With an audience that included lifelong friends and longtime business associates, Mayor Anthony Calderone looked comfortable at the front of the room using a shoot-from-the-hip style in his state of the village address. His casual delivery exemplifies the familiarity, even kinship that puts small town residents at ease with one another, no matter that he’s a three-term mayor and the rest of us are not.
In a community where voters are likely to bump into their elected officials at the Little League game or the neighborhood block party, there’s a lot to be said for such a conversational relationship. Accessibility should be a source of pride at village hall.
But this neighborly context didn’t fit the billing of what was touted as an important annual speech, which made the purpose of the mayor’s remarks a little difficult to grasp. Whether on behalf of a college, a nation or a non-profit group, a figurehead’s commentary on the state of affairs should hold a memorable date on the calendar. It was clear that such reverence was missing from Forest Park’s mayoral address.
The Chamber of Commerce and Development hosts a monthly luncheon with village officials and it was at this month’s gathering that the mayor gave his speech. Invitations were mailed to the business community, as is the norm with these events, and this month’s mailing included a line about the upcoming speech. It was through this mailing that the Review learned of the mayor’s upcoming commentary. There was no mention of it from the municipality and in fact, a commissioner said he wasn’t at all aware of the event.
The Review asked for a copy of any remarks the mayor may have prepared, but learned from his administrative assistant that he was armed only with a list of talking points that he had pulled together about a half-hour beforehand. Though we agree in large part with the meat of what Calderone said, there really wasn’t much to digest. His comments were largely a list of coming attractions sprinkled with a few highlights from the past year. The mayor skated over some substantive issues, but offered no explanation for addressing budget shortfalls or how specific village services might be improved.
If the speech given almost exclusively to chamber members last week isn’t really that big a deal, perhaps it should be promoted – however haphazardly – under a different headline. But if this is to be an annual event at which all residents can expect to hear from their mayor, a more thoughtful organizing process is in order.