The third and final Citizens United in Forest Park candidates forum, held last week, featured only one candidate.
Mayoral aspirant Marty Tellalian stood alone, microphone in hand behind the podium, at the park district building, 7501 Harrison St., and answered written questions submitted from the audience.
Tellalian’s solo appearance came on the heels of a scathing letter that Mayor Anthony Calderone sent to the local nonprofit rebuffing an invitation to attend the mayoral forum on March 2. He likened his appearance there to “placing a lamb in a lion’s den.”
“I think that those of you who read the letter realize that he never intended to come,” said CUinFP President Jerry Webster, before introducing Tellalian.
Nonetheless, Tellalian took the opportunity to interact with an audience that included people he didn’t know and were not necessarily supporters. He may come across as more impersonal, compared with the outgoing personality of his political counterpart, Mayor Calderone. That’s unintentional, Tellalian said, noting that he is “reserved.”
“Mayor Calderone, he’s very engaging. He’s very personable. It’s good to talk to him. He’s a nice person, and he can engage people much better than I can,” Tellalian said. “In some ways, I’m not a good politician.
“What I can do better is bring a new way of looking at things in the village and a new way of trying to make the most of our limited resources,” he added.
Recently, the village’s finances have been a contentious issue on a board that is fractured into two alliances, based largely on this issue. On one side, Calderone and commissioners Mark Hosty and Mike Curry have downplayed the village’s current $2.1 million deficit, and the decreasing revenue with which to pay back $15.3 million in bond debt, as a “snapshot” and “speculative.” On the other side, Tellalian and Commissioner Rory Hoskins are aligned in their thinking that the board’s unwillingness to cut “discretionary spending” – a term often used by Hoskins – could have negative consequences down the road.
“[Auditors] recommend three months of reserves. So that means your reserve on hand should be three months of your operating expenses, which would mean about $5 million because our budget is a little over $20 million,” Tellalian said.
As of two weeks ago, the village had $1.8 million in reserves, according to Village Administrator Tim Gillian.
“The bonding agencies we’ve seen use that … [figure] as the reason for the slight downgrade to our bonds. The reserves also help us to do some things to take advantage of some of the government programs,” Tellalian said.
As he fielded questions from the audience, Tellalian discussed the current state of local government and what he would do, if elected.
He emphasized the need to maintain the level of core services: fire, police and infrastructure. In the case of the latter, he talked about utilizing an enterprise zone to attract businesses to Roosevelt Road, echoing a proposal that Commissioner Hoskins proposed at last week’s forum. An enterprise zone is an area wherein businesses can build or rebuild their locations in exchange for tax breaks on building materials. The idea would be to increase revenue from the Roosevelt corridor.
Tellalian also talked about setting up a nonprofit within the village, which could exist to raise money for a variety of village services; creating a transparent and more inclusive government; maintaining senior services but increasing youth activities; and applying for state money to fix the Altenheim property, to name a few suggestions.
“You’ll hear me talk about participatory government and ideas from other people,” Tellalian said. “That is really the way we are going to solve our problems.”