistics reported by Skokie Police, some residents have voiced concerns that Skokie does not feel as safe as it once was. A town hall meeting held a couple of years ago brought several hundred people to Niles West High School to voice concerns about crime and other issues in the village. That led to the creation of Skokie Voice, an active residents’ association that has worked with the mayor and the village to improve communication since its inception.
Under Van Dusen, the village is also considering a controversial program that would license most rental units in Skokie. The plan has met with anger from many landlords. The Village Board also considered and ultimately voted against a controversial plan that would have reduced the width of downtown Oakton Street, but plans to improve Oakton are moving forward under the mayor and the Village Board.
Whether Van Dusen will see opposition during the April 9 election remains to be seen. No one has yet stepped forward.
The mayor also noted that the village has been awarded AAA bond ratings by both Fitch and Moody under his watch. Skokie’s rate of indebtedness is among the lowest of Cook County municipalities, he said.
The village’s accomplishments, he said, are due to “close collaboration and cooperation between elected officials, Skokie’s residents and businesses and our professional staff.”
“I look forward to building on this path to success and future improvements,” he said about seeking a new term.
Van Dusen has held various posts with the Northwest Municipal Conference, the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, where he currently is chairman, the Northwest Council of Mayors and the Metro Mayors Conference. He also serves on the Illinois Humanities Council.
The mayor said that he wants to continue to oversee premiere services, economic and infrastructure upgrades, preservation and protection of neighborhoods, public safety and prudent financing and budgeting.
Before he became mayor, Van Dusen served as village trustee in Skokie since 1984. He was the director of suburban operations and a legislative assistant for U.S. Congressman Sidney Yates from 1973 through Yates’ retirement in 1999.~.