The topic of working with the local business community dominated a recent forum for Deerfield trustee candidates.
Five candidates are seeking three open positions on the Village Board: Jerry Kayne and Robert Nadler are challenging the three incumbents — Alan Farkas, Mary Oppenheim and Barbara Struthers.
Farkas could not attend the March 14 event at the Patty Turner Center, hosted by the League of Women Voters, but a League representative read an opening and closing statement on his behalf.
The audience asked questions ranging from economic development; infrastructure needs; bicycle and pedestrian safety; whether the candidates had time to devote to being a village trustee; and how to plan for the growing senior population.
Struthers stressed her involvement in revitalizing Deerfield's formerly "sad and deteriorating" downtown during her two terms on the board, and said the focus should shift to vacancies in other commercial areas, like Cadwell's Corners and Deerbrook Mall.
"I have advocated putting together a retail business group to look at this, a volunteer group," Struthers said. "We save a lot of money with our volunteer committees."
Kayne, who previously served one term on the village board beginning in 2001, called economic development "a communication issue."
He said the best way to increase new business "is to make the environment in Deerfield a good place to do business. So contact with the current business owners on what works and doesn't work, what they think can be improved, so that it's more of a communication with the current businesses and putting out the word that this is a great place to do business and to flourish."
Nadler said the most crucial issue facing the village is retail sales tax revenue.
"Everything revolves around having a healthy economic base," he said. "For us to provide high quality services, we must fix the retail problem in town. We can't afford to have the poor conditions continue to persist at the two shopping centers that are in trouble — Cadwell's Corners and Deerbrook Mall."
Oppenheim said she has "no single agenda, no one cause, no axe to grind. I'm passionate about all the various areas in village government.
"My vision for Deerfield is a community that's safe, affordable and sustainable, with top quality services, up-to-date facilities, a solid tax base and flourishing businesses," Oppenheim said. "I'm dedicated to a village government that's responsive to residents, open to new ideas, so we can meet the challenges of the future with fresh solutions."
In a statement read by Kelly McShane of the League of Women Voters, Farkas didn't focus on specific issues, but cited the experience he's accrued during his first term.
"You have the benefit of my record and a wealth of information upon which to measure my bid for reelection," Farkas said, in the statement. "I am a progressive, bold, forward-thinking individual, but very conservative in my approach to financial management."