By this time next week, Forest Park could have an entirely different village council under the direction of a new mayor. Of the four commissioners’ seats up for election only one incumbent is making a bid, and a 12-year council incumbent, Mayor Anthony Calderone, is facing his first challenger since taking the corner office in 1999. That candidate, Theresa Steinbach, a one-time ally of the mayor and longtime next door neighbor, handily defeated a third challenger in a three-way primary just seven weeks ago.
Residents and the candidates alike have spoken to the staunch political and personal rivalries that have dominated council discussions over the last four years, while airing the driving issues of economic development, zoning, fiscal restraint and accountability. On April 17, campaign promises and rhetoric will give way to the ballot box.
Experience: 12-year council member and two-term mayor.
Platform: Resurgence of Madison Street exemplifies need for public-private partnerships; continue infrastructure improvements; economic development along Roosevelt Road; build on police department successes; community center south of Eisenhower Expressway.
Straight from the source:
On leadership: “I like cutting red tape wherever possible. I like getting things done. I do not like to debate ad nauseam. I think there is a proper place for debate and debate is good, but at some point you’ve got to pull the trigger.” 2/14/2007
On federal subpoena in investigation of Anthony Bruno’s village contract: “[It’s] a glorified Freedom of Information Act request.” 8/2/2005
On pay-to-play allegations: “Making a campaign contribution to Citizens for Anthony Calderone doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get any work, nor is it going to guarantee that if you do get work that it is going to be shoddy or sloppy.” 2/14/2007
On development of Roosevelt Road: “If we didn’t have the divisive council that we have, we probably could be half-way there.” (previously unpublished)
Experience: First-term commissioner.
Platform: Shore up depleted financial reserve accounts; restore ethics, integrity and transparency to local government; focus development efforts along Harlem and Roosevelt; address traffic and parking issues; greater public input.
Straight from the source:
On Calderone’s first term as mayor: “It was a bloated and lavish spending administration.” 2/20/2007
On greatest accomplishment in office: “My proudest accomplishment was keeping the money from the sales tax revenue out of the operating fund and using it only for infrastructure improvements.” 2/20/2007
On $4.3 million land deal with YMCA: “I understand the price has been negotiated to its maximum. I just want the best value.” 1/11/2007
On suing the village for alleged privacy violations: “I would not have gone forward with the suit unless I didn’t think there was substantial evidence, nor would my attorney have taken the case if he did not believe there was evidence.” 2/20/2007
Candidates responded in writing to three questions posed by the Forest Park Review. 1) Would you support efforts to restrict the administrative authority of elected officials? 2) What are the top two or three issues you will address in your campaign? 3) Is it important that the council share a common vision for the community? Below are their edited responses.
After earning a finance degree from Marshall University, Mike Curry moved to Forest Park in 1996. Curry is a practicing attorney working toward a master’s in real estate law. Curry has served as the chairman of the zoning board since October 2004.
1. Yes, I would support efforts to restrict administrative authority of the elected officials in Forest Park. But, while I believe there are other forms of government that would be more conducive and beneficial to a village of this size, I must abide by the rules of our current form of government.
2. Protecting property rights and addressing the concerns of citizens is very important. There are numerous discrepancies in the zoning code and zoning map.
Providing citizens with a safe and enjoyable neighborhood is essential for any government. I will work with the police department to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our police officers.
Being economically responsible through eliminating wasteful spending and increasing revenue is essential for the growth of Forest Park. Increasing revenue is necessary in order to provide the essential services to citizens and continue the growth of Forest Park.
3. While the elected officials do not and should not agree on all issues, the elected officials must work together as a team to improve Forest Park. Over the last four years the village council has failed to “share” any ideas or vision. Over the last four years the village council has failed to work together to improve Forest Park.
A husband and father of three children, he is a three-year volunteer for the Forest Park Youth Soccer Association. Rory Hoskins is a member of the traffic and safety commission and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He has a master’s from Loyola University in social work and has worked in the Texas Legislature.
1. I am not fundamentally opposed to changes in our village’s form of government, including changes to restrict authority of elected officials.
2. Maintaining basic quality of life through traffic management and planned development; expanding the selection the village uses to select members for its boards and commissions; securing grants from Springfield, Ill.
3. It is important that council members are devoted to conducting business with civility. Reasonable people can disagree, but hopefully not all the time.
Mark Hosty is an incumbent commissioner serving as head of Streets and Public Improvement. Hosty is a 17-year resident and works in the restaurant business. He graduated from Kishwaukee College in 1990 and is a homeowner.
1. I do not support efforts to restrict the administrative authority of elected officials. I do support the village administrator and believe that an elected official should not micro-manage their departments.
2. My top issues for Forest Park are; developing Roosevelt Road, controlling residential growth and construction, and reducing the burden on residential property taxpayers.
3. I believe the only way for a council to be effective is to work together.
A self-employed small business owner, Anthony Lazzara lives with his wife and three sons on Marengo Avenue. Their oldest child is a sophomore at Loyola University. Lazzara is the president of Forest Park Little League and a former police officer. Lazzara took first place in the village’s first annual barbecue rib contest last year.
1. No. It is my perspective that a commissioner is elected by the people to be a voice of the people. I believe the public entrusts a commissioner to be the overseer of individual departments, ensuring the department heads are meeting expectations and operating efficiently.
2. Three issues I will address in my campaign are; the village wide parking issue, the economic growth and appearance of the Roosevelt Road corridor and I will work to strengthen community youth, safety and crime prevention programs.
3. It is important that the village council work toward common goals to better Forest Park. With individual ideas and perspectives, the council can achieve great things, but only when a common goal is the objective.
Publisher of the Proviso Probe Web log, Carl Nyberg is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and has a degree in engineering. Nyberg volunteered with the United Nations in Cambodia. He supports state Rep. Karen Yarbrough’s efforts to elect Reform candidates in three Proviso Township school districts.
1. My sense is that both Calderone and Steinbach are hands on managers. I prefer to delegate.
I prefer to get the department’s leadership on the same page, and let staff take ownership of this vision. I support removing administrative authority, but I doubt there will be a majority in support of this policy. I think the most realistic next step is a non-binding referendum.
2. I will work to get the Forest Park reserve center closed through the tri-annual Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. Almost any other use of the land would generate more revenue for the village.
Also, I will work to improve good order and discipline in the Forest Park police department. As a former Navy officer who both served as a U.N. peacekeeper and performed numerous investigations of injuries, mishaps and misconduct, I have enough experience to better know when the police are raising valid concerns and when they are just manufacturing excuses.
The village could also make better use of its website to share information.
3. The village councilors should be able to work with each other respectfully. Commissioners should be flexible in their thinking. However, different commissioners will have different visions for Forest Park, like different citizens have different visions.
A resident of Elgin Avenue, John Plepel first took an interest in local government when he joined a group of neighbors in opposition to a townhouse development on his block. He works in real estate and is employed by a Chicago company that works exclusively with healthcare facilities. Plepel and his wife are homeowners.
1. Yes. Our department heads are dealing with administrative issues every day, and have a better handle on what is going on. Further, they are hired by the electorate, so we still have some control over who is making those decisions. As elected officials, we spend an entire election season discussing what policy decisions we will make to improve the village. That should be the focus of our position.
2. The main issue that I will concentrate on over the next four years is revisiting the Comprehensive Plan. I choose this issue because it is central to many other issues that face our village-including rewriting the zoning code, controlling development, and fostering economic development along Roosevelt Road, Madison Street (west of Desplaines), and the area south of the Green Line.
3. Yes. However, vision should not be confused with point of view. In a village council of five people, each will have different backgrounds, different points of view, and different ideas. With respectful debate and a shared vision for our community, our differences will ultimately result in well thought out policies that will further our goals and help us realize the vision that we have for this great village.
A 37-year resident of Forest Park, Martin Tellalian holds a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Illinois. He is a two-year member of the planning commission and has organized fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes. Tellalian has also served on his church’s board of directors for more than 10 years.
1. Yes, but only if done formally and with the consent of the citizens of Forest Park. Under our current government, the village administrator must take direction from each commissioner for the administration of the various departments. If our residents agree that a change in our form of government is needed, as I do, we must be careful to preserve our response to specific needs and concerns of our citizens.
2. The current administration has largely ignored our zoning and building requirements for new developments and has consistently allowed excessive variations. I will strive to revise our building and zoning codes as needed. I will work to implement a program for the de-conversion of non-conforming multi-unit structures back to single-family homes.
My campaign will focus on fiscal responsibility to maximize village services and improve our infrastructure. A 100-year-old village should not have to borrow money to maintain the infrastructure. Our revenues are sufficient.
3. Forest Park has an excellent police force and does an exceptional job of policing our village with the resources that they are given. However, more resources for our police department will enable our police force to have a greater presence in troubled neighborhoods and in our business districts when most needed.
A 14-year resident, Jerry Webster was drawn to Forest Park by its K-8 school district. He serves on the recreation board and has worked with the youth commission. Webster is a member of Citizens United in Forest Park, serves as an election judge and was active in supporting the library’s referendum committee.
1. I would support any efforts to restrict administrative authority. We have professionals in administrative positions, and we should be listening to them. They should be allowed to do their jobs without interference.
2. Village finances should be a top priority. I believe money is being spent without any thought for tomorrow. Twelve village employees lost their jobs several years back because of this.
I would also like to get the citizens of the village more involved in the decisions that affect them. Opinions should be actively sought and heeded. The public should be kept informed as to what their elected officials are doing, as well.
I would also like to see controls put on high density development, which seems to be of concern to the residents of Forest Park.
3. No, it is not important that the council share a common vision for the community, but I do believe that we need to work together for the common good of the village. The council must be able to disagree amicably, and to negotiate.
For District 209
Candidates responded in writing to two questions posed by the Forest Park Review. 1. In a district plagued by scandal and deceit, how will you work to repair relationships within District 209 and the sending communities? 2.How can the school board foster greater parental involvement within the schools? Below are their edited responses. Several candidates did not respond to requests from the Forest Park Review for election guide information. Those candidates are: Johnny Perryman, Janice Johnson, Theresa Kelly, Terrase Craig and Carla Johnson.
A 35-year resident of Westchester, James Boyd is a former school board president in District 209. He also held the previous titles of vice president and secretary. For 10 years, Boyd also served on the Westchester School District board of education. He is married with two children and three grandchildren.
1. When elected to the 209 board, I will be a healing and reconciling influence. I did it once during my first term on the board when it was controlled by Melrose Park politics, and I can do it again. Calling for a new majority to take control of the board is evidence of a complete lack of understanding of the role of a school board member. When the 209 board comes together to make decisions based on what’s good for the students, then relationships within District 209 will repair themselves.
2. I am convinced that if parents are not involved long before the ninth-grade, they will never become involved to the extent necessary to help student achievement. We need to stop lamenting the problem and come up with an alternative. One such alternative might be to create “substitute parents” who will stay involved. Perhaps this would take the form of a big-sister/big-brother type program, or a “foster” parent program.
As a resident of Forest Park, Robert Cox has served as a member of the village’s preservation committee and was a member of the high school district’s planning and implementation committee prior to the construction of the math and science academy. He is currently a member of Citizens United in Forest Park.
1. Without effective, clear, and consistent communication even the best of leadership initiatives will fail. When confusion and mistrust occur, human nature will conjure answers on its own. This is a great disadvantage to the schools. There is much to be gained by honest open dialogue between Proviso and all the feeder districts including students, parents, teachers and both education and civic administrations.
2. Repetitive invitation. I can’t tell how many parents I have spoken with that would participate if asked.
Build a legacy program if the parents are alumni. Most importantly, set the expectation that after the student-teacher pinnacle, parents’ participation is an essential responsibility.
There also is an underlying link with illiteracy. Let’s deal with it. Parents who make this commitment should think of it as a kind of “sweat equity” for their student. This requires a community solution and should not be a designated burden to our schools only.
A 13-year resident of Bellwood, Ralph Harris is a graduate of George Williams College where he studied behavioral science. He has focused on youth and adolescents over the past 20 years. Harris is a program manager for the YMCA and has worked on mental health, drug abuse and other social service issues.
1. First and foremost, I believe that we must gain majority control of the board and elect myself, Theresa Kelly and Kevin McDermott. I believe we must institute ongoing communications and promotion through open, transparent governing. Our actions should be measured by the quality of professional staff and financial accountability.
Of course, none of this matters if personal political gains and control are at the core of your integrity. Be assured, the Education Reformers’ values and integrity are not seeded in borderline characteristics of narcissism, the need for power and wealth.
2. The high number of single-parent families and community economics has dictated that we must continuously work to build, trust, support and create new measures of how and what parental involvement constitutes. Outreach programs, a parent advisory council, cook-offs, consumer fairs and service fairs will all work to de-institutionalize the of our schools to parents.
Living in Bellwood for the last 30 years, Robin Foreman has volunteered with several youth athletic programs and was the president of the Proviso West Booster Club for five years until 2004. She also helped institute a community outreach program to recruit additional volunteers at Proviso West High School.
1. I feel that my action in the community over the pass 30 years have shown that I will be able to work and listen to the Proviso Township community. Over the last several months I have went to several town hall meeting, I here the same thing from each parent, “help us with our children.” As a board member there must be a check and balance in place. We can no longer tolerate scandal and deceit. Open communication will help stop that.
2. Create activities that would include the parents, both at the schools and outside of the community. Parents in Forest Park can host a night of bowling. Parents of Hillside can host a skating party. Parents of Bellwood could chaperone a field trip. We can continual to do things like this to bring each group together.
A recent transplant to Westchester from neighboring Oak Park, Kevin McDermott is a self-employed management consultant. He is a volunteer in the Proviso Township Democratic party, and formerly worked with a similar organization in Oak Park. He has a bachelor’s from Northwestern University and received a master’s in business administration from the University of California.
1. Clearly, the way to solve problems of scandal and deceit is first to stop engaging in them. The current District 209 board majority gives the appearance of running the school board as though it were an employment agency. We must openly bid contracts, use the website to display our budget, and implement a full disclosure policy wherein all employees and contractors must reveal their personal and professional relationships to other district employees. This too, should be published on the web.
2. The responsibility for achieving greater parental involvement rests primarily with administrators, but the board can implement policies to focus on these efforts. The board could establish classes to teach parents how to help students with their homework, sponsor town hall style meetings and other special events.