Something stinks in Forest Park.

And we’re talking about way more than video gaming at this point.

We’re talking about democracy and secret efforts to undermine our local Forest Park democracy. We’re talking about leadership and failed leaders who talk from both sides of their mouths.

Over the past several days, someone, or some group of someones, has reportedly been paying people to pass petitions in Forest Park on any number of odd and nonsensical subjects from bogus versions of video gaming referendums to snow plowing to, yet again, seceding from District 209. The goal is to gather the very small numbers of voter signatures required to place non-binding referendums on the April ballot. The seeming purpose is to take up each of the three legally allowed referendum spots on that ballot to crowd out the effort to place a binding referendum on video gaming on that ballot.

If this works, and it very well could, the village council could readily accept an advisory referendum on whether Forest Park should continue to plow when it snows and two other similarly ridiculous questions. 

Honestly, this is about the most cynical thing we’ve seen in local government in our three decades. 

This being Forest Park, no one is taking credit for this assault on fairness. Same way no one takes credit for the horribly racist flyers, which are now routine in the closing hours of our local elections. The parentage of both these low-road tactics might actually be the same. But political slimeballs are pretty good at covering tracks.

So far Commissioner Joe Byrnes has disavowed this petition effort. And we believe him because who doesn’t believe Joe Byrnes? 

Mayor Anthony Calderone has also disavowed the petition drive. But then this mayor routinely disavows all such ugliness. We’d think the all-powerful Calderone would have the authority to stop such assaults on our small-town democracy. Either he won’t because these tactics support his policies, or he can’t because he is weak and ineffective. Which is it, Mr. Mayor?

It was instructive that only after the recent troubling council vote to allow video gambling, a vote Calderone pathetically abstained from, the mayor finally expressed an opinion on this divisive subject. He did it on the Facebook page of the pro-gaming forces. 

Two years we’ve waited for Anthony Calderone to express his view on this issue and he does it after the fact and on the bar owners Facebook page. That is not leadership.

As we’ve said, this really isn’t about video gambling at this point. Maybe the ballot stuffing stunt will work and a binding vote on gaming won’t happen next spring. But there’s no holding back the April 2019 village elections. Can’t bamboozle those. It is time to clean house. Elect people with new names and fresh ideas. Forest Park needs its own 209 Together movement to renew our local government, to take it back from those who have ceded legitimate leadership.

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