Stranczek era ending none too soon
SouthtownStar editorial May 30, 2012 10:18PM
Updated: July 6, 2012 9:15AM
For the first time in more than 50 years, no one named Stranczek will appear on the ballot during Crestwood’s village election next spring. Whether the Stranczek era is remembered as gold or fool’s gold, the pending federal trial of two village officials may offer clarity.
Mayor Robert Stranczek is leaving after six years on the job to “spend more time with family,” as the euphemism goes, though he surely sensed the dark mood of voters after an astonishing scandal over the village supplying polluted drinking water for many years.
But he was a bit player in the Crestwood drama, overshadowed by his father, Chester, who served as mayor for 38 years — tightly controlling the working-class town and legendary for his frugality and disregard for any dissent.
For decades, Crestwood puffed its collective chest about how cheaply the Stranczeks ran the town, and Chet and Bob played that tune as long as they could. The village rebated property taxes, outsourced city services and added businesses, which kept residents satisfied — except for those who insisted on some public input or debate.
Now the real bill for those good times has come due — in terms of lost credibility and possible prison sentences for the two water department workers who are charged, one of whom is now police chief.
Crestwood’s reputation as the little engine that could took a major, possibly fatal, hit when the village’s use of water from a contaminated well became public a few years ago. Chet and his minions were warned by environmental regulators in the mid-1980s to cease and desist, but they continued using the bad well water for another 22 years, apparently to save money. Chet Stranczek was not charged in the indictment, apparently because he suffers from dementia in retirement in Florida.
What cannot be refuted is a long pattern of arrogance and deception, which Crestwood officials vehemently denied after they were caught endangering their citizens’ health. If there was ever a moment when a political exit was wise, Robert Stranczek picked the right one.