I Wish I Could Vote For Forest Park Mayor

March 25th, 2011 9:00 AM

By John Hubbuch

I suppose an Oak Park resident should mind his own business with respect to his opinion about the Forest Park mayoral election, but after all this is America and we citizens can have opinions about everything including Japanese nuclear power and Algerian foreign policy.

Several years ago I was on the Board of the Oak Park YMCA. After the Planning Commission shot down our building renovation and expansion plans, we entered into negotiations to buy 7 acres of the Altenheim property to build a shiny new YMCA. As far as I could tell pretty much everyone in Forest Park thought this a great idea except trustee Martin Tellalian. By a combination of nitpicking and making outrageous demands(e.g. midnight basketball, discounts for memberships for Forest Park residents in violation of YMCA national policy, et al, ad nauseum) he single handedly delayed approval of the agreement in principal. The rest is history: the lengthy delay caused the YMCA to miss its fund raising window. The markets collapsed. High wealth individual became low wealth individuals. The campaign failed, and Forest Park still owns a piece of property on which it pays monthly interest on a mortgage with no offsetting revenue.

Now to be fair the YMCA might never have raised the money to buy the property and build a new YMCA, but for damn sure, Mr. Tellalian's one-man campaign to stop the deal was no doubt a contributing factor in the failed project.

Now a discerning reader might say that lots of Boards have a grandstanding Board member with higher political ambitions, but why didn't Mayor Calderone and the maority of his Board just call for a vote and get on with it. Good question. Answer: I'm not sure, but my best guess is timidity, lack of leadership and fear that somehow this would give Mr. Tellalian a campaign issue. (He has been running for Mayor for years.)

If I sound a little bitter, I am. First the Planning Commision shoots down the expansion. Then the Forest Park majority led by Mayor Calderone lets Mr. Tellian torpedo the deal. So the YMCA spends lots of time and money and has nothing to show for it, and all we wanted was a bigger nicer Y to provide recreational and educational opportinities to the communities we serve. Too bad.

On second thought, I don't wish I could vote for Forest Park mayor. I wouldn't vote for either candidate.

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