The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Ritzel Out, Who I Voted for And Why (Mayoral Edition)

with 10 comments

As everyone knows, Brent Ritzel was eliminated from Carbondale’s mayoral race after finishing last in Tuesday’s primary. George Maroney finished first, Joel Fritzler second, Sam Goldman third, Steven Haynes fourth, and Ritzel fifth. The Southern Illinoisan has the exact vote totals on their website.

I had a hard time deciding which mayoral candidate to vote for. Every candidate had at least one idea I agreed with, and each had at least one factor that I considered a drawback. I didn’t feel especially excited about any of them. I eventually decided to vote for Sam Goldman. I’ll explain how I chose Goldman by explaining who I ruled out and why, in the order in which I ruled them out. I’ll post again tomorrow about my votes for city council.

Brent Ritzel: As I’ve mentioned before, Ritzel always seemed to me like the odd man out in this group. His professional experience is different than the other candidates and he lacks elected political experience. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – eclectic experiences bring an eclectic perspective and the public sometimes welcomes political outsiders. And Ritzel had some good ideas, notably the plastic bag tax. But considering the expansiveness of some of his ideas and the limits of his experience, I wasn’t comfortable voting for him for mayor. I eliminated Ritzel from consideration first.

Steven Haynes: I thought Haynes showed understanding of the retail industry when asked about the mall in his WSIU interview. Since retail is one of Carbondale’s three largest economic sectors, so Haynes’ experience as a manager in retail would be useful to a mayor. Haynes also gets a point for his experience on city council, even though I haven’t always agreed with his votes. On the other hand, I didn’t find the platform on his website particularly inspiring. Haynes also lost points because he isn’t able to devote his full energies to the job of mayor. As I’ve mentioned before, I think Carbondale needs a full time mayor, but the job doesn’t pay enough for most working age people to take it full time. Since there are two acceptable retired candidates, I was free to eliminate the candidates with full time jobs.

Joel Fritzler: Like Haynes, Fritzler gets a point for his city council experience. As I’ve mentioned in a series of posts, I didn’t like his behavior in the Lance Jack liquor license controversy. That aside, I’ve agreed with Fritzler’s votes more often than I’ve disagreed with them. He has a good understanding of the city’s budget and he seems to enjoy public service. If the position of mayor was a full time job making $45,000 per year, and if Fritzler pledged to quit his job at SIUC if he were elected, I might have voted for him. But that isn’t the system of government Carbondale has, and there were two acceptable retired candidates, so I eliminated Fritzler.

George Maroney: I am most impressed with George Maroney’s professional experience. Memorial Hospital thrived under his leadership. If the ability to get things done were the only consideration, I’d have voted for Maroney. But we should consider what the candidate wants to do. On some issues, Marnoey seemed out of touch. When asked about downtown development in his WSIU interview he replied, “Norman Rockwell died a long time ago.” That seemed to me like the remark of a person who doesn’t understand the issue. In the same interview, Maroney described the comprehensive plan as a “huggy-feely” document that doesn’t “say very much” to him. I don’t agree. Finally, Maroney seemed like an ideological candidate to me. I don’t think ideology is very useful in small town government because of the inherent constraints on government at that level. Along with his positions on downtown and the comprehensive plan, Maroney’s ideological streak led me to eliminate him.

Sam Goldman: After eliminating every other candidate, I was left with Goldman. I don’t mean to damn him with faint praise. Goldman is very involved in the community. He has a lot of experience with SIU, including a brief time as Chancellor. Like Maroney, I think he understands Carbondale’s economy and some of the obstacles to its growth. Unlike Maroney, he seemed to value downtown and the comprehensive plan. Goldman is retired, so he has plenty of time to devote to public service as mayor.

To me, the main drawback to Goldman’s candidacy is that SIUC continued its enrollment decline while Goldman was Chancellor. On the other hand, I’m not certain how much of the blame for that can be laid at Goldman’s door. Goldman was basically installed as Chancellor, and I think that left him in a weaker position than if he had been chosen after a national search. Some of the problems with enrollment at SIUC are probably beyond anyone’s control. And Goldman was always understood to be a caretaker Chancellor, and I think he did the best that could be expected of him.

That said, I could still be persuaded. I am a strategic voter, and if I decide I’m wasting a vote on Goldman when the real race is between Fritzler and Maroney I will almost certainly shift my support to one of them. Although I eliminated Fritzler before Maroney in this round, Maroney wouldn’t be guaranteed my vote if I do change my mind. I’d have to start all over again and compare them side by side.

Comments are welcome.

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Written by The Carbondale Observer

February 23, 2011 at 7:45 am

10 Responses

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  1. Carbondale is really lucky to have such a gifted writer as this blog. The analysis of the races is good, and its worthwhile to reveal your personal decision making. One quibble with the post. It was unclear about the “three largest economic sectors”. If that meant the university, healthcare and retail, then its not completely accurate. Real estate, both rental and maintenance is certainly one of the largest economic sectors in Carbondale. It is the only sector that has spawned entrepreneurs that have gone on to amass great wealth (at deep expense to the community). And is the area that is most in need of revitalization.

    D.Gorton

    February 23, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    • Thanks for the comment and the kind words! I did mean education, health care and retail when I mentioned our three largest economic sectors, and I think you’re right about real estate as a fourth major sector.

      It’s easy to overlook real estate because both commercial and single family residential development is sluggish compared to our neighbors in Williamson County. But the rental industry certainly generates a lot of wealth for some landlords. And many landlords don’t maintain their properties or build eyesores. Revitalization is definitely necessary.

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 23, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    • Really D. Gorton needs to shut his mouth geesh…everyone knows what kind of person you are.

      Jack B. Nimble

      March 27, 2011 at 9:45 pm

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    Goldman and Maroney make for an interesting contrast. A debate between the two would be a gas. Whatever else George Maroney is, he’s outspoken. He’s going to put his foot in his mouth, regularly, so he’s not a good one to judge by isolated remarks. His honesty is part of his charm, making him a sort of “Straight-Talk Express” type. You say he is too ideological (like the post-Maverick John McCain, perhaps): could you provide some evidence? He’s certainly to the right of Ritzel and probably Fritzler, but seems to have a pretty broad pragmatic streak.

    Sam Goldman, on the other hand, perhaps thanks to his decades in academia, seems much less likely to put his foot in his mouth. He is also perhaps less likely to say anything noteworthy; I’ve found listening to his mellifluous voice soporific, more soothing than substantive. He didn’t fare very well as SIUC Chancellor, as you note; of course SIUC tends to destroy people in that position, so perhaps success there would be too much to ask. But from what I know he provided neither a great deal of vision nor a great deal of administrative efficiency in that post. He’s also in his late 70s, which may be a consideration for some.

    By your full-time standard, Maroney may be a non-starter. He’s been very clear that the mayor’s job should be part-time. I think Goldman, though, made somewhat similar remarks in his Southern Illinois interview (in favor of leaving the little stuff to the city manager). If you limit yourself to people willing to do full-time work in a part-time position you’re not going to have much of a choice: you’ll have to either select a retiree (perhaps with no more vision for the city other than something to prevent boredom in retirement) or someone with further political ambitions like Brad Cole. Either type might prove a fine mayor, but can we afford to limit ourselves like that?

    Nemo

    February 23, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I don’t know Maroney personally, so I’m judging whether or not he’s ideological based only on his public statements. When he announced for mayor, I searched his name on the Southern Illinoisan website and found some of his letters to the editor.

      Two from 2004 were about the medical malpractice issue. This may not exactly be an ideological issue, but it’s certainly a partisan one. I also found one from February 2010 on the proper role of the city government. That letter seemed ideological to me. In his Southern Illinoisan interview, he said he thought a city should be run like a business, which seems like a fairly ideological statement.

      Still, when I searched the Southern’s website for his name, I found a lot of articles about the various expansions at Memorial Hospital. There were far more articles about his work at the Hospital than ideological/partisan (in my opinion) letters to the editor. He’s clearly able to accomplish things, and I like that.

      It’s true that Maroney has said he doesn’t view the job of mayor as a full time position. But I felt that his statements in the Southern article lead me to believe he would be an activist mayor. I’m more interested in the mayor playing an active political role than in having a mayor running the day to day operations of city hall.

      One thing that makes Maroney tough to judge: he has no campaign website (at least not one that I’ve been able to find). That’s tough to justify. At a minimum, he should set up a free WordPress site like this one and put up some position statements.

      I haven’t found a campaign website for Fritzler either, although he does have a Facebook page. I’d like to see him get a website too, but it’s less important because his years on city council are a pretty good guide to how he approaches public office.

      I’m not 100 percent committed to Goldman in April. I’ll have to think it over, and I’ll be watching for statements from the campaigns. I’m also open to persuasion, especially in comments on this blog. 🙂

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 23, 2011 at 10:10 pm

  3. […] Hennrich were eliminated from the city council race in Tuesday’s primary.  Yesterday, I wrote a post explaining which mayoral candidate I voted for and why. Today’s post explains which city […]

  4. […] Ritzel Out, Who I Voted for And Why (Mayoral […]

  5. […] I’ve mentioned, I voted for Goldman in the primary. I still prefer Goldman, but I haven’t been planning to […]

  6. […] explaining my votes for Jane Adams, Lee Fronabarger, and John Holt for city council and another post explaining my vote for Sam Goldman for mayor. I’m going to follow up here explaining who […]

  7. […] what I said about Ritzel during his 2011 mayoral […]


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