Here at the Forest Park Review, we’ve long preferred Election Day to the citizen referendum as a means of governing a community. Over 35-plus years, we’ve nearly always recommended against referendums — the exception being legally mandated citizen votes on tax issues.
Our view is that villages such as Forest Park elect mayors and council members, school boards and park boards with the expectation that those elected will spend more time, have greater perspective and take a longer view than citizens riled up over a single issue. Besides that, we elect officials for fixed terms and always have the opportunity to vote out those who work against a majority view.
If you want less lurching about, and elected officials who are looking ahead and not always over their shoulders then go to the polls every four years, get involved in a campaign or actually run for office yourself.
That’s democracy. Messy and imperfect. Glorious and powerful.
An exception to our long-held view has been the long, and so far in vain, effort to get Forest Parkers a direct vote on video gaming. Just last week a Cook County court ruled against locals who sought that vote. The court upheld the ruling of the local electoral board — a triumvirate of conflicted interests in our view — that there were deficiencies in the way petitions for a referendum had been handled.
Our support for a gaming referendum has always been based on the village’s early reliance on seeking citizen votes on gaming. And twice voters overwhelmingly repudiated video gaming for their village. To then ignore the input it had sought and to willfully block another vote was just wrong.
Proponents of the referendum, generally aligned with video gaming opponents, are now using online crowdsourcing to raise money for a further appeal. That’s fine and we understand their determination to fight on. Elected officials in Forest Park, specifically Mayor Anthony Calderone, have repeatedly put a stick in the eye of the thousands of sincere locals who petitioned for a vote. Using technicalities governing the headers on petition sheets, allowing (and not outright squashing) the bogus efforts of a gaming partisan and gaming beneficiary to clog the ballot with nonsensical ballot questions, the sitting officials have, in our mind, sided against their own citizens.
And there ought to be hell to pay.
We are now 13 months out from the next municipal elections. April 2019. The office of mayor and the four council seats will all be up for election. It remains unclear which, if any or all, of these officials will seek a new term. Certainly though it is not too soon for those with a more transparent view, a more inclusive view of small-town governance to begin organizing.
Now is the time, we’d say, for a loyal opposition to begin work on a platform far larger than gaming, to solicit a diverse slate, to organize and raise money and to actively, positively campaign for the bright future of Forest Park.