Mayor Tony Calderone has been in office so long he’s created his own historic parallel.

In 1998, toward the end of his first term as village commissioner, Calderone declared, “We need fresh new leadership!” and ran an aggressive and successful campaign for mayor against three-term incumbent, Lorraine Popelka. Both campaigns were tough and really, really rough. And this was pre-Internet participation. 

Calderone campaigned for modern, progressive policies, fresh thinking, and sunshine processes against the stale, entrenched environment Popelka had created. And he was right. 

Our past 30 years of leadership demonstrates that our mayors reach peak performance in their 2nd term, when their good ideas and vision have been planted and are maturing. This history also demonstrates that subsequent terms in office offer only a holding pattern agenda, and our mayors (at least) fall prey to a common malady — an ownership mindset in which they cannot differentiate themselves from their office. 

“My” village is not the same as our village.

Election 2015 is almost an exact echo of Election 1999: identifying a critical need for modern movement, fresh air and sunshine — against years of treading water.

Fortunately, our new candidates offer Forest Park voters substantial options this election — less quantity but high quality, experienced professionals with a deep record of community service.

Forest Park’s two Independent candidates — Chris Harris and Dan Novak — are particularly convincing in articulating the village’s need for policy movement and authentic constituent engagement.

***Both independent candidates sat down for a recorded conversational interview in which they addressed substantial village issues, while also revealing a good deal as to what makes them tick. Treat yourself, especially if you weren’t able to see the candidate forums.***

Chris Harris, present village commissioner and candidate for mayor of Forest Park, aggressively names and frames many of our problems and examines various solutions. His past four years have proven exciting and productive, especially keeping an insistent spotlight on the oddly fallow Altenheim, modern and green public solutions, and our failing sewer system.

Dan Novak offers voters a delicious double whammy of deep connectivity as a lifelong Forest Parker and his very impressive professional background running public entities.

The two non-incumbents on the mayor’s slate, Joe Byrnes and Rachell Entler, keep assuring voters that they will be independent, but they are not the ones voters are worried about — it’s Calderone. Specifically it’s Calderone with a rubber stamp majority, it’s Calderone’s inescapable horrible history with non-rubber stamp commissioners, and it’s Calderone’s stated belief that he is the CEO of Forest Park.

Moreover — and candidates should know this by now — Forest Park’s structure of government offers nothing remotely resembling a CEO position, and the state of Illinois is quite clear on the matter. Our village is much too small and, therefore, too vulnerable for CEO-type powers; even the VA has only chief administrative powers. 

At most, the position of mayor in Forest Park is chairman of the board, Calderone’s CEO belief is a figment of his own longings: it does not exist, nor should it. This rather important issue has been explained to him many times by government experts and lawyers.

Somewhere in our future, Forest Park is destined to have to undo years of CEO Madness. We could get started quite soon — with a new “chief” among quality “equals,” as this election offers the very real opportunity to vote for sane, incremental change.

One more healthy to-do: Go! Proviso Together! Vote for our three candidates: Wagner, Kelly and Medina.

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