Is Mayor Dave Heilmann ducking the voters by avoiding participating in a village board candidates’ forum?
That’s how it appears to a group of citizens who are trying to organize a forum before the April 9 election for a time that is compatible with the mayor's busy schedule.
After the Oak Lawn Chamber backed out of sponsoring the village board candidates' forum some concerned Oak Lawn citizens picked up the chamber's fallen mantle.
John Crivellone and some fellow Masons chipped in $300 to pay a group to sponsor a rescheduled candidates forum for March 21.
Crivellone and friends secured the Johnson-Phelps VFW Post, which agreed to sponsor a forum to show the village board candidates that residents care about democracy.
The only thing they forget to do was check with the mayor to see if the time and date was convenient for him.
Crivellone said he texted the mayor on Saturday evening, presumably when Heilmann and his wife were hosting the Pat and Joe Party at St. Linus, which was casually mentioned during last week's village board meeting.
According to Crivellone, the mayor said he had a fundraiser on March 21. It must be a top-secret fundraiser because there is nothing about it on the Mayor’s Independence Party website or his Facebook page.
Crivellone and another resident, Glen Kato, tracked down the mayor at Monday’s neighborhood safety meeting at Oak Lawn-Hometown Middle School to see if the new date—March 27—fit in with the mayor's schedule.
The mayor told them he didn’t wish to discuss it at the safety meeting.
Kato organized the mayoral forum between Heilmann and mayoral challenger, former Dist. 1 trustee Jerry Hurckes when he was president of the Oak Lawn Chamber in 2009. Kato said there were similar issues then with getting Heilmann to settle on a date.
Watch the inspirational Ethel Merman video, "Everything's Coming Up Roses."
After four anguished years of village board politics, Kato would like residents to have the opportunity to size up the candidates in 2013.
“I live here. I’m a resident,” Kato said. “I want to know where the candidates stand on the issues.”
Despite numerous phone calls and email messages to the mayor, Patch hasn’t heard from the mayor much lately either, except to be copied on the email he sent to mayoral challenger, Sandra Bury, saying he'd be happy to debate her any time.
Heilmann told Patch that Bury had yet to respond.
“He’s using the power of his incumbency to avoid facing the voters,” Bury said.
Bury is planning on meeting and greeting residents anyway in the VFW Post lounge from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, during the time that had been scheduled for the off-again forum.
“I think it’s important for voters to meet a candidate without having to pay money for it,” she said.
So that Patch isn't accused of showing favoritism, we called 115 Bourbon Street in Merrionette Park at 1:08 this morning, where we were told the mayor was holding a political fundraiser, also from 7 to 10 p.m., Thursday. Sorry, we don’t know the cost.
Meanwhile, Crivellone isn't giving up. He says his reputation is on the line if he can't get any candidates to show up at a forum. He's concerned what the Union League Club might be thinking about Oak Lawn, but we’re certain the club has encountered this before. (Read John Crivellone's email to the mayor.)
If Mayor Heilmann wants to remain silent while coasting into a third term, we think that’s a pretty good political strategy.
But we hope he’ll change his mind, because a lot of us have been waiting a long time for a showdown between the litigator and the optometrist, almost as long we waited for the release of the Godfrey and Kahn Report.
As a hat tip to the mayor’s community theater background, we offer this encouraging youtube video featuring that grand dame of Broadway, the late Ethel Merman:
"You'll be swell! You'll be great!
Gonna have the whole world on the plate!
Starting here, starting now,
honey, everything's coming up roses!"