6:30 pm –
I arrived early. The forum, sponsored by West Suburban Journal and held at the Maywood Park District building on Madison, was scheduled to begin at 7. I was surprised to see a stage, at least two feet high, where the candidates would talk. At least two feet lower and arranged in a semi-circular wave formation were empty folding chairs. Nicole Trottie, President and CEO of the West Suburban Journal, was chatting with one of the moderators, a freelance journalist named Carl Nyberg, at a folding table laid out in front of the stage.
Approx. 6:35 pm –
I asked Mr. Nyberg if the candidates were briefed ahead of time on the questions. He said no. Ms. Trottie confirmed. The candidates didn’t know what questions they’d be asked, which would make for a more interesting night (my beliefs). She quickly summarized the format: Each candidate would present an opening statement, followed by questions from the moderators. After each question, each candidate would have two minutes to respond. The second half of the forum would be comprised of questions fielded from the audience and to these, candidates would be able to respond in whatever order they liked.
Approx. 6:45 pm –
The mayor’s communications director, Larry Shapiro, briskly walked in and handed a letter to Ms. Trottie, who reacted confusedly. She placed the envelope on the table and the three of us just looked at it. It was from Mayor Yarbrough. Ms. Trottie wondered aloud what it might be. “Maybe a check,” I said, jokingly, trying to diffuse the tension. No one laughed. Perhaps they didn’t hear me. When Trottie finally got around to opening the envelope, a type-written letter kindly informed her that the Mayor would not be appearing. I wasn’t able to see the exact words. She seemed taken aback. I overheard her saying that the Mayor had RSVP’d and, until she’d gotten the letter, had assumed he would come. They would just have to improvise. Roll with the punches (and other clichés).
Approx. 7 pm – 7:10 pm –
People were still strolling in. I greeted the candidates that were present as they made their way to the stage. By the time the moderators and the candidates were getting situated on the stage, there were about 30-40 people in the gymnasium, which was filled with enough chairs to seat at least 150.
Approx. 7:10 pm –
The forum began with each candidate giving his and her opening statement.
[From here on out, I’ll be giving short, very loose summaries of the candidate’s statements and responses. I’ll ask the reader to consider my words with extreme skepticism, as the purpose of this post is to simply present residents who weren’t present at the forum with some idea as to how it went.
Moreover, I invite citizens and even the candidates themselves to post corrections, opinions, insights reactions and any feedback they may have to these summaries. If I’m misrepresenting any candidate’s views, I’d like to be told so. If the criticism is valid, I’d gleefully stand corrected. And everyone would be all the more informed as a result.]
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:
The first moderator asked whether or not each candidate, if elected mayor, would take campaign donations from either Village employees or Village contractors.
Trustee Perkins responded that this would be a breach of ethics and an open conflict of interest.
Trustee Guzman lamented the lack of enforcement mechanisms to preempt such ethical lapses. He expressed concern over the convoluted relationship between contractors and certain Village officials and suggested, as a potential remedy, the adoption of new ethics ordinances.
Mrs. Gooden said that there was nothing inherently wrong or illegal about people donating to whatever party or individual candidate they so choose, as long as the motivations behind those donations are not inappropriate.
The second moderator asked about the performance of Districts 89 and 209. Were the low-performing districts keeping people from moving into Maywood? And what role does the mayor play in improving the districts?
Trustee Perkins said that, although the mayor has no control over the schools, he or she could work in collaboration with the schools to improve performance. She cited her tenure as PTO President to make the case that the entire Village should be involved in improving education standards.
Trustee Guzman said that the disparity between District 209 and District 89 was apparent when considering the differences between the Proviso Math and Science Academy and the elementary schools. He stressed the importance of the role of village government in increasing expectations among school children.
Mrs. Gooden agreed that elected officials have a duty in making schools better. She noted the disparity between District 89 schools located in Melrose Park and those located in Maywood. The schools, she said, were in the same district, but offered different services. She cited as an example the internet access to grades that she enjoyed while her children attended a District 89 school located in Melrose Park. Maywood schools, she said, did not offer this advantage.
Part II of this synopsis will be available tomorrow.