East Boogie has been on a literal high for the past two weeks in celebration of the East Side Flyers’ crowning as the IL 3A division boys State Basketball Champions. Led by my cousin, star senior Terrence Hargrove Jr. (shameless plug) and coach Mark Chambers and overwhelmingly supported by the community, this was a much-needed win for the entire city.
The victory and subsequent parade through the streets of ESL, plus TV and radio appearances by the team, have been a welcome diversion from the challenges that lie ahead after the confetti and cheers have subsided.
And just as the Flyers’ championship has been a capstone achievement, the upcoming ESL mayoral election on April 2 quickly takes voters from the sublime to the ridiculous if one scrutinizes the backgrounds of many of those running, as well as who is funding the would-be mayor of East Boogie.
The field of mayoral candidates includes incumbent Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks, city Councilman Robert Eastern III, former mayor Carl E. Officer and activist Darnell Thompson, a mix of new, establishment and seasoned leadership.
A recent political forum/debate sponsored the local NAACP allowed candidates to mix it up in a spirited exchange on the future direction of ESL. Eastern was a no-show, later informing me that a “mentor” had passed away and that he was indisposed as a result.
Nonetheless, all one has to do is scrutinize many of the full page ads that have run in the ESL Monitor newspaper and wonder if many of the candidates were even vetted for precinct committeemen, city council and other offices.
Having covered ESL “poli-tricks” extensively for over 20 years and having written about several of those running for office, some of the ads (complete with mug shots) strike me as resembling an FBI poster for “America’s Most Wanted” instead of a political ticket, with nearly a dozen candidates having multiple felonies or being unindicted co-conspirators of some sort. Some of the choices are depressing as an ESL voter.
Even President Nixon, who resigned in disgrace, famously noted that American voters had the right to know whether their president was a crook. I submit that the same standard should be true for ESL. Criminality should not be a credential in East Boogie and I hope that, whomever ESL voters choose, they ask themselves whether voting a felon back into elected office is their best choice.
The second question that ESL voters need to ask of their candidates is “Who’s your daddy?” in terms of those funding their candidates, especially the mayoral candidates. Unfortunately, most of the donor information won’t be available until after the elections.
However, if a mayoral candidate is backed by the St. Clair County (Belleville) machine of County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Democratic boss Bob Sprague, it speaks volumes to who will be calling the shots in East Boogie.
On the other hand, if a candidate is receiving thousands of dollars in donations from a number of prominent Belleville law firms as well as from “straw donors,” who protect the anonymity of true donors, then those entities will pull the chain of their candidate if they become mayor of East Boogie.
The third question an ESL voter should ask is who do you trust – not to steal, sell you out, put their interests first or, potentially, be a source of embarrassment for the community?
Those three questions should be the guide for ESL voters.
We can’t control the poli-tricks. Manufactured absentee ballots will appear out of thin air on election night as if David Copperfield were performing an election magic show. Suit cases of money will be distributed to voters at the polls. That’s the game. It hasn’t changed in 100 years.
I’m just asking East St. Louis voters, who are street wise, to see past the games and poli-tricks and vote your political conscience, if that still exists, on April 2. Some of the choices may stink, but hold your noses and vote anyway.