The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Fritzler, Monty, Adams, Jack Elected – A Few Thoughts

with 14 comments

The polls are closed and the returns are in. Joel Fritzler will be our new mayor and Don Monty, Jane Adams, and Lance Jack will join the city council. Fritzler’s old council seat will need to be filled, and mayoral candidate Steven Haynes will leave the council. Sitting mayor Brad Cole and council members Mary Pohlmann and Michael Neill, none of whom ran for reelection, will also leave the council.

First, I voted for all the winners so I’m happy with the results. But the 2011 election season isn’t quite over. Since Fritzler won the mayoral election, his council seat will need to be filled by appointment. I wrote in February that the most democratic option is to appoint the fourth place finisher:

…It seems to me that the natural person to appoint would be the candidate who finishes in fourth place in the April 5 election.

When Lance Jack resigned last year it had been nearly two years since the last election, but that wouldn’t be the case this time. Since council members are usually elected, and since the appointment would happen so near the election, I think the fourth place finisher would have a strong democratic claim on Fritzler’s old council seat.

That claim would be even stronger if the race for third place is very close. In this week’s primary, one vote separated third place (Tom Grant) and fourth place (Lance Jack). If Fritzler is elected mayor and I was the candidate who finished a close fourth in the April 5 election, I would expect to be appointed to Fritzler’s old seat.

Lance Jack, who finished third and won a seat on the council, received 772 votes. Tom Grant, who finished fourth and did not win a seat on the council, received 744 – a difference of only 28 votes. Meanwhile, 84 votes separate Grant and Bradshaw, his nearest opponent. I think the case is strong to appoint Grant to fill Fritzler’s council seat, and I hope our new mayor and council will agree.

Second, I think Fritzler won a convincing victory. I was hoping to avoid a situation where the four candidates more or less equally split the vote. A 25.01% victory wouldn’t have been very convincing. We avoided it this time, but anything is possible in the next election. As others have suggested, at the very least Carbondale should use it’s home rule authority to return to the old system in which only two candidates for each seat continue to the general election.

Third, I don’t think it’s possible to really know who would have won a two person Fritzler vs. Maroney election, but I strongly suspect Fritzler would still have won. I’m betting against the conventional wisdom that Goldman’s voters would have broken for Fritzler. I think Maroney would have gotten  a majority of them. But I also think Fritzler would have gotten an even larger majority of Haynes’ voters and he still would have won.

Fourth, I think this election should mark the end of the Lance Jack liquor license controversy. As most readers will remember, Lance Jack was forced to resign the council last year in order to get a liquor license for his restaurant. I wrote two posts (one, two) criticizing Joel Fritzler’s interpretation of state and local laws, which he cited as his reason for voting against the license. Now, for the third time, voters have returned Lance Jack to the city council – even knowing that he has a liquor license. The new mayor and council should not reopen the Fat Patties liquor license controversy.

Fifth, whether justified or not (and I think it’s not), there is a perception that the business community is uneasy with Fritzler and vice versa. Fritzler’s poor performance in the admittedly unscientific Chamber of Commerce membership poll was bad enough and his reaction (at least as quoted in the papers) didn’t necessarily help. Now that the election is over, business should accept and work with Fritzler, and Fritzler should make it clear that he has no hard feelings.

Continuing Brad Cole’s tradition of delivering a “state of the city” address as a Chamber fundraiser would be a wise move for Fritzler. If Fritzler is concerned about citizen access, and I think he is, he could continue Cole’s tradition of televising the speech on channel 16, or even insist that some free tickets be available. At the same time, business should close ranks and support the duly elected mayor. At the municipal level, cooperation between business and government benefits both.

Sixth, I noticed that this is the second mayoral election in a row in which the second place finisher in the primary went on to win the general election. I don’t think it’s that important, but I wonder why it happens. Does the first place finisher get complacent, or does the second place finisher get motivated? A little of each?

Seventh, I wonder if Maroney’s lack of a website contributed to his defeat. I don’t have strong evidence that this is the case, but I have a hunch and some weak evidence. WordPress (my blogging software) gives me a variety of stats showing how people arrive at my blog. For most of the election, search terms like “george maroney carbondale” or “carbondale mayor maroney” brought more people to my blog than searches for any other candidate. I took that as evidence that Maroney would win.

Now that he has lost, I suspect his lack of a website hurt him. People searched for information on Maroney and, instead of finding a site controlled by him and extolling his virtues, they found this blog. This should be a lesson to future candidates. Times have changed. It will be tough to win a mayoral election in Carbondale without a website.

Eighth, as others point out, turnout was lower this year than in some recent elections. Our neighbor to the east, which has several thousand fewer citizens, had almost a thousand more voters than Carbondale. The total Carbondale mayoral vote in 1999 (pdf) was 4,367; in 2003 (pdf) it was 3,507; in 2007 (pdf) it was 3,903. In 2011, the total mayoral vote was 2,683. That suggests apathy, which is a problem.

Ninth, compliments to SIUC journalism student and local news blogger Barton Lorimor, who’s live election return updates on his B(ee)tl(e)Juice blog kept me up to date. Check his site if you want exact vote totals for mayor, city council, school district 95, and the John A. Logan board.

I’ll probably have more to say on this in a future post, but these are some preliminary thoughts.

Comments are welcome.


14 Responses

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  1. I hope this isn’t a sad day for Carbondale. I know the quality of candidates wasn’t that high, but after speaking to Joel, how could you vote for him? He was elected to the council, after running and losing a few times. Now, he is mayor because he has been hanging around the council for a few years. I guess Carbondale is a union town of state employees, and quality takes a back seat to years of service.

    Biggest surprise of the election year was Joel’s campaigning on Cole’s results. After years of complaining about Cole’s initiatives.

    Here is a quiet prayer that Carbondale isn’t returning to the inactive Mayor-City Manager combo of the Neil Dillard years. Things can easily get a lot worse.


    April 7, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    • I think you’re right that we had a flawed set of candidates. I think Cole would have crushed Fritzler even despite the Saluki Way tax.

      I think Maroney would have had a good chance if he had put up a website and done as much canvassing as Fritzler did. There was a perception that Maroney was sometimes insensitive, but I think he could have successfully pushed back against that if he had made the effort.

      And I agree that we’re rolling the dice with Fritzler. My feeling is that he’s more interested in the abstract side of government than the practical side, and I suspect he’s better suited for appointive work than elective. Fritzler would probably be a really good city manager. I’m hoping he’ll make a good mayor, but it’s an open question right now.

      Fortunately, we had a strong set of council candidates and that made me feel a little better about the mayoral field – and the choice of Fritzler as mayor.

      The unfortunate fact is that there were no candidates willing to play the role Cole played as mayor. Goldman and Maroney (to a slightly lesser extent) were closer to Cole than to Fritzler, but neither of them would have been as involved as Cole.

      I think we need an active mayor. I’ve written about it before, and others have too. I’m sure I’ll write about it again. But for some reason an active mayor is a real bugaboo for a fair number of Carbondale voters. The Cole years showed that it’s possible to put together a coalition that will support an active mayor, but this election showed that you have to actually campaign for it.

      We’ll have to see how it works out. I’m hoping for the best.

      • There is much to say about the Brad Cole years and, in my opinion, very little will be praise. Even as he leaves office he is touting a cockamammie tax-and -spend program giving over $750,000 of our money to District 95. He manipulated liquor licenses, infrastructure upgrades for his contributors at Reed Station Road, and gutted the compulsory rental inspection program. Don’t get me started on the $20M giveaway to Saluki Way. His life was shadowy…the only public official that had no known source of income or job. The list is literally endless. But that is another post.

        This is the first election that had four candidates running for the mayor’s office. It is also the first election that I have seen whereby the winner did not have clearly defined constituency groups. Fritzler won the office the old fashioned way, he walked and talked to the voters. On the other hand, Maroney was backed by a small group of “business interests”

        Goldman had his constituency as did Haynes (which actually shifted as a result of the Green endorsement).

        The Mayor’s job is a part time position. However, it can be exploited by someone like the apparently jobless Cole who lurked around City Hall.

        So, I take issue with a hypothetical match-up between Cole and Fritzler that you mention. People would have crawled over glass to defeat Brad. And he knew it.

        Fritzler’s base is much broader and potentially more engaged than we have seen in the past. Whether Fritzler will be a dynamic leader is something we will see in the future. But, thus far, he has done things his own way…and been successful.

        D. Gorton

        April 8, 2011 at 10:17 am

  2. I always enjoy D’s views on Brad.

    I love the idea that Carbondale is about to get engaged. There are few towns, with a greater number of risk adverse adults than Carbondale. The whole darn town is waiting for retirement, or someone else to try something, so they can rip it down. It is sad. Voter turnout was down 40% and now we are engaged?

    Great thing about small towns, personality is often more important than substance. Personally, I’m into substance. But that is just me. You should judge for yourself. 🙂


    April 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm

  3. I have mixed feelings about Brad Cole too. He’s done some things I like (various home ownership incentives, taking an active role as mayor), some things that I have mixed feelings about (TIF district), and some things that I haven’t agreed with (Saluki Way tax, attempt to privatize water).

    The jury is still out on some things, like his policy of demolishing old buildings (like the all four corners of Walnut and Washington). I lean toward counting that as a negative because we need old buildings for a variety of reasons.

    I’m really not convinced that Cole’s private life is that shadowy. He made a lot per year when he worked for the Ryan administration. If he saved a lot of that money, or invested it, he could have lived on savings for a long time. My understanding is that he also has some income from consulting activities he does for the state Republican party.

    I should point out one other major negative – Cole’s demeanor is awful. I see him as arrogant, and he’s so sensitive that you can’t even praise him without offending him. He has no tolerance for constituents who are ignorant of the intricacies of municipal government. I’d say roughly a quarter of the troubles he’s had are due to his poor demeanor.

    There is no doubt that some people would have loved to defeat Cole for a third term as mayor. But there were a lot of people eager to defeat him in 2007 as well, and those people failed.

    Cole is smart and aggressive, he’s got support from the state party and can raise money. If he’d run, he would have been tough to beat. It’s really unknowable, but I suspect he would have annihilated Fritzler. My sense of it is that it would have taken someone much tougher and with better political instincts to beat Cole, if anyone could have done it.

    As an aside, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Cole. He’s ambitious, and he’s made some smart moves. His run for Lieutenant Governor gave him the chance to make connections with party leaders all over the state, and probably helped him get his new job with Senator Kirk. In that position, he’ll also be able to make valuable connections.

    I’m just guessing here, but I expect to see Brad Cole on a statewide ticket in the future – maybe four to six years from now. This being Illinois, a Republican starts out ten points behind. Cole may not succeed at the statewide level, but I think he’ll try.

    The Carbondale Observer

    April 8, 2011 at 8:38 pm

  4. I’m completely perplexed by people who want a “full time mayor.” If you really want that, why aren’t you trying to change the city charter? And why would we need a city manager (at $150,000 per year no less)?

    I personally don’t want to see a partisan form of local government; just look at Carbondale’s history with that because that where most of its problems started. But seriously, if that’s what you folks want than make your case and try to change the rules so that they make sense. Expecting anyone to be a “full time” mayor for $9,000 is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is to pay for a full time mayor *and* a city manager.

    Me? I want to pay for the person with expertise who is not necessary beholden to special interests, giving the council the role of guiding priorities. So be it if the citizens want something else, but let’s choose already.


    April 9, 2011 at 9:41 am

    • Clearly, there are advantages to both city manager and strong mayor. City Manager is better at getting the trains to run on time and long-term management of a city. Also, strong mayors are feared to be giving special deals to their friends, where that can’t happen in towns with a city manager. 😉 Negatives of city manager seem to be very, very slow decision making. Either way, city managers lead a committee based government, that attracts people with lots of free time on their hands (for better or worse). 😉

      In a the smaller and more complex world that exists today, businesses do weird stuff. They often want or need changes in city rules. City manager led governments are slow enough to send those businesses elsewhere. For example, the Kohl’s store in Carbondale. Of course, according to , Cole sucks for that too. 🙂

      You get to choose. City manager was easier to take in 1950, when there were no plastics and the world was still round. I’m not sure which is right for Carbondale today.


      April 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    • I agree with annon on the value of a strong mayor. I’ll add my two cents.

      First, Scott’s right – if we want a full time mayor, we have to raise the salary. Otherwise we’d never be able to fill the job, except possibly with a retired person.

      But I don’t agree that we have to choose between strong-mayor and city-manager, and I don’t agree that it’s ridiculous to have both. In fact, I think we need both.

      During the campaign, Maroney compared the mayor to a chief executive officer and a city manager to a chief operating officer. I think that’s helpful, but imperfect.

      The mayor is a member of the city council – a legislative official, not an executive. But there’s no reason to prevent a single official from performing both executive and legislative functions. It’s not unusual for boards and committees to name an executive committee. Think of a mayor as an executive committee of one.

      As annon said, sometimes it’s necessary to make decisions quickly. Imagine you learn the day after a city council meeting that you need an immediate decision on a policy matter. Under the current system, tough luck. The city manager doesn’t make policy – the city council does, and they won’t meet again for another two weeks. If you’ve got a mayor who can act on behalf of the city council, you can get a decision quickly.

      I don’t see a need to switch to one of the other three common forms of municipal government. I think we should tinker with the current council-manager system, taking what we like from strong-mayor and leaving the rest. We really aren’t limited to the standard four options. We can be creative. 🙂

      As for changing the system – I don’t think that would be possible yet. We’d have to get some consensus that there are weaknesses with the current system, and we’d have to build support for a good package of changes. Then the whole thing would have to go to the voters. I don’t think the council can make fundamental changes to the form of government.

      The Carbondale Observer

      April 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm

  5. I’m not opposed to creativity, but I’d say there are reasons you don’t see systems that have a strong mayor and a city manager.

    As for the system being slow…well, democracy is slow!

    I’d say that most of the concerns people have can be addressed with in the current system. The council should spend some time figuring what’s important and structure the city code accordingly. That would mean doing things other than just ruling on permit disputes. But there is no reason they can’t set the policy agenda.


    April 10, 2011 at 9:05 am

    • I’m sure you’re right that there are reasons we don’t see systems with both a strong city manager and a strong mayor. I’m betting that one reason is that the state doesn’t really provide for that system.

      State law provides for:

      Another reason is the same as the reason we didn’t see commission or council-manager systems before the early twentieth century progressive era: no one had invented them yet. Same here.

      I may have to do another post on this. I’ve written about it before, but I’m sure there’s more to say.

      Thanks for the great comments!

      The Carbondale Observer

      April 11, 2011 at 7:52 pm

  6. I think it is interesting the way Fritzler is always underestimated.


    April 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    • I guess we will see if Joel is underestimated or realistically evaluated. I sure hope he is better than he looks.


      April 19, 2011 at 1:10 am

  7. […] of power by Fritzler. I think everyone who voted for him expected him to be a weak mayor, although not all of us liked that. He had carved out a niche as the anti-Cole on the city […]

  8. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definately be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment.

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    August 18, 2011 at 7:22 am

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