WWRD…Besides Hide From Mayoral Debates?


As any regular reader of this blog knows, we love contested elections. 

We love it when two or more candidates for the same public office are forced to show why they deserve to be elected over their competition.  We love it when an incumbent actually has to defend his/her record, and when a challenger has to demonstrate that he/she actually has better ideas than the incumbent.

Which is why the current mayoral campaign has, so far, been a disappointment.

In one corner we have one-term incumbent Mayor Dave Schmidt, an iconoclastic fiscal conservative who comfortably defeated tax-and-spend incumbent opportunist mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark in 2009 by effectively capturing the roughly 1,000 votes which provided Frimark his margin of victory in 2005. 

By 2011, Schmidt – who acquired the nickname “Mayor No” for vetoing unaffordable, unsound and/or unwise spending – had outlasted four of Frimark’s alderpuppets, who slunk off the Council without even standing for re-election.  And after several years of the City piling up millions of dollars in annual operating deficits, Schmidt and the new Council have begun posting annual operating surpluses which, cumulatively, are expected to top $2.5 million for the three most recent fiscal years, the third of which will end April 30.

In the other corner we have newcomer Larry Ryles, a challenger who nevertheless acts like he’s running a “rose garden” campaign by dodging mano-a-mano match-ups with Schmidt whenever possible – starting with a February 7 “town-hall” debate scheduled for the Park Ridge Senior Center that will also include aldermanic candidate debates. 

As reported in this week’s Park Ridge Journal (“Town Hall Still A Go”) and Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Ryles turns down request for second Park Ridge mayoral debate”), Ryles’ alibi for dodging that town hall debate is that Schmidt organized it.  Seriously.  Even though it will be held on a “neutral” site (a Park District facility) and will be moderated by members of the City Hall press team.

Ryles is also reportedly trying to dodge the Park Ridge Republican Women’s Forum on March 7.  Which leaves him committed to only the Chamber of Commerce luncheon debate at the Park Ridge Country Club on March 13, and the League of Women Voters debate the following evening.

That’s unfortunate, because good government is furthered by Schmidt’s record being challenged on its merits by a competent critic.  Yet all Ryles seems capable of mustering are a few spitballs from the weeds – most notably his criticism of Schmidt for the Council’s recent reduction of what originally was looking like an 11.11% property tax levy increase, down to a 2.15% one – even though Ryles uttered not a peep of protest at the December 17 City Council meeting when that 2.15% levy was approved. 

That’s not surprising, however, given that we don’t see how Ryles can possibly reconcile his criticism of the levy reduction with his tub-thumping insistence that taxes should not be raised any higher than the inter-year increase in the Consumer Price Index. 

But so long as Ryles keeps hiding in plain sight by dodging debates with Schmidt, the voters will continue to be deprived of the opportunities they deserve to see and hear the two candidates meaningfully go toe-to-toe on all the important issues facing our community. 

And to find out specifically what would Ryles do about them that would be different from what Schmidt has been doing for the past four years.

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