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The whisper campaign is alive and well this election season yet it had not been on my radar until I encountered it first hand last week during a routine phone call with village hall. This election is very, very different. Many people who have an “interest” in village affairs are facing the new reality of life (or job) without Calderone for the first time in well over a decade. Before I get to my encounter, let’s look at the stakes now that there will be a new Mayor.

The Mayor of Forest Park is also the “Commissioner of Public Affairs” (CoPA).  Village Code Chapter 4, 1-4-3-1 describes the powers and duties of that office and it is a powerful job. The code specifically identifies that the CoPA is in charge of the Police Department and the Community Center but it also states that “He shall have general supervision over all departments and offices and employees of the village….” That’s a lot of people who basically serve at the pleasure of the Mayor/CoPA.  I’m guessing that those employees that work the closest to the Mayor are most vulnerable to be replaced, ie Village Clerk, Village manager etc. No wonder I had the encounter I did with a high ranking staff member at village hall.

All fairy tales need boogie men and in FP whisper tales those characters have typically come from a trite roster of “guys from Melrose Park,” “guys from Rosemont” and “Proviso hacks.”  This year 2 new “guys” were added to the list.  A former FP Commissioner and a current FP Commissioner.  Interesting, almost refreshing.

So I am having this phone conversation about a village issue when suddenly this staffer blindsides me asking “How can you support candidate XYZ for Mayor?”  “Didn’t you know he is secretly being backed by Mr. Former FP Commissioner, Mr. Current FP Commissioner and Mr. Proviso Hack who also works for Mr. High Ranking Official in Melrose Park?”  I was shocked! I didn’t know what to say. I briefly defended candidate XYZ and ended the call. Suddenly I had two raging conflicts in my mind. Was this outrageous rumor about XYZ true? And what the hell is going on at village hall? This is electioneering by a village employee!

First, I had a face to face with candidate XYZ and all was good.  Apparently this rumor has been out and about and debunked for quite some time.  Secondly I thought about my encounter with the village employee and realized that in some way there must be some sort of signal – be it real, implied or fantasy that one of the Mayoral candidates is really going to shake things up at village hall.

Here’s the take away: First, village hall is great for water bills and vehicle stickers but political talk is wrong and likely illegal. Second, if you hear a negative “whisper,” ask the candidate directly yet respectfully.  All of the candidates I have met this season have been very approachable and willing to talk about their message.

Steven Backman

Forest Park resident 

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