Village President Candidates Talk Business
The candidates for the Wilmette Village President position discussed their views for local businesses at a Chamber-sponsored forum on Monday.
Wilmette Village President candidates Mike Basil and Bob Bielinski discussed their plans to revamp downtown Wilmette, help businesses succeed and their other qualifications for the position at the Wilmette Chamber of Commerce's forum Monday night at the Wilmette Public Library.
Each candidate was given 10 minutes to speak and an additional 10 minutes to answer questions from the audience. The opposing candidate waited int he hallway while the other spoke, ensuring that they did not hear each other's viewpoints.
"Nobody in the last six years has been a stronger advocate for Wilmette business than me," Basil, who has been a Village Trustee for six years, said.
Basil discussed his involvement in the purchasing of the former Ford dealership land on Green Bay Rd. The village purchased the parcel for $3.675 million in the spring of 2011, and Village Board members said it was a crucial piece to revitalizing downtown. A Chicago-based real estate developement company — Lexington Homes — purchased the space for $4 million in Dec., and plans to six-story mixed-use space.
Basil also said that he plans to make it clear to local businesses that the government is there to help them.
"We need to be very attentive to the notion that local government needs to be there to help the businesses succeed. ... The government is not there to impede, instruct or regulate them out of existence."
Bob Bielinski, who spoke second at the forum, has been a member of the Village Board of Trustees for two years, and is currently the chairman of the board's finance committee.
Bielinski said that the Village needs to focus on revitalizing the downtown, keeping taxes low and "common sense regulation."
"It should be easy to open a business in Wilmette," he said, adding that he would like the Board to partner with the Chamber to promote businesses and festivals, such as Summerfest.
Bielinski discussed his visits to other Chicago suburbs with notable downtowns, such as La Grange. During the visits, he took notes and looked for things Wilmette could do to improve it's own downtown space.
"Residents should just be able to say, 'let's go downtown,'" Bielinski said, adding that he thinks new businesses would help create that.
Both candidates also mentioned their opponent's qualifications.
"Mike has been a very good trustee and friend," Bielinski said. "If I draw comparisons, they're not criticisms. I think I'm the better candidate, but Mike will also serve the Village well."
Basil spoke similarly, saying at the conclusion of his prepared speech, "The good news is in this election, you have two good choices — no matter which way you go, you're going to be in good hands."