Thursday night Mayor Sue Low and former Mayor Steve Cuda spoke to a full house at the League of Women Voters/AAUW forum at the Shah Center in McHenry.
The turnout was astounding, compared to the anemic ones for McHenry County College Board, Crystal Lake City Council and Marengo Aldrermanic forums.
Makes me think of my father’s advice about selecting a room. He ran a lot of meetings in his trade association career.
His advice: “Better to pick a room too small than too large” and “better to bring chairs in than to have empty ones.”
From what the two candidates said, it is hard to figure out what brought out the crowd.
There was dissatisfaction expressed by Cuda about Walmart’s having jumped across the tollway right-of-way to Johnsburg.
Low mentioned that Cuda had been Mayor when the boundary agreement had been drawn up.
Cuda countered with a copy of the agreement and the statement that the land where Walmart built was already annexed into Johnsburg when the line was drawn between McHenry and Johnsburg.
Also on Walmart, Cuda said he would have said, “Whatever Johnsburg offers you, we’ll go you one better. We never should have let Walmart leave McHenry.”
“We offered to match any offer Johnsburg made,” Low rejoined. “They don’t want to remodel. They want to build new.”
Cuda also criticized Low on a planned new Metra train station having been moved from McHenry to Johnsburg.
It came up on a question of whether McHenry should have the same engineering firm as Johnsburg.
“I think Johnsburg has certainly gotten the better of McHenry.
“I don’t know how the train station got moved to Johnsburg.
“[If I get elected, there will be a] good discussion with the city engineer. If loyalties don’t lie with the City of McHenry, we’ll have a serious discussion,” Cuda said.
That followed Low’s response to the question of whether it was good to share an engineering firm.
She pointed out that the two municipalities dealt with different engineers.
“I believe it’s a good think to collaborate with your neighbors.”
Cuda also criticized the Metra plan to run trains through Petersen Park. He even has a photo of the tracks in his campaign brochure, along with a photo of the Petersen Park sign.
The city’s public works garage came in for criticism from Cuda.
He called it a “boondoggle and a money pit.”
Toward the end of his two terms in the 1990’s, Cuda favored building a $6 million garage at the South Waste Water Plant. Instead, he pointed out, the city bought a 50-year old building that, with renovations, will cost $6 million.
Low countered that Cuda’s site was “so far out of the center of town.”
She outlined the expenditures for the current garage:
- $3.2 million purchase price with ten acres
- $1.2 million to make it “useful”
- $1.2 million for a new roof
That totaled $5.6 million for 9,800 square feet, large enough to park all vehicles inside and located “right in the center of town.” She later called it “a state of the art building.”
In response to a question about whether campaigning was negative, Cuda replied, “I really don’t think so.”
He pointed to four campaign pieces, one of which was available on a table outside the room.
“I did refer to the Public Works Garage as a boondoggle,” he admitted.
“I do think some things have been said in a hurtful manner,” Low said. “You have no control over [what your campaign supporters say] as I can’t control [mine].”
Asked how much their campaigns would cost, Cada got a laugh by saying, “As much as my wife will let me.”
He revealed he had spend $7,500 and thought he would spend $10,000–about what he spent 16 years ago.
No campaign receipts have been revealed on the State Board of Elections web site for Cuda, although the Committee to Re-Elect Steve Cuda Mayor was created on Feb. 14th. Committees have to be formed when they raise or spend $3,000, but campaign contributions of under $1,000 don’t have to be revealed until after the election.
Low had $9,230 available at the end of last year and has reported one contribution of over $1,000 since then from 1110 Green, LLC, based in Chicago.
As I left I was still uncertain why so many people turned out, while attendance at other candidates’ forums has been so low.
One person suggested that it may just be that this is the first contested mayoral race since Sue Low’s husband Tom and a third candidate faced off 16 years ago. That campaign, Cuda won.