Twelve years ago this spring the Review endorsed the rookie mayoral candidacy of Anthony Calderone because we believed he offered hope and opportunity in contrast to a sitting 12-year mayor who was closed off and closed minded.
We were right then. Through the first six years of his mayoralty, Tony Calderone was a powerful and positive force for change in a village that was asleep and insular. So long as he was unchallenged, Calderone was magnanimous and focused on the next big thing. Then things changed. Two commissioners flipped into opposition and Calderone slipped into perpetual battle mode.
That is no way to govern a small town. And it is why we believe we are right again in readily endorsing Commissioner Marty Tellalian for mayor. Tellalian’s campaign slogan is “Participatory Government.” We couldn’t be more ready for the storm clouds to lift and a strong breeze of active, welcoming involvement to sweep Forest Park past its sniping, destructive ways.
Over the second six years of Mayor Calderone’s tenure the village council has become so bitterly divided that governance seems almost impossible. The blame can be spread around, but the mayor, as head of the village, bears the ultimate responsibility. He should have stepped up long ago and steered a new course. He didn’t. “I am what I am,” he said, during his endorsement interview last week with the Forest Park Review. That might once have seemed charming. Today it just seems obstinate.
In our 1999 endorsement of Calderone, the Review wrote: “His efforts to expand the number of people participating in government and in contributing to the decisions the village council will eventually go on to make, are badly needed in a town where for too long, decision-making has been limited to a small and established group of people.”
Calderone has lost his way, and there is a disenfranchised portion of Forest Park – we’ll know how big come Election Day – that feels ostracized by his administration.
We’re confident that a Tellalian administration can change that. Tellalian projects an inclusiveness that just doesn’t seem to be part of Calderone’s makeup. Tellalian’s critics share a talking point when they say his profession as an engineer makes him too rigid for political life. He doesn’t see shades of grey, everything is black and white, they say in belittling him. Nonsense. We see him as open to change so long as that change is fairly applied. Too often in recent years appearances of favoritism have permeated village hall. Some basic fairness and openness will be refreshing.
In this campaign Tellalian has spoken with more specificity when it comes to identifying problems and offering ideas. Recently, Calderone shrugged this off as mere campaign talk, and noted that many of the ideas that candidates are discussing on the campaign trail will not be realized if they are elected due to the village’s tight budget. Perhaps, but at least Tellalian is looking actively forward.
Creating a nonprofit within the village to raise money for various projects and services; fostering an open and more professional government; revitalizing the business districts on Harrison Street and Roosevelt Road are among Tellalian’s ideas. He is also focused on continuing to tighten village spending; providing infrastructure and core services, such as the police department and fire department.
It is clear to us that both Marty Tellalian and Tony Calderone are motivated by deep affection for their hometown. That’s not open to debate. What is also clear is that the outcome of this election will take Forest Park in determinedly different directions. A fourth Calderone term as mayor will be divisive. Power will be gathered ever nearer. Critics will be ever more suspect. Issues will not be discussed openly because such discussion will be seen as a threat. Progress will slow to a standstill.
A Mayor Tellalian mayoralty will be, in ways, an unknown. There will be upheaval and a loss of institutional memory. It will make for some uncertain steps. But if you have faith in Forest Park, and we do, then the upsides of open doors, honest disagreement and renewed energy will move the town forward.
As we were 12 years ago, we are again ready for that positive, hopeful step into the future.