There will be no citizen referendum on video gaming on this November’s ballot. That is now clear after two related decisions made last week after another long and costly gathering of the Forest Park Electoral Board.
That board, duly constituted, by statute, with Mayor Anthony Calderone, Commissioner Tom Mannix and Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz, unanimously voted against the petitioners seeking a binding vote on the issue. This was a confounding situation on several fronts. Ultimately, the electoral board decided the petitioners had not gathered enough valid voter signatures to place the question on the ballot.
Agree with that or not, the trio needed to land somewhere and they did.
The second decision came quickly from the dedicated citizens seeking a referendum vote. They chose not to take the current case to appeal but instead to regroup immediately and seek to get the same issue on the ballot in the spring 2017 elections.
That is a wise decision. An appeals process on a quirky interpretation of electoral law, on a very short election timeline is nothing but an expensive crapshoot. And even if petitioners won, there would be room for gaming supporters to cast doubt on the outcome.
What is clear to us is that, through its incomprehensible inaction on video gaming over the past 18 months, the mayor and village council have created a deep fissure in our village. There are tensions between bar owners and other business people over the impact of video gaming on the retail community. There is a wide and deep percentage of voters who now want a say in the outcome of this debate. They want a referendum.
And with every aspect of petition gathering now placed in sharp relief by this sad, political spectacle of the petition challenge, we’re clear that referendum proponents will take advantage of the expansive window of time, the legal head whacking they just absorbed to come through with plenty of signatures to make the ballot.
So that leaves open the question of what will, what should, the village council do in response to this self-created mess they have made — in response to the political maelstrom they’ve created ahead of the next village election.
Since sitting on their collective hands has been their choice till now, we’d urge the village council to maintain that posture for another six months, allow another run at a referendum in the spring and await the verdict of Forest Parkers on this topic.
We’d reiterate our point from past weeks. This mess did not have to happen. A mayor and village council with the strength of their convictions would have simply voted video gaming up or down a year ago. They flubbed that chance. To intervene now in a situation they have lost control of would risk creating a permanent antagonism in town.