March 16, 2013 League of Womens Voters Candidate Forum for Village President — April 9th Election (Video courtesy of Lorelle Communications).
On Saturday, March 16, 2013, I was looking forward to meeting Ron Drake, candidate for Village President of the Village of Arlington Heights at the League of Womens Voters Candidate Forum for Village President. As a high school student 37 years ago, I almost went to John Hersey High School, where Drake graduated the year before I graduated at Arlington High School (1976). I liked what I heard about him working to lower property taxes, and being business-friendly. I liked his style, even though he looks suspiciously like a generic stiff politician you might expect to be playing opposite Will Ferrell in some satirical movie about local politics. I thought we might bond a little over being Mid-Suburban League rivals, and since he attended the Arlington Heights citizen police academy and I have tremendous respect for Arlington Heights police officers via my experiences writing the crime blog for The Cardinal, I thought we would “hit it off”. Plus, I had a lot of friends that attended Hersey. I figured we’d have something to talk about.
Then the unexpected happened. I introduced myself, and he sort of recoiled. He bristled at my first comment that it was great that we have three very qualified candidates running for Mayor, or Village President. A look of anger and/or fear came across his face. He wasn’t the business-friendly, citizen-friendly candidate that he appears to be from afar. It immediately became apparent to me as my Faux pas alert went off that Ron Drake has his campaign so determined to hurt the reputation of Tom Hayes, the incumbent Trustee with 22-years experience — that he reacted toward me with disgust for saying such a “non-Ron-Drake-worshipping” comment. You know, like how dare I not bow down and fawn over him, and tell him he’s the greatest candidate to ever walk in the Taj Mahal — the derogatory term he uses to describe the Arlington Heights Village Hall, where he would serve if elected.
When I told him that I graduated from Arlington High School in 1976, he saw that as the perfect opportunity to escape from our discussion by passing me off to another Arlington grad, who happens to be one of his campaign workers, and who I respect and immediately recalled from high school days. As I turned to greet her, Drake darted for the elevator like a basketball player with a head fake and a drive for the baseline. No “nice to meet you!” from him. And no positive spin like, “I would like to earn your confidence that I am the best candidate of the three candidates.” So I did what a good reporter should do, I followed him into the elevator, while realizing this guy is probably not the most decorated politician for advocacy of government transparency. There was a little awkward silence, and fortunately there were about six other people in the elevator. It gave me time to think, “What is this guy’s problem? He’s so smooth on Facebook and at the front of an audience. What happened to him?”
He was so positive about small business at the Candidates’s Forum. The Cardinal is a small business — a small news business. Doesn’t he respect Democracy, the Freedom of the Press at all levels, and the modern methods of getting information to the public? The other two candidates, Tom Hayes and Mark Hellner, spoke with me for over 10 minutes in light conversation about how the campaign felt — nothing deep, nothing “gotcha” — just something like a debriefing after a big game. Hayes and Hellner were both engaging, personable, and knowledgeable on their feet.
Back to Drake: I decided to tell him something that motivated me to reach out to him and talk to him in the first place. In his intro bio on Arlingtoncardinal.com (See The Cardinal Hersey Grad, Former Avondale, Arizona Mayor Ron Drake Running for Arlington Heights Mayor), there was some information about crime statistics, which when compared to Arlington Heights, showed Avondale with significantly higher crime in all categories — murder, violent crime, thefts, auto thefts, burglaries, etc. I wanted to tell him that the stats (which represented 2009 — three years after he resigned as Mayor) weren’t included to make him look bad. They were just meant to provide a comparison of the communities, which have about the same population. He claimed he never read the article, which is hard to believe because I know he’s marketing savvy and would have to be Googling himself to see what is being said about his campaign. And even though he said he never read the article, he was very quick to point out that the crime statistics were out years after he served as mayor. He blurted that out before I even finished telling him the crime statistics dates were after his terms. He added, “that’s why crime was worse,” because “I wasn’t serving as mayor anymore.”
I can’t really remember having my regard for a person change so rapidly. His words suddenly ring different to me. When he says he wants to see an influx of visitors to Arlington Heights, I’m thinking, why? We have Arlington Park Racetrack, Frontier Days, Taste of Arlington, Art Fairs. I’m thinking … is the reason crime is much higher in Avondale, compared to Arlington Heights because of over-striding growth? Because maybe there was such a rapid growth in visitors and businesses in Avondale, that there wasn’t enough attention to human issues, and quality of living issues that correlate with lower crime rates?
Tom Knecht, 2105 N. 123rd Drive, Avondale, stated that he lived in Rancho Sante Fe. He stated that he and his wife had lived in the area since 1995 and had seen the Cities of Avondale and Goodyear experience a lot of growth. He stated that the growth seemed to have taken different paths in both of those cities. He stated that he was concerned in relation to the administration. He asked what was being done to offset some of the things that were already in place such as the large number of apartments either constructed or planned, the lack of large corporations, fine dining, shopping and upper end homes. He stated that he was concerned about the City of Avondale becoming the next Maryvale. He stated that a lot of things were in place prior to the current administration. He asked what was being done to offset some of those things being done. He stated that he traveled along Main Street to and from work each day and had seen strippers, hookers, children urinating on the street, and graffiti on the DessieLorenz Park signage. He stated that he was proud to live in Avondale. He stated that he wanted to see and hear from the Council what was being done so that he could be proud of the City currently and in the future.
Back to the Arlington Heights Candidate Forum for Village President
Drake says, “‘Next month’s opening of the new BP gas station and car wash at the corner of Arlington Heights and Algonquin Roads will be the beginning of the revival for the southern section of town,’ said John Melaniphy. We’re going to pin our hopes on the economic development of this community on a gas station and a car wash? That’s not going to happen.”
But in his old Avondale, the city council ended up putting a mini-storage facility at the gateway of their community. First the mini-storage business was approved by Zoning and Planning. Then the City Council rejected it. Then they approved it. Then it was opposed by many citizens, and Drake opposed it, too. But as mayor, Drake and the city council members naively tried to take the public’s appeal to a referendum. But the business owner, Tim Redelsperger, and his lawyer knew that the matter wasn’t eligible for a referendum in Maricopa County. Referendums are used to decide legislative issues, not administrative issues. An appeals court ruled to reverse and remand the matter to the trial court with instructions to grant declaratory and injunctive relief in favor of Redelsperger (See COURT OF APPEALS STATE OF ARIZONA DIVISION ONE TIMOTHY REDELSPERGER VS. CITY OF AVONDALE …).
A little harsh; a little unnecessary at the League of Womens Voters Candidate Forum …
“The other quote I’d like to bring up,” Drake directed at the audience and at Tom Hayes in a condescending tone — Drake quotes Hayes, “‘I’ve walked around town in the past couple of weeks and I’ve seen the small businesses and niche that does need to be addressed,’ Hayes said. Tom, 22 years and you just noticed that we’re having problems with small business? That’s why we need to change the culture in Village Hall. That’s why we need to change the processes.”
It seems these changes in processes that Drake talks about might have a tendency to get the Village of Arlington Heights in trouble in court, were it not for those pesky Village Attorneys and Trustees that happen to be lawyers. That sarcasm is referenced to a comment Drake made at the forum, “We certainly don’t need more lawyers and legal advice.” Too bad Drake didn’t have lawyers to advise hime before he and the council members foolishly tried to go to referendum with a petty administrative issue.
Addressing Arlington Heights voters, Drake said, “We need to become business friendly, and how are we going to do that? We will start by streamlining the business processes and applications, and change the culture in Village Hall. Arlington Heights will be open for business.” But that’s not the practice that was conducted in Avondale.
Drake says that Arlington Heights must become more business friendly, but The Cardinal found examples when Avondale Mayor Ron Drake and the city council gave businesses a very hard time with their startup. Here’s one of the major ones. Could you imagine Arlington Heights losing Best Buy or having it eventually closing out in Arlington Heights because of the following type of foolishness?
When a Best Buy wanted to build in the newly proposed Gateway Crossing Shopping Center, Mayor Ron Drake and the city council nitpicked about the corporate signage of the proposed Best Buy. The City Council went back and forth on the height of the parapet behind the Best Buy main sign logo. Some city council members were concerned the bolder, taller sign wouldn’t be fair to the other retail tenants.
Council Member Earp pointed out the other shops in the center are not competing shops, stating he does not believe the Best Buy logo and checkmark would have a detrimental impact on the other tenants. There’s no record or documentation that any of the other proposing stores in the large shopping center complained about Best Buy’s proposed facade. In fact the bold store front would have probably been an extra draw for the whole shopping center. But some council members “had a feeling” the look of the store would draw attention away from the other stores, even though it wouldn’t take business away from the other stores. What does that even mean? Or why does that even matter if you’re business friendly. Talk about an anti-business culture! The store was eventually approved with a lower sign height — under the roof line.
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NOT BUSINESS FRIENDLY. Best Buy in Avondale, Arizona at Gateway Crossing at West McDowell Rd and North 99th Avenue was NOT allowed to build their corporate logo above the roof line.
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BUSINESS FRIENDLY. Best Buy in Arlington Heights, Illinois at Palatine Road and Rand Road was allowed to construct their trademark logo above the roof line.
Back to the Arlington Heights Candidate Forum for Village President
Drake went on to criticize the Village of Arlington Heights response to flooding, speaking as if the problem is very simple to solve — just tear down homes and build reservoirs in their place. That comment received a lot of eye-rolling in the audience. He also suggested building underground 14-foot high reservoirs under parks, and then putting artifical turf on top of the reservoirs. Later when asked how he would fund the underground reservoirs, he said he would lobby for federal funding. Good luck with that — see US DebtClock.org …
Serving as mayor, or city council member or trustee can be difficult and challenging. A single crisis can make any mayor look bad … snow storms (e.g., Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic), heavy rain and flooding. How about a raw sewage disaster?
PUBLIC APPEARANCE BY CITIZENS WITH REQUEST REGARDING MAJOR SEWER PROBLEM AT AVONDALE ARIZONA CITY COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 15, 2002 WITH MAYOR RONALD DRAKE PRESIDING …
Debbie Durham, 5219 S. Dysart Rd., Avondale, stated that on Saturday, April 13th, a raw sewage spill occurred from the City of Avondale Sewer Treatment Plant. She stated that the sewer treatment plant had a spillage on April 13th at approximately 4:30 p.m. She stated that she was mainly concerned with the health related issues involved with the raw sewage release. She stated that her husband had cancer and because of the chemotherapy treatments, his immune system was already low. She stated that she was worried about the long term affect it would have on him and their family. She stated that her dogs played in the raw sewage because she thought, at first, that it was a water main break. She stated that she did not find out that it was raw sewage until after she returned home with her children from the county fair. She stated that her husband informed her about the water in the street. She stated that the sewage spill soaked her side of the road and her driveway. She stated that it spilled into the ditch that she used to irrigate her yard. She stated that having to drive through the sewage cause it to contaminate her vehicles.
Ms. Durham stated that to her husband and she, it was a very serious issue. She stated that she called the State Health Department’s emergency number and was told they could not speak to the general public. She stated that she got in touch with Mike Malone, EPA, and he called the emergency number for her to alert state and county health officials. She stated that the City of Avondale sprinkled chlorine over the wet sewage but it did not cover the area completely. She stated that chlorine did not kill all bacteria and diseases. She stated that Hepatitis and Malaria were among those diseases. She stated that her husband and she think that the City of Avondale should be held responsible for their concerns. She stated that they would not let the matter go just by putting a little bit of chlorine on large amounts of raw sewage. She stated that only the visible areas were randomly treated and asked what would be done about the sewage that soaked into the dry ground. She stated that they would not settle for the government run around. She stated that the matter gravely concerned them and she expected the City of Avondale to make everything right with them. She stated that they would not stop until they, as a family, were satisfied. She stated that the City was currently enlarging the plant but could not currently keep the small plant safe from that type of malfunction. She stated that she and her husband had not received any advice or questions from the City of Avondale concerning the matter. She stated that no one had contacted them to see how they were doing or asked about their concerns. She stated that she did not know if the Mayor or City Council was aware that the sewage had spilled over.
Pamela Allen, 13038 W. Southern, Avondale, stated that on Saturday at approximately 5:30 p.m. she and her grandchildren, one 13 year old and one 8 year old were traveling north bound on Dysart Road and crossed raw sewage. She stated that it appeared to be water but it was raw sewage. She stated that she did not slow down and the water splashed up everywhere. She stated that the stench was awful. She stated that she went to pick up her other 13-year old granddaughter and thought the treatment plant was supposed to be safe and any water escaping had to be safe. She stated that she returned one half hour later at 6 p.m. and raw sewage was still crossing the road. She stated that she turned off her air conditioner and creeped across it. She stated that she did not realize the danger until speaking to her fiancé who worked in a treatment plant in Oregon. She stated that he told her it could cause all kinds of health problems. She stated that she currently had cancer. She stated that her two granddaughters, one grandson, and herself were exposed to raw sewage. She stated that when her 8 year-old grandson was sick the next day with a sore throat, stomach ache and a fever, she was concerned. She stated that her 13 year-old granddaughter was also complaining of a stomach ache. She stated that at 8 p.m.that Saturday, she went by the area again. She stated that there was a large truck and the stench of chlorine everywhere. She stated that she was concerned for every one of her grandchildren and her health. She stated that she took photographs that day which showed how someone had taken a road grader and gone down the road to try to shove the dirt to the side. She stated that she reported that to Robert Casey, Complaint Division, Water Treatment.
Mayor Drake stated that something needed to be done to talk to the community.
According to a West Valley View newspaper article Sewage issues noted at apartment complex … There are still raw sewage issues in Avondale, Arizona. One apartment tenant, James B. Green, a retired police officer, said the awful stench was the result of raw sewage flowing along the ground just outside of his ground-floor bedroom window at the Rio Santa Fe Apartments, 13015 W. Rancho Santa Fe Blvd., a sprawling development northeast of Interstate 10 and Dysart Road. Another tenant, Rob Thomas, 38, a welder, said that sewage backups at the apartments have been a recurring issue, not just a one-time problem. Apparently tenants have gotten the run around from the City of Avondale, Maricopa County and the apartment complex property management.
Of course, Ron Drake resigned from his term as mayor to run for Congress in a race he had no chance of winning, while sewer problems in Avondale were apparently ongoing.
Ron Drake says, “Arlington heights needs a fresh approach. What this town needs is advertising and marketing experience to draw and keep businesses here. We’re in competition with places like Mount Prospect, Schaumburg, Deer Park, and we need to come up with a strategy that is uniquely different from the competition, and we need to secure Arlington Heights future as a lively fun and enriching place to live, work and shop. We certainly don’t need more lawyers and legal advice. And further we don’t need more policy making.The fundamentals of Arlington Heights are working just fine we have a safe community, good schools, great park systems, and good infrastructure.”
Drake has painted a picture that he is a mayor that can do it all with ease — a Knight in Shining Armor from Avondale. Certainly he has probably done some good things as mayor of Avondale. But as seen from some of his failures or the failures that occurred on his watch in Avondale, it’s clear that he’s not the master that he presents himself to be. He’s overly contentious in this Arlington Heights campaign, painting himself as the only one for the job, while using his “passion” to claim or imply that trustees have squandered their terms. His derogatory style would not benefit Village Board meetings, and would not benefit Arlington Heights.