Tag: Mayor Yarbrough

Potentially Crowded Race for Three Trustee Seats Begins Tuesday, August 26, When Nominating Petitions Circulate

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Monday, August 25, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

Maywood’s next local election is next year in April, but campaign preparations are already beginning. In 2015, Maywood voters will decide whether to reelect Trustees Cheryl Ealey-Cross, Audrey Jaycox and Ronald Rivers — all of whose seats will be up for grabs — or to elect someone new to fill any, or perhaps all, of those positions. Established political parties and independent candidates for those three seats will be allowed to begin circulating their nomination papers on Tuesday, August 26; while September 25 is the first day “of intention to file a petition to create a political subdivision whose officers are to be elected,” according to the state’s 2015 Election and Campaign Finance Calendar.

Trustees Cheryl Ealey-Cross and Audrey Jaycox were both appointed last year. Cross was appointed by Mayor Edwenna Perkins to fill the vacancy that arose after Perkins, who was a sitting trustee when she ran for mayor, successfully challenged former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough. Trustee Jaycox, who relinquished her trustee seat in order to run for Village clerk, was appointed last May by outgoing Mayor Yarbrough. Trustee Ron Rivers will be running for reelection to a seat he won four years ago. It’s suspected that all of them will run for reelection.

There’s been increasing chatter about possible candidates who may run next year for those three seats. Since trustees do not each represent separate areas of the Village, they are elected based on their respective shares of a total vote tally; so the three candidates with the highest vote totals will win the three seats. Already, as many as ten names have been informally floated about as possible candidates. Marcius Scaggs, a candidate for trustee on the All in for Maywood ticket who narrowly lost in last year’s election — he garnered seven voters fewer than sitting Trustee Antoinette Dorris — has confirmed that he will be running again.

There’s also been talk of other All in for Maywood ticket members running next year. Possible, but still unconfirmed, names include Isiah Brandon and Gil Guzman. Brandon ran unsuccessfully on the All in for Maywood ticket, but was removed from the ballot before the election. He ultimately ran as a write-in candidate. Guzman was a trustee before relinquishing that seat in his bid for mayor in last year’s election. He finished a strong third to Perkins and Yarbrough.

According to sources, the All in for Maywood party has maintained an organizing presence since last year’s election, when it constituted the only major counterweight to the Maywood United party. Although current Village Clerk Viola Mims was the only candidate elected to office from the All in for Maywood party, there are indications that the party’s presence, particularly in the form of Guzman’s top-of-the-ticket candidacy, provided ammunition to Mayor Perkins’s head-to-head with former Mayor Yarbrough.

If last year’s consolidated election was any indication, next year’s off-year election may prove much of the same, with the two main political parties in Maywood vying to perhaps position themselves for longer-term dominance. Sitting Trustees Rivers and Jaycox are likely to run on the Maywood United party ticket. Outside of their nearly certain candidacies, the only name that we know that’s been floated about as a possible running mate on Maywood United is Antonio Sanchez, who, according to unconfirmed reports, has been mulling a possible run.

Sanchez, a finance professional and co-proprietor of Mariella’s Banquet Hall, was appointed to the Maywood Park District’s board of commissioners before residency issues forced his resignation less than a week later. He is a native of Maywood, but had been officially residing in the Village for less than the two years required to serve on the commission.

As far as independent candidates go, Trustee Ealey-Cross, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent last year seems the only confirmed nonpartisan. There have been unconfirmed reports that newly appointed Liquor Commissioner Mary “May” Larry may be strongly considering running as an independent, as well. Larry unsuccessfully ran for mayor last year, garnering less than six percent of the vote in a field of five. VFP

Final results of the Mayoral, Clerk and Trustee races during last April’s consolidated election

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Trustee Cheryl Ealey-Cross Sworn In, Disrupts Business As Usual

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By Michael Romain

LAST TUESDAY, MAYWOOD — Moments after she took the oath of office to assume the trustee seat vacated by Mayor Edwenna Perkins, Cheryl Ealey-Cross faced the half-full Village chamber, noticed that she had no microphone at her seat like the other Board members and rather volubly requested that one be provided in the future. That’s when several audience members assured her that they could hear her louder than some of the other members with microphones.

Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s appointment marked the rather anti-climactic culmination of a community-wide debate over just how the appointment process should be handled. When former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough appointed Trustee Audrey Jaycox to fill the seat vacated by Trustee Michael Rogers several weeks shy of Mayor Perkins’s swearing-in, there was a mini firestorm of protest among residents.

Some considered Mr. Rogers’s resignation a political maneuver to deprive Mayor Perkins of two Board appointments. Others expressed shock at Mayor Yarbrough’s appointment of Ms. Jaycox, who Mr. Yarbrough considered the best qualified candidate for the seat, but who gave up her own position as trustee to run a campaign for the Village clerkship—a campaign she eventually lost to current clerk Viola Mims.

“If Jaycox is going to resign as trustee, then why is she going to accept another trustee position [for two years]?” said one resident.

The Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO) endorsed a plan that would involve Mayor Yarbrough appointing the next-highest-vote-getting candidate for trustee in the April consolidate election—Marcius Scaggs of the All In For Maywood (AIM) party.

Mr. Yarbrough referred to the plan as sensible before claiming that, according to the NoMCO plan, Ms. Jaycox would qualify as the next-highest-vote-getter, even though she did not run for trustee. At the board meeting during which Ms. Jaycox was appointed, citizen outrage ran well past adjournment and spilled onto the sidewalks and into the dimly lit Fifth Avenue night.

The atmosphere at the August 20 board meeting, however, was staid by comparison—even though Mayor Perkins herself skirted the NoMCO plan in appointing Mrs. Ealey-Cross to the Board. Unlike Ms. Jaycox, Mrs. Ealey-Cross did run for trustee; however, she was not the next-highest-vote-getter in the race. For whatever reasons, the fervent pressure put on Mayor Yarbrough to adhere to the procedural fairness of the NoMCO plan was blatantly absent this time around.

Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s ascension to the Board comes after a nearly two-month’s long silent war of attrition between the Mayor and the Board. Since the outset of the Mayor’s term, the five trustees flanking her had unanimously refused to so much as discuss Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s impending appointment in public. Her assumption of Mayor Perkins’s vacated trustee seat occurred in wake of the Board’s second refusal to give it a vote, after which, the Mayor has the right to make the appointment anyway.

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In the lead-up to her August 20th swearing-in, there were claims made by some present and former trustees that the appointment was being held up, not because of a partisan stubbornness on the part of the Maywood United Party (the party ticket on which all five trustees ran) to block Mayor Perkins’s every move, but because Mrs. Ealey-Cross was difficult to work with.

In his public comments at a board meeting in June, former trustee and Village clerk Gary Woll said that he’s served on committees with Mrs. Ealey-Cross that “she destroyed.” “She’s very bright, she works hard, but the littlest thing […] she gets angry […] There are other people who support Edwenna who are much better to work with.”

Trustee Toni Dorris concurred with Mr. Woll. “I’ve watched and known Mrs. Ealey for six years […] go from commission to commission. I’ve seen her advocate for things she was going to do and never get done.”

In her first board meeting as a sitting trustee, Mrs. Ealey-Cross seemed poised to both confirm and falsify those sentiments by completely dismantling a routine omnibus agenda—an act that would seem to support Mr. Woll’s characterization of her as difficult, but laying waste to Trustee Dorris’s claim of ineffectiveness.

Of the twenty-eight items — listed ‘A’ through ‘BB’ — that were contained in the massive omnibus agenda, Mrs. Ealey-Cross pulled twenty, effectively forcing the Board to consider and vote on each one in isolation. In all, when combined with the one item pulled by Trustee Ron Rivers, twenty-one items were struck from the omnibus agenda. (Omnibus means “for everything” in Latin and allows the Board to approve a range of different items in a single vote, instead of voting on each item separately).

Among the items considered for approval in the omnibus package were routine payments to the City of Chicago’s water department for $533,459.08; to Allied Waste in the amount of $324,326.88 for June and July garbage pickup and disposal service; and to payment to Blue Cross Blue Shield in the amount of $220,538.47 for employee health insurance for the month of August.

Not long into the discussion of item ‘A’ of the omnibus agenda (“Consideration to approve payment to AFCO in the amount of $57,734.11 for the 3rd of 9 installment payments for general liability insurance payment”), Trustee Ealey-Cross requested a copy of the actual contract.

And so it went. For practically every item she pulled from the omnibus agenda, she requested contract information and other technical and legalistic minutiae with which the typical elected official doesn’t bother to grapple.

To the casual observer, the newest member of the Village Board may have appeared obstinate, but it was also obvious that she’d done her homework—a fact that not even her staunchest detractors could’ve comfortably denied.

During the Board discussion of item ‘L’ regarding payment to Edwin Hancock Engineering Company in the amount of $82,543.29 for engineering-related services done in Maywood in August, Trustee Ealey-Cross requested to “see a copy of the contract as well as to know the process in how we are billed and if there’s an ordinance that states or requires a written agreement.”

On item ‘S’, a proposal to purchase three fully-outfitted 2013 Dodge Chargers for the police department, Trustee Ealey-Cross harkened back to the discussion at last week’s LLOC meeting.

“Questions from this board were addressed and there was the question regarding procedures in place as to the vehicles and destruction and I thought the manager was going to report back to the board tonight on his findings,” she said.

Regarding item ‘Z’ (“Resolution authorizing an agreement with IAFF for management of various grant projects on behalf of West Cook County Cooperative”), Trustee Ealey-Cross wanted to know what progress had been made since Maywood became a member of the Cooperative. “Do we get an annual report?” she said.

When Mr. Barlow said that the IAFF orally reports to the board from time to time, but does not present the Board with a written annual report, Mrs. Ealey-Cross retorted, “It seems to me if we’re being asked to pay people to do certain things for us we should be asking them to give us at least annual updates as to their progress. If we’re paying for something we need to see results.”

At certain points, Village Manager Bill Barlow appeared a bit flustered by Trustee Ealey-Cross’s onslaught of requests and questions. In the middle of taking note of another of her contract requests, Mrs. Ealey-Cross waved a sheet of paper in Mr. Barlow’s direction. It was an advance copy of each of her requests for information.

The move prompted some snickering from the audience, punctuating what may have appeared to be mere grandstanding or showboating if Trustee Ealey-Cross’s actions hadn’t yielded such obvious results.

Outside of Trustee Ron Rivers’s sensible concern regarding the Village’s monthly maintenance fee of $19,390 to Current Technologies to maintain cameras that are “down very, very severely,” Trustee Ealey-Cross presented the only significant scrutiny of an omnibus agenda that comprised more than $2 million in Village expenditures.

Ealey-Cross’s pulling of item ‘AA’ (a motion “to authorize the execution of a negotiated light duty policy for union members of the Fire Department”) from the massive omnibus agenda enabled Trustee Rivers to inquire as to what “light duty” actually entailed. In fact, there was such confusion about the issue that the Board unanimously motioned to table the issue for further discussion at an LLOC meeting.

This confusion was extremely revealing, since its reasonable to assume that had Trustee Ealey-Cross not pulled item ‘AA’ from the omnibus agenda, the Board would’ve voted on its approval despite not really knowing much about the matter. This begs the question of how much the Board actually knows about the very payments it approves. And if it doesn’t know much, why does it routinely elect to approve these payments in massive omnibus agendas that effectively preempt any kind of detailed discussion of each item?

When Trustee Ealey-Cross requested a copy of the contract for Hackie Cement Corporation, which was to be paid $29,890 for sewer collapse repair, she was told that the Village did not issue one to the company. “It’s on a timely and material basis. It’s outlined in the invoice,” said Mr. Barlow. “The invoice serves as the contract in this case,” attorney Michael Jurusik said.

Mr. Barlow informed the Board that the Village waives the bid process for emergency services, which is why there was no contract. But if emergency services are consistently going to one company, doesn’t the frequency of service provided and amount of money paid out constitute at least an implied agreement of regular service?

“May I ask for an overview of how much we’ve spent with this company so far?” said Trustee Ealey-Cross.

If her findings show that Hackie was being paid to do emergency sewer service on a regular basis, then it would be reasonable to conclude that the Village has been contracting emergency sewer services with a company without a sufficient written contract laying out terms and conditions.

“I’ve seen their name on the agenda several times and the amounts haven’t been minimum. I’m always concerned about inferior quality of products and services, so without a contract […]” she said.

The discussion ended with Mr. Barlow consenting to lay out the typical terms of a contract with Hackie, Mr. Jurusik suggesting a bid process be setup for next year’s emergency services and Trustee Ealey-Cross suggesting that a procurement officer be hired to negotiate contracts on behalf of the entire Village.

“Are we considering that in the future to reduce our costs? Because if each department is out negotiating on its own, are we getting the best deal?” said Ealey-Cross.

“We can put it on our future LLOC agenda,” Mr. Barlow consented.

One may have wondered, as all this was transpiring, whether the soothsaying of Gary Woll echoed in the heads of the other trustees. “She will destroy your board,” Mr. Woll told them before Mrs. Ealey-Cross’s appointment. Considering the impressive results of her destructiveness, however, one begins to think that Mr. Woll may have been on to something. VFP

EXCLUSIVE: Former Mayor Henderson Yarbrough on What Happened, What You May Not Know and What Few [Probably] Dared to Ask

By Michael Romain

After Mayor Perkins’s swearing-in on Tuesday, and after witnessing the jubilant fete thrown by her supporters at the 200 Building, I walked the short distance down the street to Mariella’s, where the Maywood United Party was situated. When I walked in, the place was letting out. I saw a woman I recognized sitting at a table across from Mayor Yarbrough. She urged me to get something to eat (unlike down the street, there wasn’t a line for food), but I told her I’d eaten already.

“What did they have?” she said, betraying a hint of dissatisfaction with the current fare. “Fried chicken, meatballs, mostaccioli, macaroni and cheese, bread rolls…” She turned to her friend. “We’re at the wrong party,” she said. “What food did you all have here?” I asked. I really wanted to know. “Sandwiches,” she said curtly. And that about sums up the atmosphere.

There was no music playing. At least, if there was, I don’t remember it. The room’s silence was louder. I had approached the Mayor, because we had an interview set-up for the following day at the building that served as his campaign office on 17th and Madison. I wanted confirmation that he would actually show. When I emailed his communications director, Larry Shapiro, the request, I figured it to be a long-shot, that the last thing he’d want to do now that he was out of office and had time to breathe air less constricting was talk about what I assume had to be eight of the most constricting years of his life.

The night, no doubt, had to be the nadir of a mayoralty that was increasingly being defined by its descent, one that the election only magnified. For the average resident, it was becoming increasingly hard to ignore the reports unleashed by the Better Government Association (BGA) on what seemed like a weekly basis. They were amplified by the West Suburban Journal. Links to their digital versions were posted on Facebook. They were like abandoned treasure for smart political strategists in opposing camps.

They had titles like, “End Maywood’s Mayhem,” “Village of Maywood Hit With Lawsuit Over Alleged FOIA Violations,” “Maywood Democracy Isn’t Easy — or Pretty” and “Arrest of Maywood Cop a Symptom of Larger Problems in Town.” And then there was Fox 32 and images of Maywood officials involved in all kind of alleged imbroglios.

There will always be those crying wolf, but when the wolf criers outnumber those telling me to be calm and stay put, I am going to run. And to be quite frank, this writer was running in the direction of the charges, until after a while, as with any sane, moderately out-of-shape person, one must slow down and breathe. When I regained my oxygen, one inquiry popped into my head that, if I’d still been running full-speed with the charges, I would not have thought to ask. “I wonder what the Mayor has to say about all of this?”

Regardless of the truth of the reports (and there has to be a degree of truth), it occurred to me, about ten minutes into the interview, that Yarbrough had a lot to get off of his chest. He seemed like a man thirsty for personal vindication, to set the record straight.

After he briefly considered rescheduling our interview due to time constraints (and flirting with a possible interview over the phone), the Mayor, to my surprise, spontaneously directed me to an isolated area at the back of the banquet hall. He would talk tonight, if I didn’t mind (“I like to look people in the face when I speak to them,” he said). I didn’t and quickly produced my laptop, whereupon the Mayor, typically reserved and tight-lipped, turned into a reservoir over-flooding with words. And by the end of the night, my fingers would be heavy and languid from sponging them in.

This interview is broken into three parts. This is the first:

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How surprised were you by the outcome of the election?

It’s not what I expected, but I always gave [Mayor Perkins] an excellent chance, based on Guzman getting in the race.

That’s good you brought that up, because there were some hushed accusations that you may have planted candidates to run for mayor so the vote would be split in your favor.

I didn’t know either of those ladies [Nicole Gooden and Mary ‘May’ Larry, the two main candidates held under suspicion of being Yarbrough ‘plants’]. Larry, I had met once before, because she wanted to do something in Maywood and so she came to my office once. If she had come back again, I probably would not even have recognized her face. So no, no. I’ve never played those types of games. I never even considered them.

I’m assuming you knew all along that it would’ve been (and was, in fact), the opposite case. A fractured electorate would’ve hurt you. As, in fact, it did.

Absolutely.

I knew [Trustee Gil] Guzman and I would be sharing the same voters. Trustee Perkins, I knew, pretty much had her own audience. Those votes were locked in for her. Guzman and I weren’t going to take her voters. We all can count. Guzman and I couldn’t share Perkins’s voters, so I had to share what vote remained with him.

Was turnout what you expected?

It was. We made an effort to get people to turn out. Trustee Perkins also communicated constantly with her constituents. She stays in constant, one-on-one contact with her people. I give her credit. When you communicate one-on-one with people like that, you can get people’s ear and they’ll believe whatever you say. So, I wasn’t going to gain any votes based on what she was saying about me. And we, in fact, lost a few votes, because some people believe every negative thing that comes out. So, I always knew she had an excellent chance of winning. In fact, every time I had a conversation, I would say the one candidate with excellent chances short of me is Mrs. Perkins.

Do you think you could’ve done a better job reaching out to citizens while in office?

Yes. You can always do better if you have the desire and the energy to put forth, but I work a full-time job and fulfilling the positions as a part-time mayor, with all of the meetings and all of the different things I had to attend to…I didn’t have a lot of time. I have a full-time job and you have to have a full-time job unless you’re retired, because we have a managerial form of government. [Note: The mayor is only paid part-time; whereas, the village manager is the full-time, day-to-day point man or woman].

So I spent a lot of the time I had doing things like bringing in more than $17 million to redo all of our main arterial roads, installing new streetlights, making infrastructural improvements. With the economy being on the worst downtrend in sixty or seventy years, economic development was not going to happen rapidly in the Village of Maywood. We had too many things to overcome. It did happen in some surrounding communities, because they didn’t have to overcome the stigma that Maywood has.

Why do you think Maywood is so stigmatized?

Unfortunately, a lot of the stigma is attributed to our own citizens who talk negative about the town. Some people only talk about the bad things, not about the good things. So that’s our challenge. We have to change the way people think about Maywood. So, I did not have the time to go door-to-door everyday talking to people about what’s wrong. Basically, people know what’s wrong. I was trying to fix what was wrong and make it right. But while I was working, other people were talking and sometimes talk can overcome actuality. I think we did enough positive things to build on, things that made Maywood better.

We reduced crime by twenty to thirty percent. Those kinds of statistics mean something to some people, but nothing to other people. Some people base their votes on what’s happening to them personally. Also, trust has a lot to do with it. That’s one thing I thought I would never have a problem with — trust. In my heart, I always knew that everything I do, I do for the good of the town. I never, ever considered doing anything for personal gain. Nobody even approached me with anything like that, because they knew me or heard something about me. I never expected my integrity to get called into question, but people hear things.

There was, for instance, a lack of trust of the police. I took blame for the police department. But once I took accountability, we investigated our own house. We were responsible for that. We wanted to make sure our house was in order internally, because if it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be able to do anything externally. But, instead of getting credit for what we got done, we got blamed for what we didn’t do. That’s the nature of politics, though. That’s what you do when you’re running for political office. You make up stuff about what the incumbents aren’t doing or you focus solely on the negativity.

I ran on cleaning up government, on reform, and I was serious about that. I never expected to be blamed for it or accused for any kind of corruption. My whole purpose was to clean up corruption wherever it existed. VFP

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Michael Rogers’s Field of Dreams

This is a roundabout way of inaugurating our newest section of the site, which we’re calling, “Maywood Re-Imagined.” Every week, we’ll take certain parts of Maywood and virtually revitalize them through digital manipulation, so residents can see the town’s infinite possibilities and hopefully start making Maywood their canvas. If you have any ideas, email them, or post them via comment, and we’ll try our best to transform your imaginative words into a neat (albeit a bit crude) visualization. But before you get to all of that, you’ll have to pass through some other stuff along the way.

By Michael Romain

Saturday, May 18, 2013, Maywood — This past weekend, while walking to cover a prayer vigil, I came upon a man standing on the baseball diamond on 1st and Oak. He was at home plate, alone, taking pictures of the outfield. When I closed in on him, he waved. It was Michael Rogers, whose resignation as interim trustee in April had aroused a lot emotion among residents in Maywood.

My Perspective

I wrote a piece of commentary in the aftermath of Yarbrough’s appointment of Audrey Jaycox to the seat Rogers vacated. In my opinion, the appointment of someone who wasn’t a candidate for trustee in the last election and had lost a race for an entirely separate office seemed like a consolation prize. It only reinforced the perception, which I sense is widely shared among residents here, of a separate political class that hovers above municipal business as if its their own — an entitlement class, if you will.

For Yarbrough to change this popular perception of him and his party (however accurate or inaccurate it may be in actuality), he’d need to do something to drastically undercut this common stereotype. Yes, the appointment of Ms. Jaycox was entirely his to make. Yes, it was legal for him to do so. Yes, it is a political play that anyone in his position would probably have made.

But it was small ball compared to the large ball act of simply appointing the next-highest-vote-getting candidate for trustee in the most recent election. That would have been courageous, atypical and bold. I thought Yarbrough should’ve done this regardless of the perceived motivations of Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO), which had recommended it. I thought such an action (which seemed fair, direct and clear-cut) would have perhaps gone an surprisingly long way toward correcting what I think has been Mayor Yarbrough’s (and Maywood’s) greatest liability — their public perception. And not just in Maywood, but beyond.

I came to this conclusion from the premise that reestablishing this trust in Village government, which citizens here have apparently lost, is more important, in the long run, than economic development. In fact, there can be no economic development if there is no civic development first. You can’t attract much high-quality commerce to a municipal climate that is widely perceived to be corrupt or petty or parochial. That was the basis for my indignation and, I sense, for other people’s as well.

However, I personally took no issue with Michael Rogers’s decision to resign and any article on this site relevant to the matter, especially any article of reportage, will reflect this reality. The reader can verify this claim by going here. I do admit, though, that I may not have been clear enough with the reader that Rogers’s resignation should be considered separately from Jaycox’s appointment. After all, if Yarbrough had appointed Marcius Scaggs, the next-highest-vote-receiving candidate for trustee, Rogers’s resignation would have been a moot point.

Moreover, to complicate the issue, if Rogers had, instead, resigned during Mayor Perkins’s tenure and Mayor Perkins appointed someone who either did not run as trustee or wasn’t the next-highest-vote getter in that particular race (i.e., if she’d done exactly what Mayor Yarbrough did), Rogers’s resignation would’ve been a non-factor. Was Rogers scapegoated a bit? Perhaps.

Now, is it possible that Rogers was complicit in the whole power play all along? Absolutely. Do we know this for certain? No. Were he complicit, would his complicity have been very major? I don’t believe so. (I’m imagining myself in his dilemma and what I’d do if I had to choose between being a little complicit in a move that might inflame public opinion and being loyal to my political allies). However, what we do know for certain is that Rogers is now a sitting trustee with the power to affect the way Maywoodians live our lives. And until he does something egregious enough to lose it entirely, he needs to have our trust.

Trust requires that people’s words and intentions be taken at a fair amount of face value. That’s the only way real things get done between parties with diverse (and oftentimes diverging) interests. That is what underlies commerce. In fact, the grand intellectual father of capitalism, Adam Smith, had a name for it. He called this, ‘fellow-feeling.’ We, his estranged getting-and-spending grandchildren, call it sympathy.

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An Aside

Rogers said that he likes to get outside and take mental notes of ideas that he has for bring economic development to the Village. At the moment, where most drivers-by see a baseball diamond of wildly high grass, weeds and dandelions, Rogers was seeing corporate billboards running along outfield walls. The advertising could be added revenue for the Village. Whether the idea is feasible or not, I don’t know. It is, however, undeniably imaginative. This act of creativity, of standing along in a baseball field, conjuring solutions in silence, piqued my interest far more than the controversy. And with it, Michael Rogers earned my respect.

Michael Rogers’s Perspective

But there was still a Gordian knot of tension that need untying. And so, I invited Rogers to offer a fuller explanation of his decision to resign and where he thought I was wrong in my analysis.

He stated that his priority when he was appointed by Yarbrough to fill the seat vacated by former trustee Flowers was to help the Board with the budget. This needed to be taken care of by May 1st. The Board was able to finish the budget about a week before the deadline. “I would’ve had to resign at some point anyway, whether it would’ve been then or the day after my swearing-in,” he said.

“Perspective is worth a hundred IQ points…

He indicated that his decision to resign about a month before the next mayor would be sworn-in was largely due to him wanting a period of rest before beginning what promises to be an eventful first term as an elected trustee. He said that he consulted with Mayor Yarbrough on the appointment and suggested the Mayor consider three qualities in his potential appointees: a) cultural diversity, b) experience and c) an understanding of economic development. “Perspective is worth a hundred IQ points,” he said.

Rogers believes that I was severely discounting Ms. Jaycox’s experience and her abilities to bring opportunities to the Village. He said that the Mayor appointed the best person to serve the remainder of the term. He also said that he thought I had underestimated the advantages of having political leaders who are connected to other political leaders in statewide and national positions of power and influence.

And perhaps I am, although I think I’ve established that this is rather irrelevant to my overriding point (see my perspective, above). I will say, though, that I may have underplayed how Ms. Jaycox’s representation in organizations such as the National League of Cities do, indeed, translate into concrete advances that people in Maywood can feel. I invite Ms. Jaycox to talk about this anytime.

Anyhow, Rogers noted that once he aired his concerns about the nature of his successor to Mayor Yarbrough, he resigned. Fair enough. It’s an explanation I take at face value.

Better Problems

Now back to Mr. Rogers’s field of dreams. This is a very, very rough rendering of what I imagine Mr. Rogers’s imaginings for the field on 1st and Oak to be:

Mr. Rogers's Field of DreamsMy rough, amateurish rendering may or may not be true to the vision that Mr. Rogers, a professional architect, had in his head while standing alone at home base. The idea itself may or may not be feasible. To focus on this kind of development may or may not be misdirected. Those are all honest debates to have. What’s certain is that the Village would benefit if citizens and elected officials alike were in conflict about these kinds of issues, instead of the ones that claim our attentions now. They’re much more constructive. VFP.

We the Mayor: Edwenna Perkins Sworn Into History

Mayor Perkins (middle) getting sworn-in by Judge Shevil Hall (right); Mrs. McNelty (left) and Mr. Perkins (background)
Mayor Perkins (middle) getting sworn-in by Judge Shevil Hall (right); Mrs. McNelty (left) and Mr. Perkins (background)

By Michael Romain

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Maywood – After the tribute to Robert Larson and a town’s collective sigh of relief; after public comments of congratulations and hoped-for reconciliation; after one man’s cathartic reflections on 19-year-old DaShamone McCarty and a desperate plea (“I trusted [McCarty] to take my daughter to prom last year….I guess I’m going to talk to you now Chief [Curry]. I believe he was a really nice kid….Chief Curry I would like to know that you and your team are going to do everything possible to bring to justice those people that did that to that young man…my daughter knew his plight and his living conditions…he was a three sport athlete [but] he wasn’t a star. One thing really stood out to me, though. When [The Proviso East basketball team] went downstate and finished second to Simeon and the players were getting their awards…Spuddy [McCarty’s nickname] got more applause than any of them other guys and he wasn’t even a star…Please bring Spuddy justice”); after the mundane, but vital business of budget and bill approvals and ordinance-talk — outgoing Mayor Henderson Yarbrough, Sr., stood up.

“I want to thank the citizens of Maywood for giving me the opportunity to serve…I appreciate [it],” he said. The room stood up with him and greeted his statement with wild applause. At approximately 7:58 pm, the Honorable Judge Cheryl D. Ingram, presiding judge of the Fourth Municipal District, the first African-American female to serve in that position, was called forth. Yarbrough informed the audience that Ingram is also the new owner of the Corner Cafe in Broadview.

Viola Mims, the new Village clerk, was the first official to take the oath. After Mims was sworn-in, former acting Clerk Gary Woll placed on her neck a kente-pattered scarf with the title, “Clerk,” stitched into the cloth. Woll said he was given the scarf four years ago and was now bequeathing it to Mims. Michael Rogers then walked forward to take the oath as trustee. He was followed by Trustee Toni Dorris, who took the oath on a relative’s Bible.

After Dorris was sworn-in, outgoing Trustee Gil Guzman voluntarily got up from his seat on the Board’s elevated perch and graciously offered it to his successor. Before taking his oath, Trustee Melvin Lightford motioned to his wife, who was sitting a few feet away. “You’ve stood by me for too long,” he said, before she walked to his side.

Mayor Yarbrough, former trustee and clerk Gary Woll and Trustee Gil Guzman were all honored for their public service. The Mayor was presented with a commemorative gavel. “Don’t try hammering nails with that,” someone said. After he accepted his token of appreciation, Woll thanked his wife in her absence and ensured the audience that, after over forty years of living in the Village of Maywood, he was here to stay. Woll’s thirty years on the Board makes him the longest-serving trustee in the Village’s history.

Before Edwenna Perkins stood up to replace outgoing Mayor Yarbrough, the room hiccuped with historic anticipation, a brief, suspenseful pause settling over the crowd. Perkins was about to become Maywood’s first African-American female mayor.

In the days preceding this moment, there was chatter about what a Perkins mayoralty would mean for the Village’s future. Some residents worried that the two separate parties planned after the swearing-in formalities — one for the new mayor at the 200 Building, the other for the three victorious Maywood United trustees at the banquet hall less than a block away — were a foreboding of the divisiveness to come.

Mayor Perkins and the Board
Mayor Perkins and the new Board, (from left to right): Trustee Ron Rivers, Trustee Audrey Jaycox, Trustee Michael Rogers, Trustee Toni Dorris, Trustee Melvin Lightford and Clerk Viola Mims

Even in the immediate wake of Perkins’s oath-taking, there were spaces in the chamber room that felt more belligerent than ebullient, with the smiles of some masking minds ready for battle. By the time the two camps’ festivities let out, it was nigh midnight. Fifth Avenue was empty and dark. The foreboding had spilled from the buildings’ insides and out into the damp street, transforming a silent commercial arterial into what felt like the set of an urban spaghetti western — the scene of a dual.

But between approximately 8:15 and 8:30 pm, the conflict-fraught past and future were overwhelmed by that most revered and hallowed spectacle — the democratic transition.

Mayor-elect Perkins called forth Judge Shelvin Hall, appellate judge of the first district, sixth division, to administer her oath. “First I would like to say thank you, God bless you. I’m standing on shoulders, so I brought the shoulders with me. This is not a production. This is a thank you,” Perkins said.

The wife of Perkins’s late pastor, the Rev. Harry McNelty of First Baptist Church, held the Bible on which the new Mayor took the oath. The Mayor-elect’s husband, Lester Perkins, along with other relatives, held up pictures of family members who couldn’t be present. And then, something highly unusual and uncanny happened. Perkins insisted everyone in the room take the oath with her.

The affect, on this observer, was similar to walking through a wax museum. It filled me with both dread and awe. Dread that Perkins may have been taking her self-identification with the people, her ‘people’ fascination, if you will, a bit too far. Is her love of ‘the people’, I wondered quietly, a romance with an abstraction? Local and national histories are crowded with leaders who loved ‘the people’ more than they cared for actual, individual human lives.

Of course, it’s likely that Perkins simply extended the gesture as a point of emphasis, the exclamation to a statement (sorely needed in our current anti-government culture) that she’s been making for decades — the government and the people it serves are one and the same.

But, regardless, it was an astonishingly creative and moving act of political symbolism. Whether it represented genuine humility or troubling ambition, only time will tell. What the new Mayor made a bit more certain, however, is that we’re all mayors now. VFP

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Mayor Yarbrough Appoints Sitting Trustee Audrey Jaycox to Fill the Trustee Seat Vacated by Rogers

Maywood — After a tense moment of haphazard deliberation, the Village Board voted 3-2 to approve Mayor Yarbrough’s selection of outgoing Trustee Audrey Jaycox to the seat recently vacated first by former Trustee Dominique Flowers and then by incoming Trustee Michael Rogers. Trustees Gil Guzman and Edwenna Perkins provided the two nays, with Trustees Melvin Lightford and Ron Rivers providing the yeas. Mayor Yarbrough was the tie-breaker.

The appointment left many of those gathered in the Village chambers for yesterday’s Special Meeting bewildered, confused and angry. Some questioned whether Jaycox’s appointment to fill the seat was even legal. Trustee Guzman cited Ordinance 36.03, which regulates the use of public funds apportioned to each trustee. Guzman claimed that Jaycox violated the ordinance by taking more than the maximum of two trips allowed by the law.

Mayor-elect Perkins both reinforced and added to Guzman’s point, claiming that, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Trustee Jaycox had yet to reimburse the Village for those trips, thus disqualifying her from taking the seat. Village ordinance states that any person who owes the town money cannot occupy public office. At certain points in Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Guzman’s comments, the room seemed to mirror the call-and-response atmosphere of a church setting.

As Mrs. Perkins and Mr. Guzman were challenging Village Attorney Michael Jurusik on his point that the outstanding travel expenses owed by Ms. Jaycox might not constitute a true debt (“It has to be truly a debt…nothing was brought to my attention during the election [proving this]”), someone in the audience shouted, “She didn’t run again — she didn’t want to be trustee again!”

“I’m not sure she [Ms. Jaycox] owes the Village the typical arrear[s],” said Mr. Jurusik. Mrs. Perkins continued to emphasize her point. “There were many trips made by Trustee Jaycox. Many, many, many.” Jurusik said that the Village has a policy that allows trustees to spend money and to take trips. “How many trips?!” someone in the audience shouted.

For her part, Ms. Jaycox insisted, “I don’t have any bills to the Village in my name.” As for the trips, she was adamant that they served a purpose. “Let me tell you about those trips, Village of Maywood. I have taken Maywood higher than –” A chorus of heckling erupted from the audience before Mayor Yarbrough pounded his gavel, bringing the room to order. Jaycox highlighted her work on the Public Safety & Crime Commission Steering Committee of the National League of Cities; her advancement to the diamond level of the League’s Leadership Training Council; her role in bringing back the prescription drug program to Maywood (“It doesn’t work!” someone in the audience shouted); and numerous other personal accomplishments. “We have been at the forefront of many things, but you guys don’t even know it, because we don’t have a newspaper…” she said.

Not long into the Board’s back-and-forth, a number of things become frighteningly apparent. The very person responsible for ensuring that the appointment process was within the law, Mr. Jurusik, is also someone who appears to have had a glaringly apparent self-interest in the Yarbrough campaign. “It’s public knowledge that Jurusik donated $13,000 to [Yarbrough and/or the Maywood United Party],” a woman said after the open meeting ended. And according to FOIA records, his law firm brought in thousands of dollars in legal fees during Maywood United’s rash of challenges against opposing candidates such as Isiah Brandon and Joe Ratley.

Moreover, as Trustees Guzman and Perkins demonstrated, there was a frightening lack of due diligence with regard to Jaycox’s appointment. Mr. Guzman said that he received the meeting agenda on a Saturday, but did not know who Mayor Yarbrough’s nomination was going to be until the day of the meeting. Mrs. Perkins expressed the same confusion. “If we had known who the individual was who you were going to appoint [it would not look as circumspect],” she told the Mayor.

The audience seemed just as bewildered. After the appointment passed with the 3-2 vote, several residents came forward with public comments. Some rose to vent their frustration at the appointment process, others to praise Yarbrough for his role in forming the Senior Club and promoting various special events, such as the Gospel Fest and Maywood Fest, during his tenure.

One of the meeting’s subplots involved the Senior Club and attempts by many of its members to persuade the Board into allowing Larry Shapiro, Yarbrough’s Communications Director and the Village’s Senior Citizen Coordinator, to stay on in his latter role, which he automatically vacated when he resigned the former. The two titles had been combined into one person. In order for Mr. Shapiro to continue as Coordinator, new funds would need to be allocated to essentially create the office again. At one point, the members of the Senior Club broke out in a chant, “We want Larry! We want Larry!”

Despite the Senior Club’s vigorous lobbying, the main theme of the public comment portion of the meeting was the trustee appointment. “If Jaycox is going to resign as trustee then why is she going to accept another trustee position [for two years]?” said Lorretta Robinson.

Ms. Jaycox effectively holds two seats now that she’s been appointed by the Mayor to fill the Rogers vacancy — her own seat, which she essentially ceded to run for Village clerk and that she still occupies until May 21, and the one she’s recently been appointed to. “I know that the law of physics doesn’t allow two things to occupy the same space at the same time,” Robinson asserted.

Whether or not the law of physics is consistent with municipal law is yet to be determined. “We cannot accept this irresponsibility on the part of this Board! […] We are tired! We are not going to accept this under-handed craziness!” said Robinson. After the meeting, Robinson and other residents said they were determined to go through the proper channels to find out the lawfulness of Jaycox’s appointment.

John Yi, President of the Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NoMCO), stood up to read his organization’s recommendation that both Mayor Yarbrough and Mayor-elect Perkins appoint the “next-highest-vote-receiving candidates for Village Trustee to the vacant seats created by our most recent local elections.” Mayor Yarbrough publicly recognized the NoMCO proposal, saying it made sense, before twisting its logic and claiming that, according to the NoMCO plan, Ms Jaycox would qualify as the next-highest-vote-getter, even though she did not run for trustee.

In point of fact, after Melvin Lightford, Michael Rogers and Antonette Dorris, the next-highest-vote-getter among candidates who ran for the position of trustee is Marcius Scaggs of the All In for Maywood (AIM) party. Scaggs is followed by JoAnn Murphy (also with AIM) and Cheryl Ealey-Cross (independent). Ms. Jaycox falls nowhere in the picture.

As far as representative democracy goes, that is a very overt sin of omission, one that many people who voted will not likely forget anytime soon. During his public comments, Lennel Grace employed the rhetorical tactic of reading a litany of characteristics that described what public service is not. “Elevating yourself above the people […] Striving for personal gain […] Characterizing a minority of residents who are ‘always angry’ [referencing a quote attributed to Michael Rogers, who was absent] […] I find that insulting!”

“And now,” a high-pitched voice shouted out from the crowd, “we’re mad as hell!”

“All, All Honourable Men”

“For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men,” said Mark Antony in the third act of Julius Caesar. He, of course, meant this ironically and in so doing, poetically captures the primary problem of modernity. The philosopher polymath Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes in his latest book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder:

A complex system, contrary to what people believe, does not require complicated systems and regulations and intricate policies. The simpler, the better. Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects. Because of opacity, an intervention leads to unforeseen consequences, followed by apologies about the ‘unforeseen’ aspect of the consequences, then to another intervention to correct the secondary effects, leading to an explosive series of branching ‘unforeseen’ responses, each one worse than the preceding one.

Yet simplicity has been difficult to implement in modern life because it is against the spirit of a certain brand of people who seek sophistication so they can justify their profession.

And so went the chain of legalistic rationalizations spewing from the mouth of Village attorney Michael T. Jurusik to justify the Honorable Mayor Yarbrough’s demented, utterly undemocratic idea to appoint someone as trustee who apparently loves the job of trustee so much she vacated it to run for Village clerk — and lost. So, too, went the chain of honorifics and encomiums with which the Honorable Trustee Jaycox wrapped herself to explain how she was the most qualified person to currently fill a seat that, up until the time she lost in April, she had no desire to fill.

The Honorable Jaycox’s defense was essentially this: ‘I was the highest-ranking this…’ ‘I represented Maywood several hundred miles away at that…’ ‘I traveled on behalf of Maywood to this…’ ‘No other trustee on the board did that like I did…’ ‘I got to wear fancy name tags at such and such…’ I know on the surface, this may not read like quality reporting, but trust me it is. Just ask anyone in the audience at tonight’s Special Meeting to recall Ms. Jaycox’s speech in defense of her appointment and un-reimbursed travel expenses as trustee in the past. That’s essentially what they’ll remember of it.

At no point did Trustee Jaycox, Mayor Yarbrough, Trustee Lightford and Trustee Rivers (all of whom, except Ms. Jaycox who wasn’t eligible, voted in favor of this appointment) directly confront the fairness or the rightness of this decision. The best that they could offer was a hackneyed attempt on the part of his Honor, the Mayor, to pull a fast one.

After attempting to make himself appear reasonable and fair and understanding by paying lip service to the simplest, fairest method of handling this appointment process, Mr. Yarbrough quickly descended into nonsense. “I’ve considered each and every comment [on the appointment matter] and appreciate the input,” he said. “Some of the comments made sense, one being that the next-highest-vote-getter should be the person to win the appointment […] If I recall, the next-highest-vote-getter might be Trustee Jaycox.” A wave of disbelief and indignation buoyed the audience before Yarbrough continued. “My mind was pretty much set on who I would choose to fill the nomination […] and that would be Trustee Jaycox […] and she did get more votes than just about everybody but the clerk.”

When this lazy attempt at sophistry fell to dust (countered succinctly by Ms. Lorretta Robinson during public comment: “If we’re going to talk about [Jaycox as] the highest vote-getter, we should talk about the category she was running [in]”) the residents in attendance still anxious and fidgety with outrage, Mr. Yarbrough then tried to appeal to Ms. Jaycox’s seasoned qualities, by which he meant her ‘sophistication’. If the Honorable Trustee Audrey Jaycox isn’t qualified to fill the vacancy, the Mayor insisted, no one on the Board is qualified.

For, you see, she’s been several hundred miles away representing Maywood at the this; she’s been in a high-ranking leadership position in that very prestigious-sounding organization few in the room ever heard of (at one point during Ms. Jaycox’s ode to herself, someone in the audience blared out something to the effect, ‘But what have you done here, in Maywood?’); she’s been the head of that; and has spoken in depth with who’s who about a very complex-sounding something or other that promised to do lots and lots of good for those decent and simple folks in the far-away land of Maywood.

As all of this transpired, perhaps the most sophisticated person in the room, Village attorney Jurusik (BA, JD), was on standby like a computer modem in hibernation, always ready with smart, sophisticated, legal explanations for why the most qualified, most sophisticated, most honorable people in the room were doing everything in their power to avoid implementing a solution so simple that it blinds the fool. And therein lies the rub.