With Commissioner Patrick Doolin’s announcement that he is running for the office of mayor of Forest Park next year, the election period is officially open. (Well, actually the filing period isn’t for a few months, but the politicking has begun). Political newcomer John Plepel is the only other villager to announce their candidacy so far. However, the next two months should be filled with announcements of more candidates, some familiar, and some unknown. Here is a crib sheet of the elections affecting the entire village.

Governor: Rod Blagojevich vs. Judy Baar Topinka This one is a coin flip. Not because it will be close, but because I would rather not vote for either one. I hate when candidates use children in their political television commercials. As if these kids know what they are doing. It dumbs-down the candidate’s message, if they have one, and it insults our collective intelligence. Because I generally vote Democratic, I was leaning toward voting for Rod while holding my nose until I read a report that the wife of one of the governor’s close friends got a state job. Shortly thereafter a $1,500 check was written by the friend not to the campaign fund, but to the governor’s child as a “birthday present.” Now I’m only going to vote for Rod if he adopts me.

County Board President: Todd Stroger vs. Anthony J. Peraica God help our country if there exists a more corrupt county than our own Cook County. I guess we’re supposed to believe that the son that almost no one had ever heard of is qualified to sit at the helm of a $3 billion budget. Try again. I don’t know much about Peraica except that he isn’t a Cook County Democrat. That’s enough for me this year.

Mayor of Forest Park Doolin is in and it will be the biggest shock in the village in some time if Mayor Calderone doesn’t try for a three-peat. Will there be others? Who knows? But what I do know is that it will be personal, expensive (by Forest Park standards) and filled with enough vitriol to deflect attention from real, substantive issues affecting the village. One focus will be on the circus the police department has become. While this subject will have a great impact on a small number of people in the village and generate headlines in the months to come, issues like residential development in the village, which affects just about everyone, will unfortunately take a back seat.

Village Commissioner Since the top four make it, this election is more like a scrum. It will thankfully be less personal than the mayoral election, and therefore easier for the voters to flesh the opinions and views of the candidates on several issues. This is where the major topic of development will be kicked around thoroughly. I expect there to be a primary in this race, which means we’ll see at least nine candidates. The evidence of total splits of opinions peppered with personal rancor has become tiresome. I believe the residents of this village will look for candidates who vote their own conscience and can work with those officials with differing opinions in reaching decisions that are in the best interest of the residents of the village. Political newcomers with no known allegiances will have a great chance to win one or even two of these seats.

Park District Commissioners With Larry Piekarz taking the helm early next year, this is a great time to get new blood on the Park District Board. The boards of the past 20 years or so have been lethargic caretakers for too long. While this year’s strides in revamping the current structures, adding the skate park and walking track, and showing movies in the park are welcome additions, the new board will need to look to the future and make some bold moves. Personally, I would like to see some follow up on the almost yearly declaration of acquiring new property.

Forest Park School Board Here again, this new board will be dealing almost immediately with a new superintendent as Dr. Randolph Tinder retires in 2007. Recently, there has been much scuttle around town about outsiders taking advantage of our school system and a perceived sense of gang activity, especially at the middle school. A lot of people, particularly on forestpark.com, seem to have various solutions to these issues. Here is your chance to effect change. Five of the seven board seats will be up for election this spring, and the school board elections are rarely contested.

The quality of the candidates in statewide and county races is already a disappointment. Hopefully, in the village races we will see candidates more concerned about the welfare of all the people in town than dividing up the spoils of their offices among friends, family, and political hangers on.

One can only hope. Enjoy the show.