Column: St. Charles race shouldn’t be about cabinets

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 19, 2009

Somehow, the St. Charles mayoral race has devolved into cabinet talk.

Now, I’m sure cabinets are interesting to some, but most of us store stuff in them and leave them at that.

However, cabinets – or more specifically, the selling of them – has become a focal point of the St. Charles mayor race.

At the St. Charles candidate forum held last Sunday at the St. Charles Public Library, challenger Jotham Stein opted to begin his opening statements talking about cabinets, charging that Mayor Donald P. DeWitte sells cabinets to developers who contribute to his campaign.

DeWitte doesn’t disagree, and stands by his business dealing.

“Everybody in the community knows what I do for a living,” DeWitte said at the forum.

But is it illegal?

“I never say he broke the law,” Stein told Chronicle reporter Tim Kane. “But I believe DeWitte’s conduct is a huge conflict of interest.”

So, I guess I’m just not quite sure what Stein expects DeWitte to do. Stop selling cabinets and go out of business?

Being a mayor doesn’t pay so well in most towns.

The St. Charles mayor job is considered part time and pays $17,000 a year. Many mayors in the Chicago suburbs have full-time jobs.

What if Stein were a lawyer whose clients were heavily in St. Charles. If he were, would he have to give up all his clients?

Mayors are citizen-leaders. And no matter what their profession, they might run into a situation where someone shady approaches them with a deal. And it is up to residents and the court of law to determine whether that person is honest and does his business while keeping the faith of the residents he or she represents.

Even Stein admits there is nothing illegal. And there has been absolutely no evidence brought forward of pay-to-play. Simply put, DeWitte is not Blagojevich.

I believe both Stein and DeWitte are qualified to be mayor and have good ideas for the city, and that is what should be focused on.

Here are what I think are the most important questions facing St. Charles in the coming months:

1. Is the proposed Shodeen project near Randall Road a good one and if not how should it be changed?

2. Can you help the First Street development project continue to come into fruition and change it from an eyesore to something the city can be proud of?

3. Can you help Charlestowne Mall remain relevant on the east side of town?

4. Can you balance St. Charles’ budget without causing residents to feel a decrease in services?

I certainly don’t think Stein is wrong for initially bringing up the cabinet issue. But this isn’t what this race should be about. Let’s get out of the cabinet business and into the business of running a city.

Joe Grace is the editor of The Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com.

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