For mental health reasons, I'd taken almost a year off from my role as Chicago Magazine's "unofficial Bolingbrook bureau chief," a title bestowed upon me after the second of two long stories I wrote about the place. In short, the place gets me down. But there's an election coming up in Bolingbrook, and so I reluctantly checked back in. Discouraged, I e-mailed the suburb's longtime mayor, Roger Claar.
Hi Roger, long time no talk.
But based on a few conversations I've had lately with Bolingbrook residents, I don't feel I've missed much since my Chicago Magazine profile of you--"Bolingbrook, C'est Moi!"--and my subsequent story about the local handling of the Peterson case.
For a community whose motto is "a place to grow," nothing in Bolingbrook ever seems to change. (Or, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose!)
With your reelection coming up April 7, I've been hearing from some of my old sources, and I've been talking to some new sources. One and all, they tell me drearily familiar stories:
• You've still got your million-dollar campaign war chest and all the benefits of incumbency (and then some), yet I hear you used your influence to knock an unknown pipsqueak mayoral candidate off the ballot. Who's afraid of Bonnie Kurowski-Alicea?
• To maintain your municipal marionette show, you've used carrots and sticks to encourage one trustee candidate to drop out and discourage the other from staying in.
• And you're still presiding over a social and economic house of cards. You muffle crime reports, you minimize business-closings and foreclosures and you continue to deny an alarming charge: Your ambitious but money-losing village ventures, the lavish Bolingbrook Golf Club and the Americana Estates McMansion development, are going to cause Bolingbrook's property taxes to double within the next five to 10 years.
A year and a half after writing my first story, it's pretty discouraging to hear that nothing seems to have changed.
It must be hardest on you. You weren't exactly happy about the status quo in Bolingbrook, even before the Peterson case made the town nationally notorious.
Remember, we talked about how you lay in bed at night staring into the blackness, worrying about the ongoing federal corruption investigation and wondering "What are [the investigators] looking for? What are they going to do?" You said you kept checking the front door to see if the newspaper has been delivered, because reading is the only thing that gets you to stop scaring up scenarios in which a desperate witness points the finger at you to get a break from the feds.
"All I have is my fucking reputation!" you cried to me. "I'm not a rich man!"
If I were so unhappy, I guess I'd change things around a little bit, maybe relax my grip, try to be a nice guy, and open things up a little bit to people with some new ideas. Use this unprecedented economic and historical moment to challenge my opponents in public: Well, what are your great new ideas?
What's keeping you from changing? After 23 years in office, is it just sheer force of habit?
Or maybe my sources and my assumptions are wrong. I accept that possibility, too, and I'd be happy and eager to talk.
Of course, you and I haven't spoken directly since you hurled me out of your office back in the fall of '07 because I told you I intended to quote one of your opponents in my magazine profile.
I'm in tomorrow morning until 10, then out the rest of the day, and in on Friday. If I don't hear from you via phone or e-mail by close-of-business Friday, I'm going to assume this is all accurate and post it as an open letter on the Huffington Post. But I really would rather get your reaction to my sources' charges and my to questions.
In regard to the current mayor's race, Claar has said he's content to run on his record of 23 years. Since I didn't hear back from him or anyone else from the village of Bolingbrook, I think it's safe to consider the above an update on that record. Bolingbrook, bon chance!