Term limits drive inspires Tinley Park mayoral candidate
BY STEVE METSCH firstname.lastname@example.org November 2, 2012 6:50PM
Steve Eberhardt and Darlene Carrero hold petitions at the Oak Park Avenue Metra station in Tinley Park, IL on Friday, July 6, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 5, 2012 6:21AM
When the people spoke, Steve Eberhardt listened.
Eberhardt is an attorney in Tinley Park who thinks adopting term limits for the village’s elected officials would make them more accountable for their actions. So this year, he and his friends spent months gathering about 1,900 signatures on petitions to place the topic on Tuesday’s ballot as an advisory referendum question.
They got the signatures they needed, and voters will be asked if they support the idea of term limits.
During the petition drive, Eberhardt got another idea, the result of which will have his name on the ballot when municipal elections come up in April.
Eberhardt decided to run against longtime Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki, a former teacher of Eberhardt’s at Brother Rice High School. Eberhardt ally Karen Weigand is running for trustee.
Talking with the public convinced Eberhardt to toss his hat into the ring.
“I guess it kind of sent me over the edge,” Eberhardt said.
“There were a lot of people who said some very complimentary things about the village. But there also were a lot of people who had complaints, who felt nobody was listening to them, who felt nothing was ever going to change,” Eberhardt said.
Asked about Eberhardt’s candidacy, Zabrocki said he had “no thoughts about it.”
Eberhardt’s decision to run may not be a surprise to longtime observers of Tinley Park politics. Eberhardt for years has flooded village hall with Freedom of Information Act requests for information on a wide range of topics.
Eberhardt said he finds it amusing that the village’s website has devoted much space to telling voters the pros and cons of electric aggregation, which involves the village negotiating favorable electric rates on behalf of residents, and nothing to the petitions question about term limits.
“They didn’t want to have anything to do with it. My concern is it’s one of the last things on the ballot. I’m concerned about the vote because most people don’t get beyond the judge portion. But I’m optimistic,” Eberhardt said.
Eberhardt knows the outcome of the vote means nothing because it’s an advisory referendum. But he’s hoping a large margin of “yes” votes would result in some action by the village board.
“Even if we got 51 percent ... the village board would still have to pass an ordinance to have term limits put into effect,” he said, adding he’s “not confident” the current village board would pass such an ordinance.
“They could just ignore it,” he said.
Zabrocki said he has not heard much discussion about term limits.
“The circle I run with, obviously, they are taking a stand against limits. It’s a natural position for us to take,” he said.
Zabrocki, the mayor since 1981, previously noted that “half the board” is up for re-election every two years, which allows voters to limit terms by voting someone out of office.
“Term limits are artificial,” Zabrocki said then, noting that they could backfire when elected officials “with institutional knowledge” are forced out of office.
“What do you do when you have some good trustee, a good clerk or mayor? Do you get rid of them after eight years? Why do that if they are doing a good job?” he said.