For Honest Government, Oak Forest Must Keep Village Manager

Oak Forest is insane for considering the elimination of the position of Village Manager. Steger has apparently already gone off the deep end, voting to eliminate the position of Village Administrator.

This is wrong – and dangerous – on so many levels.

Here’s the danger: Blagojevich, Blagojevich, Blagojevich. And I’ll throw in the name Ryan, too.

It’s not that elected officials are inherently evil or unethical. It’s that elected officials and hired staff are human. As such, they are, we all are, susceptible to temptation. Thus, I believe, the genius of that line in the Lord’s Prayer Christians pray, "…lead us not into temptation." Why is that such an important and beautiful prayer for human beings?

Because human beings are easily tempted.

The position of Village Manager isolates elected officials on the local level from power — and that is a good thing. That is a necessary thing. The Council-Manager form of government is one of the smartest ideas on the planet.

  • Elected officials set policy.
  • The Village Manager and staff implement policy, and handle the day-to-day operations of village government.

What’s this all about?

From the Southtown Star:

Oak Forest Mayor Hank Kuspa came up with a surprising suggestion Thursday night to help the city save money: Eliminate the city administrator job.

Kuspa painted a grim financial picture for the city at a meeting of the city council’s finance committee and called for creative ways to help resolve its budget crisis.

Then he came up with one – abolishing the key post of city administrator, held now by John Marquart at a salary of $155,000.

In a prepared statement to aldermen, Kuspa called cutting the position, which oversees the daily operation of city government, "perhaps the hardest decision of all." He did not say how city operations would be managed if the position were eliminated.

First, Oak Forest will be losing much, much more than they will gain by eliminating a $155,000 salary. Oak Forest’s elected officials will be putting themselves one step closer to the temptation of running Oak Forest the way Todd Stroger has run Cook County: government-by-patronage. And patronage is a horribly expensive way to run government.

Tax payers of Oak Forest, do you really want your elected officials dolling out jobs, giving jobs to friends, creating jobs for friends and family? You need to think long-term. 20 years from now, in the absence of a Great Recession, what will your elected officials be up to? What power will they have that they do not have now? How many of their relatives will they have hired for positions that do not now exist?

Mayor Hank Kuspa and the board are putting Oak Forest on a suicide course. Village Managers — and Village Administrators — are essential to keeping elected officials focused on policy as opposed to patronage.

The temptation is too great. Elected officials — present and future — need to isolate themselves from temptation.

Or they, and Oak Forest, won’t have a prayer.