Since 2003, taxpayers have watched as commissioners allowed personalities to dominate their discussions of how to manage the public’s interests. If it’s not optimism, voters in Forest Park at least have their fingers crossed that a few new faces on the village council will temper such rhetoric and bring a sense of purpose to the elected body.

Despite the spectacular headlines our public officials have so graciously provided in that time, we too, are eager for a more practical approach to government. With that in mind, here are the Forest Park Review’s endorsements for the 2007 general elections.

Leading up to the mayoral primary in February, this newspaper was left wanting by the three candidates running for office. In this sense, the general election is no different.

Incumbent Mayor Anthony Calderone’s willingness to shovel huge amounts of money into his campaign fund does nothing to assure residents that their interests are not taking a backseat to those of generous village contractors, business owners and slick politicos in Proviso Township.

Gaffes in the zoning codes are no longer allowed to fester quietly now that Forest Park is a hot item in real estate. In his 12 years on the village council-eight as mayor-Anthony Calderone has failed to steer us from the near zoning crisis in which the village now finds itself.

Calderone’s willingness to roll up his sleeves and tackle the rather ordinary concerns raised by village residents is part of his charm. It’s also a flaw in his administration. Policy makers ought to be able to grease a few wheels from time to time. Meddling in administrative affairs, however, undermines the authority of paid professionals and causes confusion.

Under Calderone’s administration, the village has followed a most strict, and at times questionable, interpretation of the laws governing the public’s right to know. The Freedom of Information Act is an outline of the bare minimum. Copies of permit applications, financial records, arrest reports and the like can be dropped from an airplane if a person so chooses. Pulling this information from village hall should not be akin to pulling teeth.

Our enthusiasm in seeing the mayor returned to a third term in office is checked by such shortcomings and we will continue to report on his progress in addressing these matters should he win re-election. Mayor Anthony Calderone has our endorsement in the 2007 general election, largely because his opponent, while well-intentioned, is less deserving.

Theresa Steinbach has said she holds the last woman to occupy the mayor’s office in Forest Park in high regard. Her admiration of former mayor Lorraine Popelka’s leadership is cause for concern, because we would hate to see the village return to a stagnant, colloquial state.

Calderone has effectively networked public-private partnerships in Forest Park to help decrease the dependency on residential property taxes. This process is truly a give-and-take and Steinbach has shown little interest in compromise during her four years as a commissioner.

We question too, whether Steinbach is able to see the bigger picture. In debating issues on the council, time and again we’ve watched her become apparently mired in some small detail and ultimately vote against what is otherwise a worthwhile endeavor.

As with Calderone’s tendency to mettle, this quality is both a pro and a con of Steinbach’s leadership. The public needs someone on the council willing to force a discussion before the votes are cast. In a mayor, however, Forest Park needs someone who will look for the next horizon. Steinbach should have opted for a second term as commissioner where she could maintain her vigil as the council watchdog.

In the race for four seats as commissioner we turn to a field of new faces who seem genuinely interested in holding civil and thoughtful discussions. Earning our support are Rory Hoskins, Marty Tellalian, Mike Curry and incumbent Mark Hosty.

Candidate Rory Hoskins is emblematic of this promise in several ways. His experience with state and federal governments could prove handy in moving new initiatives forward. He is soft-spoken, thoughtful and seems entirely unlikely to shoot from the hip in a disagreement over policy. Hoskins would also like to address what he described as an almost non-existent network of social services in Forest Park.

Of course, Hoskins is also the only black candidate running for office, and possibly only the second black candidate in village history. Discussions of race are rarely comfortable, but Hoskins has expressed a willingness to move this dialogue forward. He has our endorsement.

We’re hopeful that Marty Tellalian will be able to apply the same level of scrutiny he has brought to the processes of the planning commission to the village council. Tellalian has said the village’s fiscal health would be fundamental to his tenure on the council.

Issues of maturity and ego have dogged the council, Tellalian said, which is why his willingness to spar with the established leadership makes him all the more attractive as the council’s conscientious objector. Tellalian has our endorsement.

Mike Curry has served the public well as the chairman of the zoning board of appeals. His common sense and intelligence have helped him to recognize the immediacy of the village’s zoning problems, and we look forward to him taking a leadership role on the issue. Also, much needed at the council level is Curry’s approach to open governance. He is endorsed.

Incumbent commissioner Mark Hosty represents the only veteran in this year’s field of candidates. As a restaurant and bar manager, Hosty speaks for a very large contingent of business owners in the village and recently regained the president’s seat in the Forest Park Chamber of Commerce. Given a reason to do so, Hosty has bucked the bloc that dominated the council for the last four years. Having touted himself as a “mentor” to new commissioners, Hosty has our endorsement, along with the expectation that he will live up to his own billing.

The candidate not getting our endorsement but nevertheless has a strong chance at winning a seat is John Plepel. He has emerged as a thoughtful and genuine community member who would do well to continue his involvement in public affairs should his campaign prove unsuccessful.

Anthony Lazzara’s strengths seem best suited to the Park District where he can apply his focus on youth programs. Voters have another, more well-rounded candidate in Rory Hoskins to take up youth issues from the council.

Jerry Webster is right to encourage more civic involvement from village residents, but his campaign is somewhat uninspired. That said, we hope to see Webster’s stellar attendance at village hall continue.

In Carl Nyberg, we hope that this campaign marks a turning point in his approach to civics, but until that corner is turned and a new path forged, we cannot endorse him. For far too long Nyberg has shown an interest in controversy and conspiracy theories while coming up short on solutions. Several of his responses at the candidates’ forum sponsored by the Review were on point and worth exploring. But before he can win the public’s trust he must show he has their interests.

Commissioner Endorsements