We oppose video gaming in Forest Park. Always have. Always will.
For us the endless — endless until Monday night — debate on this topic was an inflection point for Forest Park. At this critical moment, was our town going to choose to build on Madison Street’s grand renaissance over the past 15 years or was it going to revert to its dive bar past.
Dive bars it is, apparently.
We’ve also said, though, that while our opinion, and the opinions of many others in Forest Park, are very strong on this topic, there was never any need for this to be turned into the divisive debacle that Mayor Anthony Calderone has single-handedly created. It could have and should have been voted up or down by the village council nearly two years ago when the issue first surfaced.
If you focus solely on video gaming, this story isn’t even over, despite the village council’s exceptionally ill-considered vote to approve it Monday night. Almost certainly angry opponents will be further energized to get this issue back on a binding referendum ballot by spring. And, if successful, a citizen vote will override the village council OK.
So much for closure.
But to us the core issue here isn’t about video gaming. It is about the utter failure of Calderone and every member of the village council to be honest, transparent, connected elected leaders.
Utter, total, stunning, shaming, disqualifying failure.
How did this ordinance get drafted? Who provided the direction to the village attorney to draft it? How, after all that has transpired, does this issue get slipped silently onto an agenda just 72 hours before a vote? How, with virtually no discussion at the council table, does this most polarizing topic get unanimous approval from the four members of the village council? And, by God, how does Tony Calderone have either the chutzpah or the pathetic weakness to abstain from voting?
Tony, your “I’m the liquor commissioner” abstention line is not flying.
This all comes down to Calderone. He’s the mayor. He’s the leader. He’d have you believe he is Forest Park. If ever a small-town pol seemed to be angling for a legacy, you’d assume it was Tony Calderone. And now that legacy will be that he sold out the street he helped create to bar owners, that he abused and infuriated an enormous percentage of his constituents by repeatedly failing to honestly communicate his views, his intentions.
We’ve got better than two years until voters can do what they’ve nearly done the past two elections and that is to toss Calderone out of office. We assume Commissioner Tom Mannix is about through with Forest Park in any case. And that leaves the three remaining commissioners, Joe Byrnes, Rachell Entler and Dan Novak, with a chasm of distrust to cross. Or they could just go away.
This town is way overdue for new leadership. Any leadership.