In a quite decisive head-handing, an Illinois Appellate Court panel last week unanimously overturned the Forest Park electoral board’s lame decision to once again block determined Forest Parkers from voting on video gaming.
The binding referendum on whether Forest Park will permit the gaming machines in local bars and restaurants is now guaranteed a spot on the ballot in the Nov. 6, 2018 General Election.
No more funny business from Mark Hosty, the ex-Forest Park council member, ex-Forest Parker and continuing bar owner, with his ballot-clogging goofball referendum questions. No more inside dealing from a Forest Park electoral board, rife with conflicts of interest, including Tom Mannix, the village commissioner in business with Hosty.
The three-judge panel sent its ruling back to the local electoral board but clearly dictated that its only future role in deciding this long contentious issue is to direct Village Clerk Vanessa Moritz to place the Let Forest Park Vote referendum on the ballot.
There is blame aplenty in this multi-year attempt to strip Forest Parkers of their voting rights. But primarily the blame goes to Mayor Anthony Calderone. He has balled this issue up over the years and, in the process, personally created a well-organized, loyal opposition.
Calderone is the person who created two non-binding opportunities for villagers to register their opinion on video gaming. Both times the opposition to gaming was overwhelming. That should have settled the matter once and for all.
When it didn’t, when local bar owners legitimately pushed the idea forward again, when a newly constituted village council expressed openness to reconsidering approval of video gaming, a strong leader would have said the matter was settled.
But Calderone whiffed on that opportunity. The next option was to approve some public discussion with a firm end date and then a deciding vote by the village council. Whichever way that council vote went, this issue would have been clearly settled and, we believe, the village would have moved ahead.
Instead Calderone let the issue fester and divide the business community on gaming and then aroused a strong opposition among citizens who demanded a vote. We’ve been festering ever since with ham-handed efforts to block a fair-and-square referendum, with intense bitterness among business owners and an increasingly strong and organized citizen opposition.
The latest electoral board trickery in denying a vote in this week’s primary election based on technicalities of petition forms has now fully backfired on Calderone. This wonderful town now faces seven months more of political division until the November vote. And, we hope, it is not lost on anyone that that vote, however it turns out, will come just six months before the April 2019 municipal elections.
Fascinating to watch as several of the most avid supporters of a referendum currently say they’re uncertain how they will vote in November. As we’ve said many times, for many people and for one newspaper, this has become an issue of fairness in governance. Video gaming is almost secondary.