Mayoral Election Was Triumph Of Substance Over Style


When it comes to local suburban elections, some people “get it” and some don’t.

While these elections can be, and often are, simple popularity contests, they have the potential for being very issue-driven – as this last mayoral election proved.  That’s because local suburban elections (unlike elections at the state and national level) tend to deal with people, facts and issues that are more familiar to the voters and, therefore, can be more readily understood by them with even a modest effort.

Which is why you can tell those who “get it” from those who don’t by how they view local politics and local political campaigns. 

The “get its” talk about matters of substance, like a candidate’s record, policies and positions on the issues.  The “don’ts” dwell on irrelevancies like personality and style.  And when the election is over, more often than not the “don’ts” will attribute a candidate’s win or loss to the kind of campaign he/she ran, as in “Candidate X ran a great campaign” rather than “Candidate X had the best ideas.” 

And because the “don’ts” deal in personalities and style rather than substance, they tend to regard political campaigns and the whole electoral process as something dirty, distasteful and divisive rather than something to be celebrated.

Which is why we take issue with outgoing Park Ridge Park District Commissioner Dick Barton’s letter to the editor in last week’s Park Ridge Journal (“Future Is At Stake,” April 15, 2009), which opens with: “Let the healing begin.”

What, exactly, needs to be “healed”, Mr. Barton?  Free elections, and the vigorously-contested campaigns that precede them, display the health of our democratic Republic.  They are events to be celebrated and cherished, not illnesses which require healing and recovery.  

Barton bemoans these local political campaigns for “the friction they create between neighbors, church members, those in civic organizations of all types, and between rival groups of candidate supporters.” But the “friction” of ideas and policies rubbing against each other in competition for the voters’ attention and support is usually how the best ideas and policies – and the candidates who espouse them – are identified and endorsed.  

That’s why a candidate’s substance – his/her principles, policies and ideas – are far more important than his/her style – the organizations to which he belongs to, the charities to which she contributes, or the boards on which he serves.  And that’s why John Adams advised: “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” 

If a record of community service were the chief qualification for public office, a case could be made for filling every office with a member of the clergy – which would be a recipe for disaster, as the government of Iran demonstrates.   

Barton asks those who participated in the election to “put away our petty disagreements” and “work as a real community.”  We’re not sure what election he is describing, but we don’t recall any “petty disagreements” between Mayor Howard Frimark and mayor-elect Dave Schmidt – unless he considers “petty” the very real differences expressed by the two candidates on such significant matters as honest and transparent government, infrastructure, taxes, spending and debt, and development.  

We sure don’t, and we’re betting that neither do the 8,655 citizens who did their civic duty by voting.

Rather than harming the community, the electoral process is the essential act by which a “real community” goes about governing itself.  The candidates and their supporters did, indeed, “work as a real community” in the weeks and months leading up to April 7th, as did the voters who cast their votes.

They are the ones who “get it.”  And they are the ones who deserve our gratitude.

7 comments so far

That’s because Dick Barton wants everyone to relax and not do anything drastic like review where the Taste of Park Ridge is spending their money or if Park Ridge should have more than one Cab Company competing for business. His entire ilk gets nervous when people start asking questions or worse yet they get very nervous when people who ask questions get elected over those who play the game.

I am very glad Dave Schmidt won. I do hope there is change. But I have to tell you that I am so freakin’ tired of all the Taste of Park Ridge posts.

Here is a very simple to-do for soon to be Mayor Dave. After you are sworn in, please sit down with the board of the taste. Please conduct a careful review of the organization. I am sure that they would be pleased to sit down and review everything including financials with you. Then, as Mayor, please tell the people of Park Ridge (here or at PRU or in a paper) if you believe it should continue in PR.

I would appear from the blogs that many who voted for you are at the least suspicious of the value of the taste and what expenses the city might incur. I would hope within a few weeks after your swearing in we hear if this is an event you endorse or not.

anon on 04.25.09 12:22 pm:

The reason for Taste of Park Ridge posts is because private corporation Taste of Park Ridge, NFP (“Taste, Inc.”) continues to keep its financial information secret, and hasn’t even explained why it voluntarily dissolved itself on February 20 of this year and appears to have then re-incorporated on March 4.

With City finances a mess and many other problems demanding attention, why should Mayor Dave have to spend his valuable time looking into whether Taste, Inc. is using its monopoly of our primary annual street festival to enrich certain “insiders”? If Taste, Inc. is legit, why doesn’t it post all of its financial information – including a list of its vendors and what they are paid, how much it pays the City for various services, how much “profit” it generates, and what it does with that “profit” – on its nifty website?

That way, the taxpayers could decide for themselves whether to endorse Taste, Inc.’s monopoly of Taste of Park Ridge, the event.

Anonymous on 04.24.09 3:26 pm

Good point about certain people with their fingers in a lot of pies getting very nervous when questions start being asked about them or the pies their fingers are in. And Barton seems to be a pretty good example of that.

I can’t find any mention of him doing anything in the public arena in Park Ridge until he ran unsuccessfully for 7th Ward ald. in 2003. But by 2005 he won an uncontested race for the Park District Board, and around the same time he became president of the Chamber of Commerce and took a prominent role with Taste of Park Ridge. Around that same time, his company got a $30,000 contract to do PR work for Maine Township.

Since December 2007, his company has contributed $1,275 to the “Maine Township Incumbents,” the political party that controls Maine Twp. government and that gave his company the PR work. Neat, huh?


Your answer did not state anything that I am not already aware of or that has not already been beat to death on the blogs. My opinion about the taste is probably less harsh than some who post here but I am wrong most of the time.

My point was only that we just elected Mr. “breath of fresh air transparent government”. He says he wants to entertain questions and suggestions from the people of PR. I am sure many here have his cell number so voice your concerns to the Mayor. Hell, I have seen him post here – I am sure he has read the threads about the taste. The Mayor has the stick to sit down with the Taste Board. He can either endorse it, request changes or work to cancel it.

I look forward to the Taste this summer, as I do every summer. However, if the taste goes off this summer without any review or comment by the new Mayor, how is that lstening to the concerns of what appears to be many of his strongest supporters?

anon on 04.26.09 2:43 pm:

Obviously, you are missing the points here.

First of all, although we endorsed mayor-elect Schmidt, we hardly intend to give him any free passes once he takes the oath and puts his butt in the big chair. Which means we aren’t willing to simply take his word or accept his opinion on whether Taste, Inc. is using its monopoly in the way that is best for the majority of citizens and taxpayers of Park Ridge.

Second, we’ve seen enough of this State’s “Culture of Corruption” – and our own City’s “Culture of Secrecy” – to know that whenever somebody or something feeding at the public trough or receiving governmental benefits is not completely transparent in its operations, there’s a good chance something kinky is going on.

Third, a quick check of the City Code suggests that investigating Taste, Inc. for purposes of continuing or terminating its monopoly of Taste, the event, is within the City Manager’s job description, not the mayor’s. But whether he can compel Taste, Inc. to produce all its financials, vendor lists, etc. is a question for the City Attorney.

Bottom line, we see no reason why Taste, Inc. has consistently been unwilling to make its operations conmpletely transparent – unless, of course, it has something to hide.


I am not arguing with you on Taste making their financials public and I do not have any idea why they have not done so. I will admit that I have never asked any member of the taste board this question and I see several members around town on a fairly regular basis. I will make it a point to ask them exactly why they choose not to do so.

Whoever’s job description it falls under,the Mayor certainly has the authority to meet with them himself and involve all appropriate people as needed. He also has the ability to bring it up at the “COW” meetings. If he shares your concern, as our new Mayor he has the ability to get to the bottom of what if anything is here.

If it is costing us Tax dollars to support the taste (police, clean up, street closings, etc) is it not up to the city (directed by the Mayor) to investigate what it costs us and what we get for it, and reprot this imformation to the people of PR in an open manner.

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


(optional and not displayed)