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Only truly independent candidate

Back in October, when I announced my candidacy for Forest Park commissioner, I pledged to put partisan politics aside and seek only what is best for the village of Forest Park. During the election season, I organized an event at the Brown Cow, so interested residents could have a chance to meet all of the commissioner candidates. I discussed my views on local topics on community message boards, started my own blog to encourage dialog with residents, and have gone door-to-door seeking input from citizens in every part of the village.

Several months later, and just days before the election, I have stood firm in my desire to remain neutral in the mayoral race, even as every other candidate has aligned themselves with either Mayor Anthony Calderone or Theresa Steinbach. Although standing firm to the virtue of non-partisan politics may have cost me exposure in some circles, it also leaves voters with at least one true independent choice when they go to the polls on Tuesday, April 17.

As commissioner, I will make it a top priority to review the Comprehensive Plan and rewrite the zoning code so that they are consistent with our existing housing stock and our community goals. I will create a measurable plan for enhancing the Roosevelt Road retail district, as well as the area south of the Green Line on the north side of town. I will vote against taking homes for parking if the issue comes before the council again. I will champion these causes, not because they may advance the agenda of any particular mayoral candidate, but because they will be for the best interest of the village of Forest Park.

Next week we will elect a new village council. I think we deserve commissioners that are independent, clear, and steadfast in their decisions. That is why I, John Plepel, am asking for your vote on Tuesday, April 17.

John Plepel
Forest Park

Nyberg for change

The Forest Park Review wrote a number of negative things about me in its endorsement. I don't know if it's a problem for legislators to be too suspicious of those in power, but I'm pretty sure it is a problem when journalists are too gullible.

These are the priorities I seek to integrate with the issues of the mayor and other commissioners:

I will work to close the Reserve center on Roosevelt west of Circle. Putting this land to better use could be a spark in developing Roosevelt Road. And almost any use would generate more economic activity and tax revenue than a Reserve center.

As a former military officer and a former federal lobbyist I appreciate the complexity of the process for deciding which bases get closed by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission every three years. Forest Park should be working both the military and Congress. I will make sure Forest Park does engage our representatives in Washington.

Having some Army Reserve bureaucrat tell Forest Park "no" shouldn't be viewed as the final answer. Forest Park should keep working both Congress and the Department of Defense until we get what's in our interests.

I will pester the CTA to replace the exit-only turnstile on the Circle Avenue bridge with one that allows both entry and egress. Forest Park should support non-automobile transportation. If Oak Park's turnstiles can be changed, why not Forest Park's?

I want to make better use of the village website. As someone who manages a somewhat popular local website (Proviso Probe) I think I can make useful suggestions about what information residents want and can use. The first thing I'd like to add is a bulletin board for parking spaces. The website could be a single place to connect people who have parking with people who need parking.

Finally, I am the candidate who is advocating change in the police department. Mayor Calderone and Chief Jim Ryan claim everything is fine in the Forest Park Police Department. The evidence suggests otherwise. The village of Forest Park and its insurers paid over $500,000 because of the imbroglio caused by Lt. Michael Cody attacking officer Andrea Caines. The village has spent $200,000 (with the meter still running) to fire Sgt. Dan Harder for using the f-word. And the village would have spent a large sum if Lt. Steve Johnsen had contested the decision to fire him. With cops litigating against cops it's hard to believe that everything is "fine" in the Forest Park Police Department.

I was an active duty Navy officer for over seven years and a U.N. peacekeeper. I also investigated misconduct by Navy recruiters in my final tour. I will not allow cops to behave badly while dodging responsibility.

While I ask for the support of all Forest Parkers who choose to vote, I want to reiterate a point I've made on the campaign trail. The most important issue on the ballot is the Proviso Township High School board of education. Even if you're not going to vote for me, I encourage you to vote for the interests of Forest Park taxpayers and against the machine politics of school board president Chris Welch by electing the Education Reformers ticket: Ralph Harris, Kevin McDermott and Theresa Kelly.

Carl Nyberg
Forest Park

Campaign finance

Last month the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University, School of Law finished another study in their ongoing research series of state campaign finance laws. This time the subject of the report is Illinois. Here are just four problems brought to light in the report:

"Illinois has the weakest campaign finance laws in the five major states of the Midwest."

"Alone among major Midwestern states, Illinois places no restrictions on campaign contributions, allowing unlimited donations from any source."

"Disclosure laws, supposedly the bulwark against corruption, are easily evaded."

"The State Board of Elections has failed to enforce the law."

Anthony Calderone has said on numerous occasions that Illinois campaign finance laws are good enough for him and he follows them. I guess "good" depends a lot on who benefits.

According to the state's campaign finance disclosure website, these "good" laws allowed Calderone to take $4,000 from Storino, Ramello & Durkin (the village law firm), $6,500 from Christopher B. Burke Engineering (village engineering firm), $3,751 from the Armitage Corporation (property developer) and $1,000 from companies involved with disbarred attorney Anthony Bruno among many, many others. Of course Calderone likes the campaign laws; he has become the "poster child" for them.

I can tell you, without doubt or exception, that the losers in regard to these laws are every voter in Illinois except the politicians and their special interests.

When deciding on a candidate, I don't want my choices to amass piles of money from God knows where, I want public officials willing to serve their fellow citizens and campaign with the modest financing those same citizens can afford. I want them to be accountable to me, Joe Citizen. Who is Anthony Calderone accountable to?

Mark Hosty, Anthony Lazzara and Michael Curry have all stated that the Illinois campaign laws are good enough for them too. This worries me. Right now their campaigns are modest and not really chaffing at any limits but if elected, they will be exposed to a wide variety of influences that could become a temptation. I see a potential for problems especially since Calderone has moralized this behavior as "perfectly legal."

The 20-page Brennan center report not only cites the problems with Illinois laws but also recommends solutions. Those solutions, I might add, are pretty much the heart and soul of the Citizens United in Forest Park Campaign Finance Pledge. If you recall, the CUinFP pledge limits money from village employees, people doing business with Forest Park and outsiders with no in-town interests. All of the challenges put forth in the pledge are an attempt to keep our local elections local.

Theresa Steinbach, Martin Tellalian, Jerry Webster, Carl Nyberg and John Plepel have all signed the CUinFP Campaign Finance Pledge. By doing so, they have made a commitment to always work for us, the citizens of Forest Park.

Before closing, I must point out that some of the candidates who signed the pledge are CUinFP members. And, some of the candidates who did NOT sign the pledge are also CUinFP members.

To see the CUinFP pledge and those who signed it, log into: cuinfp.org

For a complete copy of the Brennan Center report, log into: www.brennancenter.org.

Steven Backman
Forest Park

Election mud

I read the article in the March 28 issue of the Review by Bill Dwyer about Mayor Calderone.

Why do people always wait just before an election to bring up dirt? If they have so many complaints and questions, why weren't they brought up before this?

Mayor Calderone has done a good job and worked hard for Forest Park. He may not be perfect, but who is? He knows the people who work for him and what they can do and how things are run. But most of all, he knows the people and the people know him.

I am sure Theresa Steinbach is a very nice person and means well, but being a mayor is not an easy job. She is not well known. Is Forest Park ready to take this chance? I don't think so.

Jim Golden
Forest Park

Lazzara for D91

As an active and interested mother of two elementary-aged boys I eagerly announce my candidacy as a write-in for a position on the District 91 school board. I have had the privilege over the past several years to witness the development of Forest Park and its schools; previously with my daughter, now a college student at Loyola University and currently as my sons attend Field-Stevenson School. Because of my roots here in Forest Park, I desire to see the community, its children and therefore its schools flourish and grow to a bright, productive and promising future.

Did you know that District 91's guiding principles state: "...we promote responsible involvement in the educational process by all citizens: students, parents, teachers, administrators and community members"? It is my desire that as a community and school district, we abide by these principles and foster greater involvement between our parents, teachers and neighbors. We need to answer the questions of: What is our philosophy of education? How can we best educate students from diverse backgrounds? Are we addressing our special education needs?

The word "public" in public school means that it is us, the citizens of Forest Park, who should shepherd the care and education being provided to our children. I pledge that when you elect me, Kristine Lazzara, on April 17, to the District 91 school board, I will work to fulfill the mission of educating our students and engaging parents and teachers to ensure that the future of Forest Park remains vibrant and prosperous.

Kristine Lazzara
Forest Park

D91 write-in

I am adding my name to the growing list of great people running as write-in candidates for a two-year term on the Forest Park school board. I have lived with my family in Forest Park for 14 years. My husband John and I have three children, ages 15, 13 and 9, all of whom have attended public school in Forest Park. My oldest son is in high school, my daughter is currently a student at the middle school and my youngest son is a student at Garfield school.

I have been an assistant Cook County state's attorney for 15 years and am currently assigned to the criminal appeals division. I am also an active member of our community. I have taught religious education at St. Bernardine Parish for 12 years and currently teach fifth-grade. I was a Girl Scout leader from 2001 through 2004 at Garfield school. I have served on the Auxiliary Board of Forest Park Little League. As a parent, I have volunteered at my children's schools and am a member of the PTA and middle school boosters.

I believe I possess the qualities and commitment to serve as part of the team that will continue to promote academic excellence in Forest Park schools. I would be thrilled and honored to serve the students of this school district and the entire community.

Mary Needham Turek
Forest Park

Proviso First

I want to thank the Forest Park Review editors for giving me their endorsement. I also appreciate the paper's call to the public to give the District 209 board of education election the "time of day."

Because the election process only allows sound bytes and monologues, it was unfortunate that no forum was really made available to all the candidates in the 209 BOE race.

To set the record straight, my colleagues Robin Foreman and Carla Johnson are neither bureaucrats nor politicians. Some of their qualities have gone unnoticed. Robin's experience with people and as a proven manager is valuable to the stabilization of the fragmented BOE. She will be a catalyst for remedying complacency. Carla Johnson understates her role as administrative assistant to Sen. Kimberly Lightford for the past eight years. Ask any CEO or senior executive how important their assistants truly are. She will be a conduit to the BOE in researching and monitoring state policies, and her "can do energy" is clearly an asset for the daunting tasks ahead of us.

The Proviso First Party is a team I'm proud to be on and one that will serve the entire Proviso community well. We are running because we are stakeholders in the Proviso community. We are a fresh start. I see nothing gained to align myself to anyone or anything but principles and common sense. This is common ground we the Proviso First candidates all share.

Bob Cox
Forest Park

Vote Curry, Tellalian

Kudos to the Review, Chamber of Commerce, Main Street and Citizens United in Forest Park for sponsoring the series of candidates' forums.

Attending the forums gave interested residents the opportunity to get to know the seven commission candidates who have never before sought elected office in Forest Park, Their responses to tough questions and their expressed vision for the future of the community indicated that each would be a good addition to the board.

Two candidates, however, I think, particularly stood out. Mike Curry and Marty Tellalian have been serving Forest Park with distinction and without a lot of publicity for several years now.

Mike Curry, now the chairman of the zoning board, has gained a great deal of knowledge about the workings of our local government. He has vowed to work with all elected officials and members of the community for our common good.

Marty Tellalian, currently a member of the planning commission, has a history of community service. As a member of the commission he has opposed variances that would change the character of our neighborhoods.

Both Mike Curry and Marty Tellalian have promised to work toward revising our building and zoning codes. Both would make great additions to the board of commissioners. Both deserve your vote on April 17.

Barbara Plona
Forest Park

Ignore the rants

Last week, Forest Park Review columnist Bill Dwyer wrote an editorial discrediting Mayor Calderone. The editorial was filled with innuendos, half-truths and issues that were not supported by facts. Pieces of the article dealt with private and confidential police department personnel issues, of which Mr. Dwyer could have had no idea. Personnel matters are confidential. Mr. Dwyer does not seem interested in pursuing or printing facts, only his clearly biased opinion.

Thursday night at the candidates' forum, Terry Steinbach used her allotted time and even went over her time to highlight those issues she perceives as flaws in Mayor Calderone's administration, of which she is a part, instead of outlining her agenda for the future of Forest Park. She continued to personally attack Mayor Calderone. Ms. Steinbach claims not to engage in negative campaigning, but it is apparent to me that she does not possess the courage, conviction or ability to talk about either her past performance or plans for the future.

Mayor Calderone on the other hand has a proven track record of progress in Forest Park, and he speaks with passion and confidence for his plans and vision of Forest Park's future.

I urge the voters of Forest Park not to be confused by Bill Dwyer's meaningless rants, but instead to listen to the issues and vote for Mayor Calderone's agenda of continued fiscal responsibility, responsible growth, development, safety and security for all of Forest Park.

Mike Kollias
Forest Park

Buying favor

I am one of those residents who believe our interests are taking a back seat to the contractors, business owners and "slick politicos in Proviso Township" (your description-mine might be less civilized) who so generously contribute to Mayor Calderone's campaign fund. Does anyone believe these contributors are not given favored treatment because of these contributions? I for one am distrustful of anyone who sees no conflict of interest here. I also think the questions appearing in Bill Dwyer's column need some answers. Why don't these questions cause concern among Calderone supporters? Are they dismissed because the mayor appears at block parties and grooves in the grove? 

How do you endorse someone for office "reluctantly?" Is it with "trepidation?" If you believe that this present administration has over-spent, over-stepped, overrun, over-managed, over-ruled and been overly reluctant to be open with residents, then a "no endorsement for mayor" would make more sense to me.

I am supporting Terry Steinbach for the office because of her honesty, integrity, refusal to engage in "pay to play" politics and concern for this village and its future. I believe she will keep the interests of both business owners and residents at the forefront. And regardless of who you vote for, everyone needs to get out and exercise their right to vote. It's shameful that such a low percentage of registered voters do that.

Donna McKune
Forest Park

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