It’s no secret that the Review has been critical of Mayor Anthony Calderone for a good portion of his long tenure. So his decision, reported late Friday by the Review, not to seek yet another term come April is good news to us.
This village needs new leadership, fresh energy and some conscious path to get past the bitter divisions that took hold long before they came to a boil over video gaming. The mayor-for-life model usually ends in a whimper rather than hosannas — consider the end of the second Daley era in Chicago. It is why we wish our mayor had retired four years back and why we were concerned that he planned to seek yet another term in 2019.
Just too long.
That said, could Anthony Calderone have loved Forest Park any more than he does? No. Could he have been more present in more ways big and more ways quiet and unannounced? No.
Lost in the archives of the Review are the enthusiastic endorsements this newspaper offered Tony Calderone in his early runs for mayor. We saw him then as the progressive voice for change in a village we thought had become dangerously set in its ways, too rooted to the past.
Calderone pushed forward in bringing professional management to village hall, ending the inane practice of having volunteer commissioners actually running specific village departments. While there have been bumps in that road, the change has taken hold and allows Forest Park to run today as a modern suburb.
Despite the small social media skirmish over the weekend over whether Calderone or former mayor Lorraine Popelka should get the credit for the rebirth of Madison Street, we’re happy to say Mayor Popelka laid the groundwork for necessary state funding of a new streetscape but that it was Mayor Calderone who had the vision to reimagine Forest Park’s main street.
Hard to recall exactly how desolate Madison Street had become as Calderone became mayor. Junk shops posing as antique stores. An incursion of offices in storefronts. Bars that were unchanged over decades. And really, outside of some decent bar food, no real restaurants. Calderone needed and welcomed help from energized retailers, from a trailblazing Main Street Redevelopment effort, sparked out of Forest Park Bank and the Chamber.
But Calderone was the face of the village in welcoming new businesses, cutting any red tape, and celebrating the many successes that came. He drove neighboring Oak Park crazy as Forest Park lured their businesses across Harlem. With the Chamber, Calderone’s village hall embraced a series of happy public events through the year.
The bold decision early in his tenure for village government to purchase the open land at the Altenheim will, we remain confident, be a genuine legacy for this mayor.
So thanks to Tony Calderone for his long service and his many accomplishments.
Now let’s look forward. Enough with the sniping, the doom and gloom. The village has challenges. Find one that doesn’t. One thing we are certain that Tony Calderone and the Review agree on is that Forest Park has great possibilities and good days ahead.