Back in April, when Curtis McCall, Jr. was sworn in as the first African-American mayor of the village of Cahokia, Illinois, he stated that “change is not easy,” especially in a cash-strapped community like Cahokia.
Apparently that’s very true. Since taking office McCall, who is fond of saying that “this is what change looks like,” seems to have hit the ground running in terms of creating disharmony, instability and political drama within his village.
And after firing about a dozen employees, creating new patronage positions with inflated titles and salaries, Mayor McCall’s popularity is at an all-time low.
Among the “change” that McCall has created: the positions of director and assistant director of Recreation, each making as much as $60,000 per year in a village in which the skating rink, swimming pool and basketball courts have been closed or in a state of disrepair for years.
Since McCall also moonlights full-time for the Cahokia School District (at $40,000 per year) and is seldom at village hall, he has compensated for his absence by hiring Betty Sharp as his finance manager and Francella Jackson as assistant to the mayor at $67,000 each.
Then there’s McCall’s penchant for serving as a literal hiring hall for probation and parole, employing at least six employees with criminal backgrounds, including former Alorton mayor JoAnn Reed, a felon, as his deputy clerk. Reed was forced from office for smuggling contraband into an inmate while mayor of Alorton.
McCall’s reply was simple, saying, “Even our president is looking at prison reform because of the label that is attached to people (felons) and keeps them from getting hired.” The problem with that logic is that President Obama doesn’t employ any felons in his Cabinet.
Now the most recent stunt by McCall was the granting, by himself and the village board, of a no-bid $30,000 grass cutting contract to his brother, Kerchavian McCall, owner of Premier Landscaping, in an act of blatant nepotism.
Mayor McCall’s reply for this, and most other questionable activity, was, “This is what change looks like.”
I would disagree and add that this is, more or less, what change smells like, and it stinks to high heaven.
Unfortunately, it is not illegal to award a no-bid contract. However, it is unethical, especially coming from an administration which came into office promising better government.
But instead, McCall has routinely ejected from village meetings those who disagree with his policies and has even enacted an ordinance that allows the mayor to hire and fire personnel without bringing it before the board.
So McCall has succeeded, in a few short months, in totally eroding the public’s trust in his leadership and his ability to govern the village of Cahokia.
However, if I were a betting man, then I would wager that Mayor McCall, at the rate that he is going, will easily become a one-term mayor and should begin seeking another job for 2019.