2007 Mayoral Election
The election is still about 20 months away, and no one as yet has publicly announced their candidacy for any, office let alone the office of Mayor. Under the assumption, held by many, that Mayor Calderone will run for a third term, it has become obvious that one person holds the key to the small but important voting minority that hasn't already made up their minds. That person is the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick Fitzgerald.
Some time ago Mayor Calderone said, "Everyone deserves a second chance" on the question of why he was choosing to hire the much-maligned Anthony Bruno to oversee the Forest Park water project. That noble decision could very well cost Calderone his job. It's obvious that Bruno is in the cross-hairs of the Feds, and that the recent subpoenas received at Village Hall are not so much for gathering information to determine whether or not to prosecute Bruno; but rather, to find other things for which to prosecute. A Bruno indictment prior to the April 2007 election would deal the Calderone campaign a severe, if not lethal blow. Being political babes in the woods, the citizens of Forest Park, unlike their Melrose Park, Cicero, and Chicago counterparts, have not accepted the fact that public corruption is a fact of life.
On the flip side, if no action has been taken by Fitzgerald's office come election time, the Mayor's campaign will fire at their opponents "I told you so's" in regard to the "glorified FOIAs." A lack of an indictment of Bruno could give the Mayor enough momentum to secure a victory.
So, to any potential mayoral candidates - save the money on yard signs, brochures, and ads in the Review. The decisive vote will not come from Forest Parkers, but instead, from the Dirksen Federal building.
On September 12th a closed session between the Village Council and the Park District has been scheduled to discuss the potential purchase of the Roos Building property. As reported in today's Review, the professional appraisal has come in at $1.3 million as light industrial, $2.3 million as a Planned Unit Development. Both of these numbers are substantially lower than the $3.75 million dollar price tag attached to it by the developer Patrick Wangler in May of this year.
It would be better for public discourse if this meeting were held in an open session, as was the first meeting regarding the potential purchase. In practical terms, however, it doesn't matter since no one in this village can keep a secret and the discussions held in closed sessions will no doubt be available almost verbatim in the September 14th issue of the Review.
At this bargain-basement price, it is hoped that the other 9 elected officials (Council and Park) will follow the Mayor's lead in coming up with a solution to purchase the property for public use. Cries of poverty will be quickly dismissed by the public. It's time for the two boards to show some vision and courage by sticking their necks out on this issue.
It's great to finally see a working Ethics Committee, and I don't see anything wrong with Village Administrator Michael Sturino acting in an advisory capacity to them. However, the committee as formed seems to be reactive rather than proactive. It would seem more prudent for them to meet regularly, establishing and clarifying ethical issues as they pertain to the village, rather than acting as a tribunal to settle issues after-the-fact. The potential $2500 fine for frivolous claims should be reduced to a more manageable $500. The Mayor's fear that frivolous claims would tarnish reputations is moot since each council member's reputation has already endured a thorough tarnishing.
However, since according to Village Administrator Michael Sturino a pro-active Ethics Committee is not possible because Forest Park is a non-home rule community, maybe it's time to resurrect the option of . . .
In 2001, a referendum to make Forest Park a Home Rule community was defeated in a Roos-like political atmosphere. In my opinion, the advantages of being a Home Rule community would clearly outweigh any disadvantages for Forest Park. A pro-active Ethics Commission, greater scrutiny of illegal housing, and special taxing options for specific purposes such as increased police presence on Madison Street. These all seem like great reasons to me.
After its defeat, the referendum, by law, was prohibited from being put before the voters again for two years. It's once again time to put this before the voters of Forest Park. In order to give it enough time for debate, let's get it on the ballot for the 2007 election.