Kadner: Should suburban officials have their terms limited?
Phil Kadner email@example.com | (708) 633-6787 August 14, 2012 7:58PM
Updated: September 16, 2012 6:18AM
There are many people who believe that new elected officials always will be better than the old elected officials.
Advocates of this view believe in term limits for anyone elected to public office.
While there are times when I have found myself in agreement with that point of view, I’ve come to believe there’s a good reason politicians often get re-elected.
Stephen Eberhardt, a Tinley Park attorney, has collected about 1,900 signatures on a petition to place an advisory referendum on the November ballot in his suburb that could lead to term limits for village officials.
The question reads: “Shall the village of Tinley Park pass an ordinance imposing term limits on all its elected officials?”
Because the referendum is not binding, if a majority of people vote “Yes,” the elected officials wouldn’t have to do anything.
Patrick Rea, the village clerk, who serves as Tinley Park’s chief election officer, said he’s reviewed the petitions for the referendum and likely will send them on to the Cook County and Will County clerks (the suburb has sections in each county) to be placed on the ballot in November.
Rea further said he thinks the referendum is “artfully crafted,” because it doesn’t set defined term limits, and ought to spur a “healthy policy debate” among village trustees even before the election.
Rea, by the way, served as a member of the village board for 37 years before becoming the village clerk in 2009.
He obviously would not have been allowed to stay on the village board and serve the community under any sort of defined term limit ordinance.
Rea was appointed regional administrator for the Small Business Administration’s Midwest Region by President George W. Bush in 2003 and before that was executive director of the Illinois Development Finance Authority.
He also served as vice president and corporate banker for Bank One Capital Markets and is a retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserve.
I mention all of that because Rea’s vast experience, his wealth of knowledge in private enterprise and public service have served his community well over the years.
That’s one reason he was probably re-elected time and again when he ran for trustee.
And Eberhardt told me, “If every official was like Pat Rea, I probably wouldn’t be calling for term limits.”
Rea describes Eberhardt as “an inquisitive citizen over the last few years” who has made “extensive use of the new FOI (freedom of information) law)” in obtaining documents from the village.
Eberhardt said the information he’s gathered has convinced him that Tinley Park officials aren’t as careful with tax dollars as they should be and have become “arrogant.”
“In talking to other residents, they consider running for office but there’s the power of incumbency to overcome,” he said.
“Village officials use tax money to attend local events and people see them and say, ‘There’s the mayor,’ or ‘there’s the trustee.’
“They have small armies of people who campaign for them. They hand out contracts to people who support them at election
“That’s a lot for the average guy to overcome, and it can cost a person a lot of money to run for office against an incumbent.”
Edward Zabrocki, the mayor of Tinley Park, has held office since 1981.
It’s true, many elected officials become arrogant over the years. And the bigger problem for some is that they tend to accumulate too much power and often don’t surround themselves with dissenting voices.
On the other hand, would you ever hire anyone with no experience at all to run a business?
Even someone with vast experience, like a hardworking newspaper columnist, might be great at his job but might not be the best person to put in charge of a Fortune 500 company.
I find it strange that many people automatically think anyone can run a multimillion-dollar enterprise like a government.
There’s a learning curve, for one thing. It can take a person at least one term in office to understand how to do his job.
And that one term can be disastrous.
Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a good example. New face. Bad guy.
And he did a lot of damage in his first term in office.
“I just think people ought to have a chance to vote on the concept of term limits,” Eberhardt said.
“At the very least it might get our elected leaders to question themselves.
“I think it’s a question worth considering.”
I can agree with that.
But as you ponder that question, think about the last time you voted for a change in government.
How did that work out? Voters’ high expectations are rarely fulfilled.