Forest Park’s 2007 mayoral election is now officially underway, with Village Commissioner Patrick Doolin declaring his candidacy on Monday.
Doolin, elected as a commissioner in 2003, has become Mayor Anthony Calderone’s most vocal opponent, making frequent allegations of everything from dishonesty and mismanagement to outright corruption.
In his official declaration of candidacy, he does not shy away from these positions.
“The residents of Forest Park need to know that they have a choice: old school political business as usual or new school back to basics public service based on one simple principle: ethics. Our current Mayor offers the former. I pledge to offer you the latter,” writes Doolin.
Calderone said he had long anticipated Doolin’s challenge. “I can’t say that I’m necessarily surprised,” he said, referencing the Review’s 2003 endorsement of Doolin for commissioner in which it was stated that he seemed even then to be gearing up for a run for mayor.
“The first time around, had our administration not been as successful as we were, he probably would have tried running for mayor in 2003,” said Calderone. “He probably wanted to get his feet wet, and now he probably feels he has a better understanding of government.”
“He and anyone else has the right to run and I wish him the best of luck,” added Calderone.
Doolin, in his declaration, writes that the village is “under siege by self-serving special interests in the form of do nothing consultants being given no-bid contracts, campaign contributors looking for political favor and getting it, and developers being handed quick, high-density profit?”
He accuses the mayor of opening up the village to “infamous political power brokers from outside our community.”
“I will eliminate the unconscionable waste that I have witnessed first hand over the past seven years,” since Calderone was elected Mayor, Doolin vows in the declaration.
“I will embrace and implement open and transparent government as it has never been seen before in this village. I will not create a comprehensive plan then ignore it as our current Mayor has,” he continues.
Calderone said he plans to focus his campaign on the issues vital to Forest Parkers rather than the well publicized grudge between himself and Doolin.
“Since the first time I ever ran for elected office in 1995 [for commissioner] my belief then and now is to run what I define as an above board campaign and to focus on the issues because I believe the public doesn’t care what I think of a particular person, they care about the issues that affect the residents of Forest Park,” he said.
Both candidates say they plan to run individually rather than bringing along a slate.
“My position is and always will be that at this level of government slate and coalition politics is not appropriate. It’s not the tradition in Forest Park and that’s not how I see local politics,” said Doolin.
Calderone, who ran with a slate in his last bid for mayor, was less conclusive.
“At this point my plan is to just run individually. I tried to associate myself with a slate in the election of ’03 and it created a lot of controversy. Myself and my volunteers will sit down sometime and begin strategizing and talk further about slate vs. no slate,” he said.
Another issue emphasized by Doolin in his declaration is the differing approaches to campaign financing between himself and Calderone. Doolin pledges to fund his campaign with his own personal money and only accept contributions “from those that support my candidacy because they believe in good government, honest government, fair government, and above all, ethical government.”
He promises not to accept money from village employees, from developers, vendors or consultants doing business with the village, or from other politician’s campaign funds.
Calderone has come under criticism in the past for accepting contributions from these types of sources, but has always emphatically denied engaging in any sort of political kickbacks.
In the past, he has noted that, unlike Doolin, he does not have the money necessary to fund a campaign on his own. He has repeatedly claimed that he does not even review his campaign contributors list, and that all his fundraising is conducted through volunteers.
In return, Doolin has accused Calderone of “burying his head in the sand.”
Some have expressed a concern in the past that, if elected Mayor, Doolin would rid the village of the numerous employees he has had run-ins with over the year.
In the last year alone, Doolin has had public disputes with Public Works Director Bob Kutak, Police Chief James Ryan, Village Administrator Michael Sturino, and Deputy Village Clerk, Sally Cody, among others.
Asked if he planned to “clean house” if elected, Doolin said that “if people do their job and are responsible, no one has anything to fear,” but added that “I can state emphatically that I will not keep the police chief.”
Though she has not made an official declaration, many village insiders seem convinced that Commissioner Theresa Steinbach, who has joined Doolin in opposing Calderone and his majority, is also planning a run for mayor. If this were to occur, all three candidates would first face off in a primary election to select the two that would run against one another for mayor in April.
“If Steinbach makes that decision that’ll be her decision. I’m independent of her. We often think alike, we both make good commissioners and quite frankly I think we’d both make good mayors, but there can only be one mayor,” said Doolin.