THE LANDMARK VIEW
During the three hours of back and forth on the issue of the Riverside recreation board’s future on Monday night, one comment stuck out.
It came from Frank Gangware, the chairman of the Riverside parks and recreation board, which is on the brink of being dissolved in favor of an advisory committee, stripping it basically of all its authority.
Noting that the issue surrounding the proposed change was control, not money, he wondered, “What would be worth the political capital that will and has been spent in pursuit of this?”
Because make no mistake, the Riverside Community Alliance majority on the board has spent an enormous amount of political capital pursuing the change. It’s been recast a couple of times as a cost-saving measure, a blow for efficiency and as a way to align recreation with all other departments in the village.
But there’s been no convincing reason for pushing so hard on this change. Proponents for the change say that recreation will be bolstered by the change and that residents won’t notice the difference.
Which begs the question, if nothing’s changing, then why is it being changed?
The trouble the board majority has right now is that people opposing the change simply don’t believe what they say. More than that, opponents don’t know what the majority is not saying.
How will recreation be defined? It’d be nice to know. Will village services not traditionally associated with recreation now be in line to be funded though the recreation levy? That question has not been specifically answered. Let’s get all the cards on the table.
All of that being said, the majority on the board is within its rights to make whatever change it deems essential. Elections have consequences, and the result of the 2009 election was clear. This particular board was elected to lead, and lead it is doing.
Their decisions may not be popular and may end up doing more damage to their political futures than they might realize, but the RCA trustees and president won the election and the RCA majority sets the agenda.
The majority isn’t waiting until the November advisory referendum not only because it doesn’t have to, but because deciding the rec board’s fate in September can blunt the impact of the referendum and the will of people going to great lengths to support a moot issue.
Second, advisory referendums guarantee nothing. A board with the political will to enact its agenda is not going to let an advisory question settle the issue. That was the case back in 2007 when the same members of the current board majority, as private citizens, led an advisory referendum campaign against a proposed TIF district.
The TIF, like the rec board change, was very unpopular. The board at that time lost the political will to pursue it. They also found out that championing wildly unpopular policies was a sure way to lose an election that counts.
You’d think the RCA majority would recognize that.