The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Fritzler Should Apologize

with 13 comments

I’m sure everyone in Carbondale knows that the annual Polar Bear party took place on Saturday. And everyone has probably heard that a nineteen year old male (who was not a student at SIUC) lost his leg in a train accident early Saturday morning. And if you’ve heard about all that, you’ve probably heard about the comments Carbondale mayor Joel Fritzler posted to his campaign Facebook account. In case you haven’t, this is what our mayor thought was an appropriate response to the accident:

First Polar Bear casualty took place this morning just after the bars closed when a 19 year old male with a .273 BAC tried to jump onto a freight train. Human bones between metal train wheels and train tracks usually doesn’t end well. Was it worth it?

There are a few problems with this. First and most obvious is that the remark shows no trace of sensitivity to the person who was injured or to his family. That would be bad enough if the statement came from a private citizen speaking for himself. But Fritzler is the mayor and when he speaks, he speaks for Carbondale.

But it’s not even clear that Fritzler has the facts right. Polar Bear started at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. According to the police department’s press release, the accident happened around 2:50 a.m on Saturday – over seven hours before Polar Bear started. So why is Fritzler claiming the accident is a Polar Bear casualty?

In his Facebook post, Fritzler claims the victim had a .273 BAC. But the Daily Egyptian reports that police are still waiting for results of the victim’s blood test to determine if he was intoxicated. So why is Fritzler claiming the victim had a .273 BAC?

Let’s think about this. A young man, a visitor to our town, was in the hospital with life threatening injuries after a horrible accident. It wasn’t yet clear that he would survive. And our mayor thinks the correct response is to make a sneering, insensitive, inaccurate post on his Facebook page. This is a serious lapse of judgement on Fritzler’s part, and he owes an apology to the victim, his family, and the people of Carbondale.

Fritzler must know he made a mistake, because he’s removed the post from his Facebook page. Unfortunately, it looks like Fritzler isn’t going to apologize. KFVS 12 asked him about his comments, and here was his response:

“When I said is it worth it, it was basically out to everybody,” said Fritzler. “Is something like this worth it? Where you have a party and the purpose is to get as drunk as possible. That doesn’t sound like responsible behavior on anybody’s part no matter how old you are. And, that is what I was trying to get at, this is not responsible behavior.”

That doesn’t sound like an apology to me. That sounds like a defense of remarks that are indefensible. Fritzler only has one good option. He needs to issue an apology, and he needs to do it immediately. Judging by his comment to KFVS 12, it looks like he isn’t going to do it.

I voted for Fritzler in the general election. Since he’s taken office, he’s made a series of mistakes. I’ve criticized him when I thought he was wrong, but I haven’t regretted my vote until now. But his response to this accident has given me buyer’s remorse. It’s clear now that Fritzler is not up to the job we’ve given him. If Fritzler cannot swallow his pride and apologize, that shows serious weakness as a leader.

I’m posting a screenshot of Frizler’s Facebook page below. I’ll also post a second screenshot showing the comments on his post up to about 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. I’ve blacked out the names of the people commenting and the photos next to their names. Click the photos to see a larger version.

Comments are welcome.


Written by The Carbondale Observer

January 30, 2012 at 7:45 am

13 Responses

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  1. I disagree; I don’t think he should apologize for what he said because of what he said. If he were to apologize for anything I think it would be for making this statement as mayor, because like you pointed out, he represents the town, not just his personal feelings. We don’t want to say as a town to the boy and his parents “He’s a dummy so you get what you get!” That is in no way professional or ethical.

    Now as for the actual statement I completely agree that it was insensitive however I don’t think the situation called for much sensitivity from the average citizen. Polar Bear is a plight on this city that leads to disgusting and destructive behavior every year. Aside from the fact the bars and other businesses make a windfall of profit for this senseless event there really are no upsides. The kids are drunk…and wandering the streets, not even remotely something anyone should be doing. In addition, the fact that Polar Bear hadn’t officially started is truly inconsequential because a good number of people started drinking Friday evening and didn’t stop until Sunday.

    I don’t like that Fitzler seems to have spoken out of turn about the details, for that he should correct himself, but does the fact remain that the young man tried to jump on the train?

    If so then I have to agree with the basis of Fitzlers statement which is “Was it worth it?”

    The answer is a resounding no and it would remain that way irrespective of that young man being drunk or sober.

    You can’t illicit sympathy for being idiotic, it’s not automatic, and some people simply will find that you got what you asked for. It’s not an accident, it’s not as though circumstances out of his control lead him to those injuries. He put himself in harm’s way and then he was harmed, why should I feel sorry for him?

    I do, however, feel sympathy for his parents and I hope the boy makes it through and has an opportunity to learn from this moronic decision.

    Alessandra Nicholson

    January 30, 2012 at 10:54 am

    • Alessandra Nicholson – I have to disagree on all points.

      On Polar Bear, we have to remember that Carbondale is a college town. That means a lot of good things for the town. It has a much larger population than it would without the university, we have better cultural amenities, more retail options, better healthcare, and more entertainment options. Not to mention all the jobs with good health insurance and pensions.

      But we have to take the bad along with the good. College students drink. Sometimes when they drink, they behave badly. Saying Polar Bear is a blight on the community is asking for only the good side of being a university town and none of the bad side. We don’t have to like Polar Bear and events like it. But if we want the good side of being a university town, we have to accept the bad side with it.

      You wrote that what happened to the victim was “not an accident, it’s not as though circumstances out of his control lead him to those injuries. He put himself in harm’s way and then he was harmed, why should I feel sorry for him?”

      I’ll respond to that in two ways. First, it was certainly an accident. The person didn’t deliberately put his leg under the train. My understanding is that he tried to hop on the train and slipped. A slip is an accident. Now it’s true that it’s not a good idea to try to hop a train, and that brings me to my second response.

      We should have sympathy for those who find misfortune through their own mistakes because we owe one another compassion. We’ve all made mistakes, many of us mistakes that could have resulted in serious injury or death. Maybe we’re distracted in the car and run a red light. Maybe it’s something else. Most of the time we get away with it. Sometimes some of us don’t. And when that happens, we should treat the unfortunate with the same compassion we’d want if we made a mistake that caused us serious harm.

      That’s just basic human decency.

      Thanks for the comment!

      The Carbondale Observer

      January 30, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    • So, if you want to get your facts right, the drinking for polar bear starts Friday night and goes through the Pinch “Polar Bear” party that opens at 10am on Saturday.
      Now Pinch’s “Polar Bear” is not till Saturday, but the thing is, people just stay up most, or all, of the night Friday and go into the official 10am Saturday Polar Bear already drunk. Ask a 19-22 year old student and they’ll back up this version of polar bear weekend.
      Lastly, given his statement does not match the actual facts, it would seem more plausible that his comment was in context of hyperbole to prove a point that a 24 hour bender leads to bad decisions. Lastly, I agree, the most important thing from this past weekend was a facebook post, and thank goodness you got that “screen shot” as evidence!


      January 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm

      • CR – You acknowledge in your comment that the Polar Bear party at Pinch starts at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. When people say “Polar Bear” what are they referring to? The Pinch Polar Bear party? So “Polar Bear,” refers to an event that takes place at Pinch Penny and starts at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. I’m not sure what your complaint is.

        So people start drinking on Friday, huh? Is that different than any other weekend? Doesn’t the weekend start on Friday? Again, I’m not sure what your complaint is.

        You say Fritzler’s statement was hyperbole. That’s one explanation. Another explanation is that he was trying to be ironic. We could think up any number of explanations. None of them are acceptable. Hyperbole, irony, or whatever motive you want to attribute to Fritzler was not the appropriate response.

        The correct statement would have gone something like this: “We’ve learned that a 19 year old male was seriously injured in an accident on the train tracks. We are keeping him and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

        You close with the sarcastic statement that the most important event from the weekend was Fritzler’s Facebook post. The implication is that I should have written about something else – that I should have ignored a disgraceful public comment by our mayor. I suggest that you read the “about” page on this blog. I write about local politics. Fritzler is a local political figure. The most important political event of the weekend was Fritzler’s Facebook post. And that’s what I chose to write about. I stand by that choice.

        The Carbondale Observer

        January 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      • @TCO. Either I wasn’t clear or you were twisting my words. Polar Bear is an event on a Saturday with a set time at a set location. However, students treat the polar bear weekend as an event where they drink on Friday night (as you point out like normal Friday nights) then drink all through Friday night and into Saturday morning without a break. They then continue on to the actual Polar Bear event held at set hours at a set location. So, instead of students just drinking Friday night to early a.m. and then going to bed, the thing Polar Bear does is create a drinking event at 10am that students roll into after drinking the past 10-12 hours. So my point would be that having a large group of people drinking for 20 hours straight creates the situation where things like this happen.


        February 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm

  2. I have to agree with the Carbondale Observer on this one. Fritzler’s comment reads like something one would post after having had a few drinks oneself. If he apologizes, we can call it a mistake–which of course doesn’t mean we let him entirely off the hook, but perhaps it’s not a huge problem. If he continues to refuse to apologize, then, as the C.O. suggests, it’s a character flaw–a more troubling thing entirely. This sort of statement is the political equivalent of impaired driving. You want someone sober running the city.

    David Johnson

    February 1, 2012 at 12:07 am

    • David Johnson – You’re right- an apology would allow us to write this off as a mistake. I also agree that an apology wouldn’t entirely get Fritzler off the hook, but most people are willing to overlook a mistake if an apology is offered. But if Fritzler won’t admit his mistake and apologize, that’s a bad sign. I hope he does the right thing.

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm

  3. I’m not familiar with the Polar Bear weekend activities or the time it starts or ends. But I am familiar with the 19-year-old that got injuried while he was visiting the town the Major claims to run very well. It is downright insulting the comments he made toward this young man. Especially since the blood alcohol content has not yet been determined. I read the comments that were posted on his Facebook status and I must agree that when something tragic happens to a citizen, whether his residency is where he got hurt or not, a leader should strive to move foward and not critize the young man and his family for his actions. A young adult in the state that he is needs nothing but incouragement and optimism. People of all ages look up to their major and most come to you for help and/or concerns. Do you think it’s appropriate to stand by and ridicule one of the many people you should be looking after? No.
    Whether Fritzler meant to be insensitive or not, when posting on a website that has over a billion users, it is nothing but common sense that you make sure your point is CLEAR and there is no room for error. Another comment on his status made a good point as well, when you are a public figure there is a lot of things that you may say in private, but those things are not meant to be said in public.
    FRITZLER IS A DISGRACE TO CARBONDALE! I hope all of his citizens have learned their lessons with this act. If not, just wait until something happens that involves someone you love and see how he reacts to it. Then you might be able to feel one dose of what myself, his family and friends have felt.
    And the fact that he can’t man up and apologize is even worse. Who taught him about manhood and respect? Obviously no one. And for that he will suffer for the rest of his life.


    February 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm

    • Renee – Sorry for the delay in my reply. Somehow I missed your comment. Usually I see them as they come in, but I must have missed yours.

      That said, I agree with you that Fritzler should never have made that comment. And after he made it, he should have apologized. Ridiculing the injured party was exactly the wrong move.

      I voted for Fritzler in 2011, but I won’t be voting for him in 2015. He’s made a number of other mistakes, but this comment was, for me, the final straw.

      Thanks for the comment!

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 14, 2012 at 7:55 pm

  4. If you are going to attack people personally, because of their style, being anonymous compromises what you write.

    A little research would be helpful. For example, are effective mayors petty and abrasive, or are they the opposite? It could be Joel’s behavior is the right way to go? Most likely, it has nothing to do with his effectiveness as mayor. But, you didn’t do the work and figure that out before going and anonymously attacking him over style. To be fair, 5 years ago, I wrote in my blog that he was the least effect city council member, because of this kind of behavior. Might be a statement of how poor the candidates in Illinois are when Joel and Sheila are holding elected offices?

    If we have to guess who knows the most about the Polar Bear stupidity, wouldn’t it be best to guess Joel over you? Clearly, he is right and you wrong on the time lines.


    February 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    • PtG – As you might imagine, I disagree with almost everything you’ve said here. I’ll set you straight below.

      First, I didn’t attack Fritzler personally. I criticized him for a stupid comment he made and I drew the inference that anyone who would (1) make a comment like that, (2) remove it from his Facebook page, and (3) not apologize, is not fit to be mayor. If he’d made the comment and then left it on the Facebook page, refused to apologize, and took the heat, I’d still disagree with him and still think him unqualified, but at least I could respect his courage.

      That isn’t a personal attack. I’m sure Joel Fritzler is a nice guy. I have no doubt that he’s kind to children and dogs. He’s surely a good neighbor. But any person who would make such a cheap, shameful remark about a seriously injured person who is lying in a hospital bed fighting for his life is not qualified to be dogcatcher, much less mayor. I’m not attacking Fritzler personally, I’m questioning his professional qualifications to hold a public office.

      If I said he’s unqualified for a tenure track post in the mathematics department (or any other department) would that be a personal criticism? After all, he doesn’t have a PhD. It’s true that he isn’t qualified. If that wouldn’t be a personal criticism, then neither is the one I’ve leveled at him. Effective politicians need certain skills and Fritzler, in my view, lacks them.

      I don’t make personal attacks. I criticize policy positions or conduct in office. A personal attack aims at someone’s character or private conduct. It would be something like “John Doe should not be elected because he is a drunken philanderer.” I would never write on the blog that John Doe is a drunk or a philanderer, even if it was true.

      If I had attacked Fritzler personally, then I’d agree with you. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the blog, I don’t make personal attacks for two reasons. One is because personal attacks are beneath my dignity. The other is that I blog anonymously. It would be unfair to write anonymously and level personal attacks at people.

      Now you also claim that I should have researched what qualities make an effective mayor. I’ll respond to that in two ways. First, that sounds more like a job for a political science professor or graduate student, not an amateur blogger. Second, I don’t think there’s any single answer to that question. It depends too much on context.

      In a city with a mayor-council (strong mayor) system, petty and abrasive might work. If they mayor has a veto pen and power of appointment, he or she can use those weapons to extract concessions from a hostile city council. Add the power of the bully pulpit, and an abrasive mayor might be okay.

      We don’t have that system. We have a council-manager (weak mayor) system. Fritzler has no veto pen. His appointments to powerless boards and commissions must be approved by council and the council as a whole is responsible for hiring the professional staff who actually run the city.

      In this system, a mayor who can build alliances is bound to be more effective. And building alliances requires some finesse. It requires political skills. It requires the ability to think before you speak. These are professional qualifications Fritzler seems to lack.

      You also claim Fritzler knows more about the Polar Bear festivities than I do. I very much doubt that. I lived in that neighborhood for several years when Polar Bear was going on and I’m quite familiar with how it works. I never attended because I don’t enjoy Pinch Penny (I’m more of a Hangar 9/PK’s/Cellar kind of person) and I don’t enjoy large groups of drunk students.

      I doubt that Fritzler knows much at all about Polar Bear. He couldn’t even figure out when it started. I’m guessing that is the timeline you’re referring to, and Fritzler (and you) got completely wrong.

      Now we’ve reached the one area where I partially agree with you: quality of candidates. You specifically mention Sheila Simon and Fritzler. I’ll share some thoughts on each.

      I think we have to consider Simon a special case. She was added to the ticket by Pat Quinn after the person who won the Lt. Governor primary turned out to be a steroid pumping hooker dating rage filled pawnbroker. I don’t know if Simon was the best choice to replace Cohen, but I can tell you how she got elected Lt. Governor: the poor quality of the Republican candidate.

      Pat Quinn was in a weak position. He inherited the office from the disgraced Blagojevich. He barely eked out a win against primary challenger Dan Hynes. He was thought of as something of a gadfly. He could have been defeated. The Republicans had a candidate – the relatively moderate former Edgar aide Kirk Dillard – who might have done it.

      But Dillard barely lost his primary to the extremist Bill Brady. Even Brady nearly defeated Quinn (and Simon with him), but Illinois is not willing to elect anyone from the lunatic fringe to a statewide position. You see that Kirk, who will probably only serve a single term, ran as a moderate Republican. So yes, the poor quality of the Republican candidates led to Simon’s election as Lt. Governor. (By the way, I like Simon and Quinn and voted for them in 2010).

      On Fritzler, I think you’re right that poor challengers along with a silly election system led to his election. Remember, Fritzler only recieved about 33% of the vote. That means about 67% of Carbondale voters wanted someone else. Problem was, we had four candidates running in the general election (pared down from five in the primary).

      Now I think Fritzler would have won a two person race against his main competitor, Maroney. I’m guessing here, and there’s no way to know for sure, but I think most of Goldman’s voters would have gone to Maroney and most of Haynes’ voters would have gone to Fritzler. That would have given Fritzler about 52% of the vote.

      Keep these factors in mind: Maroney didn’t have a website for his campaign, he didn’t do as much advertising as he should have, and he didn’t walk every neighborhood in town. If he’d done those things, he would have had a chance of winning. Fritzler was elected mayor because he worked the hardest for it. That’s good, except when someone is better at running for office than at serving in office.

      I think that’s the situation we’re in with Fritzler. If we fix the election problem to guarantee a two person general election (this may have happened during my hiatus – I’ll check) and if a credible challenger emerges, I think Fritzler is toast in 2015. If no credible challenger emerges, he’ll win again. If we have another crazy four person race, anything could happen.

      Final thought – it’s already getting late for a credible challenger to emerge. It would almost have to be someone currently on city council or someone who runs and is elected in 2013. There are two people on council now who have the gravitas to beat Fritzler – Jane Adams and Don Monty. I have no idea if either of them are interested in running.

      Assume for a second that they aren’t interested. That means Fritzler’s 2015 challenger really needs to get on the council in the 2013 elections. That person should be preparing now. The 2013 primaries are only a year away. Folks who want to win a spot on council should already be starting behind the scenes work like keeping up on council meetings, reading and understanding city code, learning the budgeting process, learning parliamentary procedure, and figuring out an election strategy.

      Long reply to a short comment, but I think I proved my point.

      Thanks for the comment!

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 14, 2012 at 7:44 pm

  5. You are claiming that style is very important to a weak mayor, I’m not very sure this is true. I think a hard working jerk is better than a lazy class act. If you want to claim that Joel is a loser and/or is or will be a bad mayor, I have no complaints. There is data to support that. But, just being a jerk, doesn’t relate to job performance. Often a jerk is someone who disagrees with you and a prince is someone who agrees.

    I think that what you wrote is a personal attack. The reason you are anonymous is because the target of your little blog entries will feel attacked and might well open a can of whoop ass on you. 🙂 It can be lonely at the top, so you know it is coming, but don’t for a second think you aren’t attacking the people you write. If it improves the world, than I’m for it.

    You go on to imply that the Mayor wasn’t fully briefed on the Polar BS. Didn’t know the start time, didn’t know the duration, wasn’t being called at home by concerned citizens to take about it? You called him out incorrectly on the timing of the Polar thing, he was right and you were wrong on this point.

    I think you have been working at SIU for way to long. You think that someone without a PhD isn’t qualified to receive tenure in Math? Degrees don’t equal knowledge or accomplishment. If you want to claim the rules don’t allow someone without a PhD to get tenure or be hired as a tenure track professor, I agree. But, that is different than claiming that there aren’t non-PhD’s who could do good enough work to receive tenure. Stars are stars, don’t for a minute think that a star professor couldn’t choose to do into business and be successful, or …


    February 15, 2012 at 12:07 am

    • PtG – We’re left with two disagreements: one of fact and one of opinion. Reasonable people can disagree on opinions, but facts are facts. Reasonable people accept them; unreasonable people don’t.

      On the opinion: I think style (what I’d call political skill) is important – really to all mayors, but especially to weak mayors. You discount the importance of political skill. Well, that’s a matter of opinion. I think I’m right, but who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and you’re right. I don’t concede that, but I’m not going to convince you and you aren’t going to convince me. I’m content to leave it at a disagreement.

      On the fact: you continue to assert without evidence that I’m wrong on the timing of Polar Bear. This is a knowable thing. Polar Bear is an annual party that takes place at Pinch Penny. This year it began at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 28. Fritzler’s claim that the injured party in the train accident was a Polar Bear casualty is incorrect. Those are the facts. You can continue to assert that I am wrong about that, but all your assertions don’t change the facts.

      You raise one other point in your comment – the matter of anonymity. I’m not going to get into a flame war with you. No amount of baiting will force me into one. I won’t respond emotionally to your attempts to diminish me with phrases like “your little blog entries” or claims that I’ve been at SIUC too long. I’ve made my reasons for anonymity clear in another post. I suggest that you take a look at that.

      As for the claim that someone would “open a can of whoop ass,” that’s simply laughable. In theory, my employer (whoever that might be) could sanction me for criticizing the organization in a blog post. But I write about my employer much less frequently than I thought I would when I began the blog. And if I lose one job, I get another. That’s no sweat for me. No one else can touch me over a blog post. Fritzler, the target of criticism in this post, has no power over me at all.

      Thanks for the comment!

      The Carbondale Observer

      February 15, 2012 at 10:21 pm

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