It is hard to imagine Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone providing less leadership on the contentious issue of video gaming than he has. From the time the seemingly settled matter of allowing gaming machines in local bars resurfaced 15 months ago in the municipal elections, Calderone has dodged and stalled on this issue all while giving off the vibe that approval of gaming was a nearly sure thing.
His tactics have allowed this issue to fester into a highly divisive issue that has riven the business community and left the town festooned with anti-gaming lawn signs.
Calderone appeared to have taken hold of the issue a couple of months back when there were discussions at the village council table and intense public comments before the council. Requests for actual research on the topic were made to Village Administrator Tim Gillian and a promise of a public forum this spring was made.
However, the research that came back from village staff was weak, the planned forum was vaguely delayed and the issue is coming back around to a boil.
This week’s Review carries am op-ed from Connie Brown, co-owner of the Brown Cow ice cream shop and a leader in opposing video gaming. In her essay, she calls for placing a binding referendum on the topic on the ballot this November.
She argues that the issue needs to be settled and that the fairest way to do it is by citizen vote. And she rightly notes that with such a referendum on the ballot in a presidential election year that the turnout will be massive and, therefore, reflect the true opinion of the majority of citizens.
Here at the Review we’ve never been big fans of binding referendums outside of required tax hike votes. Our view is that voters elect public officials to decide the tough issues and that, after adequate study and open input from citizens at public meetings, those officials should make the decision.
However, absent any sign of active leadership from the village council, it is hard to argue against a binding referendum.
Meanwhile, the void created by the missing village government sponsored public forum is about to be filled by none other than Chris Harris, Calderone’s opponent and near replacement in last year’s election.
Using the Forest Park Town Hall platform he has created on Facebook, Harris has announced a June 21 forum to be held at the Historical Society.
He has, seemingly without breaking a sweat, lined up four locals with clear opinions – pro and con — on the topic. They’ll each make an opening statement and then there will be questions and discussion.
Not rocket science and nice going, Mr. Harris.
We cannot explain the vacuum that Mayor Calderone has created on this important topic. It is as if he has checked out of his job three years prematurely. In opposing his re-election last year we argued against staying too long in office. The mayor is going to have to snap out of it soon if he is going to prove us wrong.