LAKE FOREST — Both Melanie Rummel and Paul Hamann want to represent Ward 2 on the Lake Forest City Council, and they present a different set of priorities to voters.
Hamann believes the city’s fire, police and municipal pensions are the most important issue, while Rummel wants to concentrate on a variety of priorities as well as pensions.
Rummel and Hamann shared their views with more than 125 people during a debate March 12 at Lake Forest High School sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.
Hamann spent most of his discussion time on the subject of pensions, saying he thinks the liability is growing too fast and the recipients are getting too much.
“There is no simple answer,” said Hamann. “They work for 30 years and get paid for 60 years. In 31 years they get paid $9 million.”
Rummel was more general during the debate, saying in her introduction she is a Lake Forest native educated in its schools. She was a member of Lake Forest Elementary School District 67 Board of Education as well as its president.
When asked the top issues, Rummel recognized police and fire pension obligations as well as those potentially imposed by state are important. She also mentioned economic development and the opportunity for growth.
Hamann and Rummel also expressed different points of view when asked about Amtrak. Both want to see Lake Forest become a stop for the national passenger railway, but Hamann does not want to see an underground walkway between the east and west sides of the West Lake Forest depot. He said nothing about the impact of a proposal to add three daily round trips on Amtrak.
Rummel staked out her position on the proposal to add the Amtrak trains to the existing service between Chicago and Milwaukee. She also said she wants to see expanded Metra service on the west side of town as well as further study of the possible Amtrak expansion.
“What we need is an environmental impact study to see the impact it will have on our city,” said Rummel. “We have to work with our federal representatives in Washington.”
Another question posed to the candidates was their views on Lake Forest’s sustainability plan. Rummel offered a broad brush approach while Hamann looked at specific environmental issues.
“The number of people who drive their children to school is too much. It will be better for the environment if (the children) walk,” said Hamann. “We should freeze salaries,” he added using his remaining time answering the question to talk about pension reform.
Rummel stressed the recently adopted sustainability plan and maintenance of open spaces. She spoke of the beach and native plantings.
Both Hamann and Rummel gave their thoughts on affordable housing in Lake Forest in response to a question. Hamann was specific saying people living in a $900,000 home can still qualify for food stamps.
“Affordable housing is supposed to be for teachers and some of them make $170,000 a year,” said Hamann.
Affordable housing is a multi-pronged issue, according to Rummel. She said the development going up on the northwest corner of Laurel and Western Avenues is an example of how to integrate affordable housing into Lake Forest.
“The apartments start at $1,800 a month but there are affordable units at $1,000,” said Rummel. “Condos start at $500,000. We need places for empty nesters who want to downsize their housing.”