Donahue looks to oust long-time incumbent Calabresa from Lake County Board
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:07PM
Republican Dan Donahue of Libertyville is challenging 25-year incumbent board member Carol Calabresa of Libertyville in the March 20 race for Lake County Board District 15.
It is the first primary challenge Calabresa has faced in 14 years.
Donahue, 58, is running for the County Board for the first time. Before moving to Libertyville about six years ago, he lived in Cook County and worked on several campaigns to help elect Republicans to the Illinois state senate from 1988-2002. He is employed as a project manager for Postl-Yore and Associates, an engineering and architecture firm in Rolling Meadows.
Calabresa, 68, has served on the County Board since 1986 and is the second-longest serving member of the County Board. As a County Board member, she also serves on the Lake County Forest Preserve Board and was past president of the forest preserve board from 1998-2000.
Donahue said he’s running because he believes it’s time for new blood on the board.
“She’s a nice lady but she’s been there too long,” he said. “I think our community would benefit from a stronger advocate.”
Donahue said the primary motivation behind his decision to run was the county’s handling of the proposed master plan for the County Farm campus in Libertyville. He believes county officials, including Calabresa, were not responsive to many of the concerns neighbors had about the plan.
“I couldn’t understand why our county commissioner couldn’t stand for her constituents,” he said.
Calabresa said she has been very responsive to constituent concerns over the years as evidenced by her many years of service to the district. “I think he’s just trying to find a political issue,” said Calabresa, regarding Donahue’s criticism of the county’s handling of the County Farm issue.
Calabresa believes what sets her apart from her opponent is her many years of experience on the County Board and extensive knowledge of county budgeting and forest preserve issues.
“I think in this tough economy, it’s very important to have a representative who is fiscally conservative with a proven record of cutting spending and reducing budgets,” she said.
Donahue said reducing the growth and cost of county government would be his top priorities if elected to the County Board. “We’ve got to take a critical look at what our core services should be,” he said.
Donahue said improving the transportation system in the county is also very important for economic development and job creation. He supports the northern extension of Route 53 into Lake County.
“The future growth of the county is in the western part of the county,” he said. “Until its transportation issues are addressed, we will not be able to count on that area for future development.”
Calabresa said years ago she opposed the Route 53 extension for environmental reasons but now thinks the roadway can be built in a environmentally sensitive way. She is waiting for the report of the Illinois Route 53 Blue Ribbon Advisory Council, a group up of county and municipal officials, business leaders, environmentalists and others that were appointed by the tollway to reach a consensus on Route 53.
“If this can be done in an environmentally sensitive way which I think this new committee will be able to accomplish, I will be able to support it,” she said.
Regarding the county’s Winchester House nursing home, Donahue believes the county waited too long before addressing the deficits at the nursing home and should have moved more quickly toward privatization of the facility. He believes the county should have considered other options for providing services for the residents, such as exploring whether there were sufficient beds available in private facilities, before approving plans for a new Winchester House.
“I want to see that all the options are explored and that the option of building a new Winchester House is the right thing to do,” he said.
Calabresa, who serves on the Winchester House Advisory Council, believes the county has made the right decisions on Winchester House.
Calabresa said she supported privatization of the management of the nursing home because the facility’s wage and benefit costs were higher than most nursing home facilities in the area and operating costs were exceeding the nursing home’s tax levy.
However, with the new management, she believes the nursing home will be able to control costs while continuing to provide quality care for seniors.
“I support the building of a new Winchester House,” she said. “I think we need to protect our most vulnerable people to make sure they’re taken care of in their time of need.”
No golf course
Regarding one of the major forest preserve issues, both Calabresa and Donahue oppose building a new golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.
Calabresa said she was one of the only members of the Fort Sheridan Master Plan Advisory Committee who opposed construction of a new golf course at Fort Sheridan. She said several studies have confirmed golf course rounds are down around the country and the local golf market is saturated.
“This was confirmed by the total non-response to our bid request for construction of a nine-hole golf course at Fort Sheridan,” she said.
Calabresa supports asking the U.S. Army to remove the deed restriction requiring a golf course be maintained on the property so that the site can preserved as a natural preserve along Lake Michigan.
Donahue also does not think the county should build a golf course at Fort Sheridan and believes the county should talk to the Army about getting the deed restriction on the property lifted.
“I don’t think the county should be in the golf course business,” he said. “I don’t think the county should compete with the private sector. It’s not a core mission of the county.”
County Board District 15 is comprised of the village of Libertyville and part of Mundelein.