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Candidates weigh in on gambling in Sugar Grove

Candidates for various office seats wait Tuesday to introduce themselves to the audience at the meet the candidates forum at The Sugar Grove Community House in Sugar Grove.
Candidates for various office seats wait Tuesday to introduce themselves to the audience at the meet the candidates forum at The Sugar Grove Community House in Sugar Grove.

SUGAR GROVE – Candidates for Sugar Grove races had a chance to share their platforms, and some answered questions ranging from video gaming to government transparency at a candidate forum Tuesday.

Dozens of candidates from almost every race turned out to share their positions with the public. Candidates for township supervisor, trustee and village president answered a few questions.

Incumbent Sean Michels is facing challenger Kevin Geary, a village trustee, for village president. They were asked if they felt transparency has been an issue with the Village Board.

Geary said he didn’t believe the village has been as open as it could be, adding he wants to see village meetings streamed online.

“Not everyone has cable, but most of us have access to the Internet, or you could go to the library to view the live stream or archived meetings,” he said.

Michels, on the other hand, touted the Village Board’s transparency. He said the village has started sending out email blasts, and it regularly works with local newspapers. He said meetings also allow for public comment periods at the beginning and end of each meeting, and he rattled off numerous organizations of which board members are a part.

“There’s lots of involvement be people on the board,” he said. “The whole board is out in the community.”

The two candidates also were asked about funding for the defunct Prairie Parkway. Michels said he has been working “non-stop” since he found out that project would not be funded and has been reaching out to different government entities in the state and county to reallocate funds toward the project.

Geary said he supports using Prairie Parkway money to widen Route 47 or build an I-88 interchange. He said Route 47 “bottlenecks” as people head south, and it could be a safety issue to resolve traffic conditions. He said that would attract businesses because traffic easily would flow in and out of the village.

Trustee candidates also answered questions about what they feel are the biggest issues in this race, how they feel about legalizing video gambling and how they would attract new businesses to the village.

Many candidates acknowledged that video gaming is a hot topic, and most said they would follow voters’ decisions after they vote on an advisory referendum regarding the issue in April. The board recently reversed its ban on video gaming and plans to revisit the issue after the advisory referendum.

Trustee candidate Gale Deja-Schultz said her vote on video gambling would be based on the referendum. She said if it continues to go forward, she wants to look at video gambling on a case-by-case basis.

“If people are real gamblers, they’re not going to the American Legion, they’re going to Aurora where I’d personally like to keep gambling,” she said.

Candidate Sean Herron said he’s glad the matter is on the ballot, adding he has no stance because “it’s up to the people of Sugar Grove.”

“I don’t have an agenda. I have no preconceived ideas of what will or won’t work. If people say bring it, I will. It’s your call,” he said.

Incumbent Robert Bohler said he did agree to go along with the advisory referendum because of the strong feelings the community has about the issue, adding he thinks video gambling evens the playing field for businesses.

“I feel we need to be business friendly, and I hear time and time again that business isn’t friendly,” he said.

Candidate Stephanie Landorf said it makes no difference to her if video gambling is legal, but given the number of people who spoke out the night of the vote, she would have reconsidered making a decision.

“I wasn’t exactly thrilled that the board approved it before putting it out to a vote,” she said. “I’ll support whatever the residents voted for. They should decide.”

Incumbent Rick Montalto said he changed his mind when the American Legion came forward and asked to legalize gaming so it could generate enough revenue to stay open.

“I think we need to stand up for our veterans and support them,” he said. “That’s the reason I changed my vote.”

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