The waning days of the election season got really ugly. The divisiveness on the Forest Park village board, and among political devotees, is a well-known reality. But the village suffered a true black-eye when a racially charged campaign flyer was distributed over the weekend.  

This represents a discouraging and dangerous turn in Forest Park politics and race relations. Forest Park has never dealt openly and candidly with race. But until this incident it also hasn’t played publicly on racial fear. Now, in a pathetic effort to turn a few votes, some still unidentified political players have played the race card.

They won’t have the sense to be ashamed. Though they should be. They will be identified if we can find the way to do it. So far we have the startling coincidence that the flyer in question was printed at the same Chicago print shop as were flyers for commissioner candidates Mike Curry and Tom Mannix. Do you know how many printers there are in Chicagoland? What are the odds? Who are Curry and Mannix aligned with?

Did you see the flyer? It may have arrived in your mailbox. The flyer is a forthright attempt to smear incumbent Commissioner Rory Hoskins, the only African-American candidate in the village board race.

The front of the flyer features a digitally doctored image of a Forest Park welcome-sign, with “Forest Park” scribbled out and the word “Maywood” branded across the sign.

The ad plays on fears that Forest Park will become Maywood – a predominantly African-American community – if Hoskins is reelected and he pushes for an Enterprise Zone partnership with Maywood. An Enterprise Zone is simply a state program that offers businesses incentives to locate or redevelop within a zone.  Hoskins has suggested that Forest Park and Maywood work together within a single zone. The Review was skeptical about the idea because of the seeming ineffectiveness of Maywood’s zone, not because there are a lot of black people there who might move to Forest Park subsequent to an “annexation.”

The other side features images of Hoskins and commissioner candidate Steve Johnsen. There are quotes from Forest Park Review articles that are taken out of context in an attempt to sling mud at both of these candidates.

OK, fine, one might expect this kind of negative campaigning in the twilight of the election.  But, what can never be tolerated is the kind of regressive politicking that plays on racial fears.

Johnsen, for one, thinks the flyer was distributed in vain. “The race thing doesn’t play well anymore,” he said. Hopefully he was right. 

Anthony Calderone and his backers did a bit of appropriate tut-tutting over the inflammatory flyer but they couldn’t turn fast enough toward making charges of their own, charges that their opponents “went dirty first.”

It won’t work fellows. Nothing in this campaign matches, nearly matches, the vileness of the Maywood flyer. The people behind this smear are playing with fire. They know it, on some level, because of the efforts they took to hide the connections – physically punching out the union bug on the piece, using postage stamps instead of a mailing permit to mail it, placing a legitimate opposition group’s name on the piece.

Nice try. Didn’t work. Damage has been done. Consequences should follow. We’ll be working on it.