Tom Benigno wants to restore police cuts made by Tannhauser, improve crumbling Village infrastructure
Norridge Village President hopeful Tom Benigno held his first campaign rally at his Irving Park Road office.
Due to COVID-19, the Benigno campaign limited the number of people inside the office at one time, and live streamed the event on its Facebook page.
“Did you know that the new Norridge budget for 2021 cut $600,000 off the Norridge police department? $600,000.” Benigno said.
“All 20 of the auxiliary police have been cut.”
Benigno stated Norridge had more police on the street in 2013 than currently.
“Does that make you feel safe at night? No. That’s insane! Especially in these troubled times we live in”.
“Norridge is not in a bubble”, Benigno continued. He cited examples of increasing crime, including the robbery of a Walgreens, a Citgo gas station, numerous home break ins, and a fatal stabbing on Lawrence.
“Last Sunday, a 9 year old boy was attacked 2 blocks from the police station. That could have been your child, that could have been my child, in that situation”.
“Cut the police department? Does that make the neighborhood safer? I don’t think so”.
Benigno also broached the subject of consolidating police departments with other area departments, a discussion long sought by fiscal conservatives in Norridge.
“We should [look at] combining our resources with neighboring Villages, to have more police on the street”.
Land purchases, local schools, infrastructure, and government attitudes
Benigno made mention of the multiple land purchases the Village has made the past few years, including some being sold at a loss, such as the Village-owned piece of the show property, now known as the “Norridge Marketplace“.
Benigno also took issue with the current administration’s hands-off approach to the issues faced by local schools.
He said the same issues exist today at the schools as when he first ran for office eight years ago, including money shortages, and maintenance problems.
“I know there are school boards in place, and the school boards are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have”, Benigno said.
“[The Norridge Improvement Party] administration … washed their hands of the school boards, telling them ‘you have a school board, the schools are your problem'”.
“But the last time I looked, the schools are in Norridge!”
Benigno suggested putting together a working group with Village residents and the school boards to raise funds for local schools from education grants, and private sector foundation money.
“You can’t always run to taxpayers to foot the bill. It’s not right”.
On Norridge’s infrastructure, he showed several photos of broken curbs and sidewalks, including a big hole in front of Leigh school.
“You see that hole? That was there all summer, and kids play around there.”
Benigno said infrastructure in general within Norridge has not been maintained.
“Go anywhere you want in the Village and you will see curbs and sidewalks that need work”, Benigno said.
“Some of the alleys don’t even have sewers in them. And they flood”.
Finally, Benigno addressed the current atmosphere at the Norridge Village hall, and the “outsider” attitude from Village officials to community involvement from those who are not supporters of the Norridge Improvement Party.
“That’s the way they want you to feel… if you’re not part of that chosen few, they don’t want to know you.”
“Neighbors, this is our neighborhood … We should be here working together to benefit Norridge. Not to benefit the ‘chosen few’.”
Bengino emphasized positive changes coming if he is elected Village President, including community meetings “for all of Norridge”.
“I will have an open and transparent administration. And I won’t forget that I work for you, and not the other way around”.
Benigno said when he moved to Norridge 25 years ago, his “dream came true”. Norridge had “great community spirit” that no longer exists.
“When you elect me Village President, I will make that dream I had a reality again for all of us”.