After a recent Lemont Village Board meeting, I had an impromptu conversation with our Mayor, Mr. Brian Reaves. I, along with several others, had attended the meeting in our continuing protest about his and the Village Trustees determination to build a $39 Million Brownfield Sports Complex with absolutely no input allowed from Lemont residents. In previous posts I had repeated a statement of his that he made to our group in a December 18th, 2013 meeting where he said the following “ Hey, you elected me and now I can do what I want.” At that time, he made it clear that this was the operating assumption shared by the Village trustees as well.
During our recent brief, but spirited, conversation, he complained that he had not said this, that I was “spinning” the truth. Subsequent to this conversation, I consulted with several of those who were at the meeting in question and they all agree that that was indeed what he said very emphatically! He attempted to justify this self serving position by referring to his perception of voter indifference by citing a Village Board meeting where he claimed there was only I person in the audience. (A little exaggeration for sure.). His conclusion was, since very few show up at the meetings, that he and the Trustees have implicit approval to “do what they want”.
True, but also not true.
If Mayor Reaves and the Lemont trustees perform their expected duties of maintaining Village services, then yes, within reasonable limits, they can do what they want.
However, when the Mayor and Trustees announce plans to erect a traveling Sports Complex with a total cost of over $39 Million that Lemont can never truly own, and has absolutely nothing to do with their expected duties, then it’s time to let the people have a say in the decision process.
I hadn’t planned to speak to the Mayor and Trustees at the meeting, but something they do to open their meeting affected me: something very simple, and very familiar.
They open their meetings with the pledge of Allegiance.
As I recited the familiar words … “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands…”
In my mind as I was my saying and hearing everyone else say the word “Republic” I suddenly realized what a hypocritical and demeaning exercise I was unwittingly participating in.
I suddenly realized that while I and the other audience members were sincerely stating our fundamental beliefs about our country, that by virtue of their despicable and deceitful conduct regarding the Brownfield Sports Complex, the Mayor and six Trustees were implicitly flaunting their power in our faces and were dishonoring their oaths of office as they held their hands over their hearts and recited those hallowed words with us.
In a “Republic” you see, political power is explicitly vested in the people, who in turn exercise their power through elected representatives.
When an elected Lemont official tells you and several other citizens that once elected he and his cohorts can ignore the will of the people and can “do what they want”, you know you’re dealing with someone who has no sense of civic duty, responsibility, or personal honor.
This is more than a critical, personal assessment of his and the Trustees’ betrayal of the public’s trust: these attributes of civic duty, responsibility, and personal honor, are what constitutes our only “enforcement mechanism” to ensure that our elected officials do in fact “represent” us and not act to “rule” us. Allowing them to “do what they want” for the next three years is unacceptable and un-American.
For well over a year, a small group of concerned citizens has demanded that the Mayor and Trustees honor their duties to represent the will of Lemonters by allowing some format for public expression of approval or disapproval for their Brownfield Sports Complex. In support of this demand, they acquired 1,700 signatures of Lemont residents requiring a referendum on the Complex’s funding. To no avail: Trustees Debby Blatzer, Paul Chialdkias, Clifford Miklos, Rick Sniwgowski, Ronald Stapleton, Jeanette Virgilio and Mayor Reaves have carefully planned their scheme to avoid and deny any meaningful input by the public. By not seeking or allowing for public approval or disapproval of their scheme, it means that the Mayor and the Trustees will “own” the results all by themselves. During my conversation with Mayor Reaves, in the presence of the Trustees, I said that when “their” Complex goes belly up In 3 – 5 years that there would almost certainly be very unpleasant consequences for him and his gang of six Trustees. His contemptuous response was “You can’t sue me, I have tort immunity”.
Mr. Mayor and Trustee cohorts, they won’t be torts.
And you won’t be facing a handful of disgruntled people, you’ll be dealing with thousands.