SPRING VALLEY – Spring Valley Mayor Cliff Banks came out swinging at Tuesday’s mayoral forum, sponsored by the Bureau County Republican, and held in the John F. Kennedy gym.
“Four years ago you elected me,” he said. “You wanted change and change you got.”
Banks and his opponents for the mayoral seat – Aldermen Walt Marini and Jack Narczewski – took turns offering opening statements and responding to questions posed by moderator and BCR publisher Sam Fisher.
They also took a few swipes at each other in the process.
In his opening statement, Banks listed his accomplishments as mayor, including being on every drug bust that has occurred in the town. He also criticized the city council.
“It takes a council to work with me,” he said. “If they worked as hard working with me as they did fighting with me, we’d have gotten two times as much done.”
Marini took a different tone, reviewing his personal and work history. He has served as an alderman for the Third Ward for 12 years, and served as finance chairman for five years.
“As a result of my past experiences, I feel like I’m the most qualified candidate to be the mayor of Spring Valley,” he said.
Narczewski, who has been on the board for two years, touted his experience serving 18 years on the Spring Valley Police Department and 10 years as Bureau County sheriff.
He then told Banks he was irritated with his accusations toward the council.
“Mr. Banks, Mayor Banks, I think you’re way off-base on this,” he said. “I’m getting a little tired of you always blaming somebody else for your misgivings.”
The candidates were also asking whether they supported the Hall High School referendum for $32 million for a new high school facility.
Banks praised the Hall and Spring Valley Elementary school districts, but stopped short of supporting the referendum.
“Do we need a new high school? Yes,” he said. “Can the people of Spring Valley afford a new high school? That’s a tough one to answer.”
Marini said he did support the referendum, and that if the referendum fails, voters will need to spend $18 million to repair the school.
Narczewski said it was up to the voters in the Hall High School District to decide.
“Do we need a new high school?” he said. “I agree.”
The division between the aldermen and Banks was also discussed.
Marini said there needs to be a working relationship and good communication.
Narczewski said there has been a division that started four years ago when Banks was elected.
“When a sitting mayor threatens to take a guy out for a walk ... it’s time has to change,” he said, referring to a situation with Banks and an alderman in November 2012.
Banks said his perspective on the issue was different. He said he doesn’t have a council that works with him, in part because he wasn’t born and raised in Spring Valley, his cuts in unnecessary spending, and his complaints about a $1.1 million water and sewer project that is “going to nowhere.”
“They never cared for me from Day 1,” he said. “They would not involve me in anything.”
During his rebuttal on the question, Marini said the city extended the water and sewer when St. Margaret’s planned to build a new hospital across from St. Bede Academy. He said the economic downturn that caused St. Margaret’s to change its plans was just “bad luck.”
Narczewski said the investment in the project eventually will pay dividends.
Banks said the city should not have done the work without a contract.
“They give too much away,” he said.
When asked why the voters should choose them, Banks said he believes in Spring Valley.
“I’m a stepper,” he said. “Noting gets in my way that I don’t step over.”
Marini said he would govern with professionalism and integrity.
Narczewski said he learned a lot about budgets and personnel during his years as sheriff.
“I will bring professionalism back into the mayor’s office,” he said.
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