To anyone who doubts the foolishness of clinging to an antiquated, stop-gap style of government, we offer Exhibit A: your village council of the last seven weeks.
It appears the elected officials may have quietly been chomping at the bit up until the departure of former village administrator Mike Sturino, waiting for their chance to kick mud in the eyes of their colleagues as they muscle toward supremacy. With no one to occupy the only seat in village hall that offers any sort of check to commissioners’ administrative bombast, the public has been witness to a battle for individual glory. Most unfortunate is that the village’s commission form of government encourages such behavior.
The law of the land in Forest Park was created in 1901 in a Gulf Coast community in Texas. A devastating hurricane ripped through the area and it was in response to this natural disaster that elected officials were given the authority to make day-to-day management decisions. They had to. It was an emergency.
That community abandoned the commission form of government decades ago, as have hundreds of others. Forest Park is one of an intensely small group of municipalities in the U.S. that clings to this poor brand of local rule. It is simply too ripe for abuse, and often relies on unqualified opinions, particularly in smaller towns.
There have been some good ideas to come out of the mouths of council members in Forest Park over the last few weeks. But there have been some incredibly poor ones as well.
Commissioner Rory Hoskins’ decision to single-handedly begin prospecting for applicants to the vacant administrator’s job was an abuse of power – plain and simple. Trying to justify that action by daring his colleagues to prove he can’t make such a unilateral decision only proves that Hoskins was interested in testing boundaries.
Up until this point, Commissioner Mike Curry has been entirely unwilling to stand on his own and challenge his colleagues, in particular Mayor Anthony Calderone. Suddenly, Curry is pledging reforms to the zoning code and asking to be given additional titles. In a front-page story this week, he acknowledges that also serving as ethics adviser – as he would like – could be well, unethical. Still, he wants the job. He also wants to give Hoskins even more administrative authority as an interim manager of the village. Good grief!
It is because the council has treated the mayor with kid gloves, Calderone sees Sturino’s departure as the opportunity to seize more power for himself by stripping down the administrator’s job. Though he’s sensitive to the perception that he meddles where he shouldn’t, Calderone continues to do it.
There is blood in the water in Forest Park, and the sharks are circling.