Thursday, July 30, 2009

Matteson Mayor still generates skepticism

Once viewed as an up-and-coming progressive leader, Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore continues to make decisions that raise questions about his commitment to open and responsible government. Today's Southtown Star raises new concerns:

The owner of the new car dealership that's getting a tax break from Matteson to open in the Matteson Auto Mall let current Mayor Andre Ashmore use his billboard for a campaign spot during Ashmore's successful mayoral run in the spring.


Ashmore said his ties to Miller and auto dealer Bob Hawkinson had nothing to do with the Matteson Village Board's July 20 vote to give a tax break to Hawkinson to open a new Kia dealership in the auto mall.

"I can assure you that one has nothing to do with the other," Ashmore said. "They've always supported not only my campaign but other campaigns I've worked on. They've been supportive."

Hawkinson is a longtime Matteson businessman. He owns Hawkinson Nissan in the auto mall as well as the billboard located off Lincoln Highway and Ridgeland Avenue that Ashmore used during his campaign.
On its own, this tax break might not seen indicative of Ashmore's rejection of Obama-style politics and exploitation of Chicago-style politics. But when added with other actions, like the inherent conflict of interest in promoting his wife, the pattern is becoming increasingly clear.

The South Suburbs will never advance politically if it continues to adopt Chicago-style politics. By pitting neighbor against neighbor, village against village and township against township, the kind of politics that Andre Ashmore seems to be employing only condemns the South Suburbs to economic and political stagnation, perhaps even to political and economic poverty. Mayor Ashmore may lead us into a race to the bottom, but there's no victory there...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Flossmoor Standout Fulton Featured

The Southtown Star has a nice piece about Tampa Bay Rookie Xavier Fulton. The article really does show the common sense nature of the former H-F player:

"Everything moves faster and the players are more athletic," he said. "You have to do your homework, study the game films and be ready for anything. Sure, it's been fun to sit down and have lunch with an All-Pro like Ronde Barber, but you can't lose your focus. I'm getting paid to play football."
We'll be watching...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Braun Keeps Promise of Change

Newly-elected Mayor Paul Braun promised that change was going to come to Flossmoor. Anyone who has driven down its main roads knew that change was needed. Our former mayor brought in a "good friend" who was in serious financial difficulty to tear down five tax-paying businesses on speculation that he could develop the property.

That property (and the other property on Volmer) has sat vacant for four years -- a monument to a failed vision.

That was predictable. I attended the village board meeting where the zoning changes (extremely favorable to the former mayor's friend) were approved. And I predicted there that this developer would have trouble -- despite the fact that it was the height of the building boom! Had the former mayor -- or village board -- done its due diligence, they would have known that, too.

Newly-elected Mayor Paul Braun, though, has risen to the occasion! He told me, "I think you're going to like your new view," (my property overlooks the blighted area that our former mayor brought to Flossmoor) and the Southtown Star tells us:

The village of Flossmoor has hatched an agreement with a Frankfort developer to maintain a highly visible piece of vacant land that has become an eyesore on Flossmoor Road near downtown.
As you can see from the picture to the right, village employees removed the sign that the former owner (my understanding is that this property is a part of bankruptcy procedings) had up -- and which had not changed for several years.

But this is definitely a work in progress. While the plan seems to be to clean up the property from the original destruction of those five tax-paying businesses (as well as the damage done to the property since), it's not done yet. There remains several mounds of gravel, tree limbs and dirt. We can only hope those are removed soon.

Still, you got to give props to the new mayor. Our former mayor had a very lazy approach to business and government. His friend was never pushed to clean up the property and the former mayor certainly never considered thinking of how to use the village government to take action.

Mayor Braun is much more active in protecting Flossmoor. We are told:

All of the costs for the work will be placed as a lien against the property and will be paid by the developer when the property is sold or a permit to develop it is issued, whichever comes first, village officials said.
This could have happened sooner. Regardless, Mayor Braun has done it. And that's the important thing. The change we were promised has clearly arrived...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Matteson Moves in Wrong Direction

The SouthtownStar reports that the wife of Matteson Mayor Andre Ashmore has been promoted and given a raise by the village of Matteson.

The mayor claims that "We have nothing to hide," but this promotion of a spouse is still an embarrassment for Matteson and the South Suburbs. It signals that politics as usual is still alive and casts a pall over Ashmore's leadership. This single act demonstrates that the corrosive system of patronage and reserving jobs for family members has spread from Chicago, infecting the Southland and poisoning our politics.

Mayor Ashmore hints that his wife is qualified "and maintained he had nothing to do with his wife landing a new job." Even if this was true, it's hardly a credible claim.

So why even try to make it?

Giving a job to your spouse is never going to look legitimate. Especially not in Illinois. Toni Ashmore will forever be tainted as the woman whose husband is the mayor. And she will have to live with the whispers that, if not for her husband, she wouldn't have gotten the job. Regardless of how talented or deserving she is.

Ethics are not the standards we have in good times, but the standards we hold unto when we are tested. Both Toni and Andre have been tested here, and they have come up short. Both have exhibited a lack of sound political judgment. Both have settled for the decaying political culture that has driven Illinois to the depths where we currently reside.

The Ashmore example stands in stark contrast to the example provided by President Barack Obama. Obama's message of change is being translated into moving the country forward. Ashmore's message of nepotism harkens back to the old corrupt system of patronage that has basically ruined Illinois. And it tells us that the connection between Rod Blagojevich and the Ashmores is stronger than we realized.

This is no small matter. Trying to bring good, honest government to the South Suburbs will undoubtedly be difficult. And we have to keep our eyes upon the fresh young faces that emerge, looking for evidence that this is their intention. It appears that Mayor Ashmore is looking more to Mayor Daley as a model than to Barack Obama. And that's a shame...