It is with some trepidation that we offer up our endorsement for mayor in this year’s election, not for any great shortcoming in this person’s candidacy, but for the flaws that exist in all three candidates.
It’s always preferable that voters would have several options on Election Day, however, Forest Park needs one more. Patrick Doolin, Anthony Calderone and Terry Steinbach have brought more heat than light to the village in the last four years and none stands out as a clear choice to lead this community. Forest Park needs one more candidate who demonstrates an unselfish and wholly mature character and is willing to serve the greater good.
That said, Patrick Doolin is the only candidate committed to addressing the root of so many problems at village hall, and for that, he has our endorsement.
Forest Park’s commission form of government is antiquated and inefficient. As Doolin has rightfully pointed out, policy makers have no place meddling in the day-to-day affairs of municipal government. Giving our elected officials administrative control blurs the lines of authority and adds chaos to the flow of information. The ability of department heads, the village administrator and others working in an oversight capacity to effectively manage their staff is severely undermined by the constant threat of political interference. Nowhere in the state laws that prescribe the five departments that must exist in the commission form of government does it say that each commissioner must be knowledgeable.
Regardless of intent, a benevolent despot is no less dangerous than a malicious despot.
Anthony Calderone and Terry Steinbach, the other candidates in this race, both emphatically stated their support for the commission form of government. According to Steinbach, Doolin’s proposal to give administrative powers strictly to municipal employees is in some way a shirking of responsibility. In Forest Park, commissioners do not run to be the superintendent of a particular department. As such, voters aren’t electing department heads. We elect commissioners for the value they place on financial restraint, ethics, property development and other facets of community life.
Steinbach’s diligence in monitoring village finances is perhaps her strongest quality, and she deserves a seat at the table. Unfortunately, she is not deserving of the mayor’s office.
Calderone’s tenure as mayor since 1999 has been progressive and forward thinking. He deserves our thanks. However, Calderone also serves as a perfect example of why Doolin’s stance on administrative authority is so important.
Under the commission form of government, Calderone did not overstep his bounds in attempting to broker a punitive agreement with a former police officer. By stepping into the fray only to later bow to his police chief, which he claims is the case, Calderone does nothing but muddy the waters. Employees are left wondering who to turn to for the final word.
Over the years Calderone has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in political contributions from village employees and contractors. He’s also given money to political appointees serving in various municipal functions. His cavalier attitude toward pay-to-play government smacks of arrogance and will only breed contempt among residents.
Further, we are not supporters of a “mayor for life” mentality. Eight years is enough.
Doolin has vowed not to accept money from village employees or anyone doing business with the village. He is also calling for the clean and consistent handling of public information requests, something the village has struggled with under Calderone. His moratorium on large-scale residential development will help clear the calendar so that village staff can begin the much needed update of zoning and building codes. His assessment of Roosevelt Road with respect to attracting large retailers would do much for the tax rolls.
This is not to say though, that Doolin is the perfect candidate. His temperament can turn hostile. He and Calderone willingly exchanged barbs over the last four years, leaving us with questions about his ability to serve as a diplomat on the council, in the community and beyond Forest Park’s borders. If he is to succeed as mayor, Patrick Doolin will have to move from his self-proclaimed agitator role and mature into a consensus building leader. We’re not positive he can do that. Thus the hesitance in this endorsement. If he wins this race, we will hold his feet to the fire this page can generate.
But the most important component of Doolin’s interest in being mayor of Forest Park is his commitment to professionalism. Without the ability to meddle, the village council will have little choice but to focus on steering us all into the future.