Candidates Forum Tonight!


For those of you who actually give a rat’s derriere about who runs our local governmental bodies for the next four years – and how they do it – tonight is what passes for the unofficial kick-off of the 2015 election season in these parts.

It’s the Republican Women of Park Ridge’s 2015 Candidate Forum, and it will be held at the South Park Field House, Talcott at Cumberland, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

It is expected to feature appearances by Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, Beyonce, Sam Smith…wait a minute, no…that’s the list of the performers from the recent Grammy Awards broadcast. Sorry.

Instead, you’ll get to see and hear the candidates for:

  • Park Ridge alderman in Wards 1, 3, 5 and 7, of which only Wards 1 and 3 have contested races (Andrea Cline v. John Moran, and Rick Van Roeyen v. Bob Wilkening);
  • Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 Board, where four candidates are running for three 4-year terms (Tony Borrelli v. Greg Bublitz v. Mark Eggemann v. Tom Sotos), and one candidate, Bob Johnson, is running unopposed for a 2-year term;
  • Maine Twp. High School District 207 Board, with six candidates running for three 4-year terms (Paula Besler v. Theresa Collins v. Jill Dolan v. Chimanial Patel v. Pablo Morales v. Sean Sullivan);
  • the Park Ridge Park District Board, for which there are four candidates running for three 4-year terms (Cynthia Grau v. Jim O’Brien v. Mary Wynn Ryan v. Mel Thillens); and
  • the Oakton Community College Board, where five candidates are running for two 6-year terms (Thresa Bashiri-Remetio v. Christopher Evdoxiadis v. Constantine Ress v. Benjamin Salzberg v. William Stafford).

Although we don’t particularly care for the “forum” format in which each candidate speaks for around four minutes and fields no questions from his/her opponents or the audience, we understand the difficulties of implementing a “debate” format with so many candidates. Nevertheless, this event is worthy of your attention because it will be the first – and perhaps only – time where voters can expect to see and hear all the candidates for these offices in one place.

And that’s important.

While the now-ubiquitous websites and flyers can give you a lot of useful information about the candidates, seeing and hearing them in person is one of the best ways – if not the best way – to judge their sincerity, genuineness and credibility. That’s why the truth-seeking function of our judicial system is based on a judge and jury getting the opportunity to take the measure of witnesses in person.

And with our state and its subsidiary local governmental units in such cumulatively dire economic straits, electing the most qualified, sincere, genuine and credible candidates means more today than ever before.  So it’s pretty darned sad that we have two uncontested aldermanic races, and effectively only one contested race for the D-64 Board and the Park Board.  And then folks wonder why Illinois is in the mess it is!

The most important races are for the boards of the two school districts, which consume almost 70% of our property taxes.

Over the past several years their rankings vis-à-vis the public schools of other comparably-affluent communities (and of the Chicago magnet schools) have dropped considerably from the days when Maine South was a fixture among the Top Five public high schools in Illinois – and similar regard was given D-64 schools as being the principal feeder system for Maine South.

Meanwhile, both districts’ teachers and administrators appear to be among the highest paid, thanks to elected school board members who don’t seem to understand that they are supposed to be representing the taxpayers’ interests every bit as much as the students’ interests. Or the concept of paying for performance. Or of not being sock puppets for the teachers’ unions. Or of doing things of consequence out in the open instead of hiding in closed sessions, as we wrote about in our 08.29.14 post.

The D-64 Board members elected in April also will be charged with negotiating the next D-64 teachers contract in 2016. That may be the single biggest responsibility they will have during their four years in office.

The good news is that neither of the perpetrators of the last negotiated-in-secret sweetheart teachers contract – current Board member John Heyde and former board member Pat Fioretto – will be part of that process. The bad news is that Heyde’s “Mini Me,” Scott Zimmerman, will be the most senior Board member and likely to lead the negotiating team; and the rest of the current Board have shown themselves to be more sock puppet than steel-spined when it comes to fiscal matters.

The candidates in the two contested races for the City Council, on the other hand, seem to be focused on the issue of flooding. The decisive question there may end up being who is less of a one-trick pony and more of a big-picture visionary.

And we wonder whether the Park Board incumbents will even attempt to alibi/justify/spin the quality of their stewardship under which the District has taken on around $19 million of new long-term debt, $7 million of which (for the Centennial water park) never even went to referendum, and the remainder of which – for the new Prospect Park – went to referendum only because the $7 million water park debt used up most of the District’s limited non-referendum borrowing power.

So bundle up and come on out to the South Park Field House tonight to see and hear the candidates who want your vote, and control over your tax dollars, for the next several years.  Give yourself the best possible chance to make the best possible decision on election day.

Or you can always take the easy way out and move to Chicago – where “participatory government” means selling your soul, and your finances, to Mayor Tiny Dancer.

To read or post comments, click on title.

4 comments so far

The head’s up is appreciated. I agree with you that the schools’ races, and most of all D64’s because of the teacher contract negotiations in 2016, are the most important.

I hear that Bublitz is the PREA’s select candidate. Is that true and, irrespectively, are there any other PREA or Maine Teachers Association candidates on the ballot that we should be looking out for?

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have heard that PREA members organized Bublitz’s petition drive, although that has not been reliably confirmed.

And one might argue that any D-64 or D-207 board member who has voted for a teachers union contract should be viewed as a PREA or MTA candidate because those contracts were sweetheart deals.

Are you going over or under that 50 people will be in attendance, including the candidates?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Over, without question.

Bublitz was not present last night.

Missed you there last night!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Work sometimes interferes with civic duty.

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