If we start with the premise that Tony Calderone is a mostly good mayor with a fatal flaw or two, we the people can possibly get a productive, proactive, respectable village government. Work with me here.
Sure, he’s painfully thin-skinned, an incorrigible micro-manager, eternally vindictive, an often out-of-control control freak, insufferably entitled, and useless at crafting policy. And, yes, he’s mutilated our commissioner form of government to fit those needs and has been in office longer than is emotionally healthy for any human. We all know this.
On the other hand, Calderone shines as the Commissioner of Public Affairs, which is his title – mayor is sort of a functional nickname within our dodo bird form of government to give us a “chief among equals.”
Calderone has a great and welcoming on-the-street manner which gets folks excited about our fair village. He likes fun. Our business owners feel welcomed and supported of because he ‘gets’ small businesses. He dresses quite handsomely. He was key in resurrecting our lovely Madison Street and works hard (and smart) to keep it going. He’s devoted to his job. I doubt seniors citizens living anywhere in the Chicagoland area are better cared for. He knows Forest Park intimately. Calderone’s long experience in politics offers us the perks that come from powerful relationships. And I hear he’s a great dancer.
So how do we — the residents, the major stakeholders, the voters — leverage the skilled and talented Calderone against the the selfish and destructive Calderone? Easy, we don’t give him too much power. We do that with the tried-and-true mechanism of checks and balances. And we do that by not giving him majority support on the village council come the spring election.
Imagine watching a village council meeting next year which not only tackles tough issues but enjoys five smart, hardworking Electeds deliberating the pros/cons/consequences/possible solutions/best solutions to our challenges, fully committed to our common good, not their own. This can happen, and we know this because we’ve already created it at D91.
The important news this year is not “Tony has abused his power, again” but the outstanding leadership efforts of our grade school board. We, the voters, can take full credit for electing these thoughtful, courageous and hard-working people, and rejecting the Mannix/Hosty ringers who had less than nothing to offer our children. We are grateful to the parents, the teachers, the teachers union, the candidates and this newspaper for keeping us alert.
We could hardly have a clearer contrast for the kind of leadership we can have.
Forest Park has significant challenges ahead, not the least being planning for the effects of climate change on our infrastructure. Governors, mayors and town councils across the country are jump-starting efforts to think this out and prepare as best they can for the new reality. But seven years of flooding in Forest Park hasn’t coaxed a plan out of our village government and Mother Nature doesn’t care if we blame Deep Tunnel or empty coffers. Hoping the Feds build us a new town is not a strategy.
Calderone is a powerful politician with flaws that have dangerously deepened from 20 years of unchecked power. We, the voters, have allowed this and only we can institute a healthy balance. Let’s allow Calderone to stand on his own, for a change, and allow his ideas to soar or fail within a council of colleagues, peers and equals. This would surely be best for all. Calderone can then decide if he wants to be a great mayor.