Last week, the mayor of Forest Park announced in an email to the newspaper of Forest Park that he was creating the “Mayor’s Office of Public Affairs.” In the future, all questions regarding the village government may be sent only to him, Mayor Anthony Calderone.
He may, at his discretion, allow one of his taxpayer-funded minions to answer a specific, pre-sent, and therefore pre-approved question. He even allowed in his initial announcement that the Forest Park Review is free to continue to seek access to public documents via the Freedom of Information Act. Gee thanks, Tony.
The mayor tells the Review, in response to an emailed question, that he wants to “interact more efficiently with the press.” Who wouldn’t? The press is messy and skeptical and imperfect and actively not efficient.
Sort of like democracy.
I’d feel more special still if it wasn’t clear that the mayor is also trying to squeeze dissent from the village council. In this venue, the mayor is offended by questions and doubts raised by minority commissioners.
He wants those questions in advance, too.
Getting frustrated with the press is par for the course, especially in the latter terms of office. (See Mayor Daley and his sputterings on the subject.) Getting PO’d by the gnats that citizens must have elected in error to represent their interests is also pretty routine for politicians who confuse getting re-elected with having been somehow chosen.
A typical impulse is to scramble and attempt to gather up all the strands of power in the mistaken belief that one person can somehow control all the information. Tough and getting tougher in this day and age. More than ever, Tony Calderone needs a person at his elbow urging him to take a deep breath.
A lot of wasted energy is going to go into this charade. We’ll keep reporting because that is what a newspaper does. Like blood looking for an open artery, we’ll gradually find other sources. The mayor will watch his department heads like a hawk for signs of leaks. That will put everyone on edge. And the head of the Community Center might just want to talk to us about the next food drive. We’ll send routine questions to the mayor about small issues as we did today when we inquired about police serving a warrant at a local residence. Maybe he’ll waste his time getting us an answer for a one-paragraph item in our police blotter. Maybe he will have more important things to do like running the village or his alarm business.
We’ve seen this happen in other communities we cover. Newspapers and politicians get mad at each other. It wasn’t intended for us to be bosom buddies in the first place. But some respect for our differing roles would be reasonable.
Today the mayor is getting a high from his command-and-control, “I’ll show them” approach. Circling the wagons feels good until you stop to think, “What’s next?”
So, Mr. Mayor, what’s next?