Back in late January, the Landmark began sending out letters and questionnaires to candidates as part of the newspaper’s election endorsement process. In North Riverside, those invitations were sent to all of the candidates slated by the VIP Party, independent trustee candidate Richard Alvarez and all of the candidates slated by the Transparency & Accountability in Politics Party, through their mayoral candidate, Rocco DeSantis.
We did not send materials to George Georgopoulos, who was tossed off the ballot in mid-January, because we were not sure he would ever file as a write-in. He filed papers to run as a write-in on March 25, after our process ended.
We did send them to TAP’s candidates because they were vigorously fighting a challenge and believed there was still a strong possibility that their candidates would appear on the ballot.
In the letter we sent out to the candidates, we specifically stated that we would not endorse any candidate who did not participate in our endorsement process.
All of VIP’s candidates participated and sat for one-on-one interviews with the Landmark. The result of one of those interviews, an article about mayoral candidate Hubert Hermanek’s views on a variety of issues appeared in the paper on March 27. We feel it is important for voters to know the views of people asking to lead a municipality with an annual general operating budget of about $13 million.
It’s our belief that candidates owe it to the voters to be on the record — accountable, if you will — with their plans for the future and views on important topics. In a small town, the local newspaper is the one place where that record can be kept, independently.
Unfortunately, neither Mr. Alvarez (despite repeated invitations to do so) nor any of TAP’s candidates (save clerk candidate Peter Culafic, who emailed us his questionnaire last Friday), chose to participate in any fashion. Their reasons don’t really matter. But the message that decision sends, in our minds, is clear enough.
As a result, we are endorsing VIP’s candidates — Hubert Hermanek, mayor; Vera Wilt, Joseph Mengoni and Matt Decosola, trustee; and Kathy Ranieri, clerk — for election on April 9. While we may not agree with all of their positions and continue to be disappointed that the party seems reluctant to break with some past practices, we don’t ask of candidates that they be perfect.
We can’t endorse TAP’s candidates or Mr. Alvarez, because we simply don’t know who they are, save for Rocco DeSantis. And Mr. DeSantis made clear his position in an email to the Landmark on Feb. 19 — in response to a second invitation to participate in our endorsement process — when he replied, “Thank you for extending the time for the questionnaires, but the TAP Party will not participate. My record for the last two years is reason enough to support us.”
That’s not enough reason. The leader of a political party whose name includes the words “transparency” and “accountability” ought to understand that it’s not nearly enough. We don’t say that just because it’s not enough for us, though that’s true. But it’s not enough for voters. It’s to them that transparency and accountability must be evident.
We don’t believe that’s the case.