Are Bradley, Illinois voters getting the truth in the mayoral race?
today at 11:47 pm
It is one thing for political candidates to tell little white lies or take liberties with facts. It is quite another thing when the truth is nowhere in sight.
Today is part one of a three-part series that could have come from Meredith Wilson’s 1962 hit, “The Music Man,” starring Robert Preston, a yarn about a con man as he plies his trade on the good folks in a small Midwestern town. Many believe a real-life 2021 version plays itself out in the mayoral election in Bradley, Illinois, fifty miles south of Chicago’s Loop.
Mike Watson, a local garbage hauler in the Village, became the interim Mayor after Bruce Adams, who held the seat for a long time, retired. The Village Trustees elected Mr. Watson as the temporary Mayor. Three candidates now are vying for a full term.
Mr. Adams beat Mr. Watson in the last election. The former Mayor took a sleepy village that had lost most of its industry and revitalized the tax base with new economic development. Bradley became the economic lifeblood of the County.
Critics of Mr. Watson claim he is self-serving, putting his and the interest of friends and cronies over the greater good of the Village as a whole. Mr. Adams was a practical politician; Mr. Watson seems to be a shoot-from-the-hip big talker, with little to back up his words.
Where the previous Mayor was astute at economic development, Mr. Watson gives the appearance of governing as the rackets. At the center of the election is an indoor mall.
Like many malls in the nation, the local mall was once the shopping mecca of the area. Sears, JC Penny, and the now-defunct Carson, Pirie, Scott anchored the shopping center.
As stores closed, COVID hit the remaining retailers with a vengeance. Mr. Watson saw a story developing.
A good Republican, Mr. Watson, decided to take a page from the socialist’s handbook and have the Village purchase the defunct Carson’s Men’s Store on the mall’s backside to open a convention center.
With businesses in distress, and high property taxes relative to incomes in the County, Mr. Watson felt it is in the best interests to reduce the tax base by seven-million dollars and make the taxpayers foot the bill for buying and repairing the store.
Repairing is not a typo. We are not counting the cost of renovations. If one had walked through the mall on a rainy day, buckets and wet floors dotted the stores and hallways. The roof of the building is in terrible shape.
There are no public reports on the condition of the building. Nor is there a feasibility study from a reputable source, a business plan, or a printed document that isn’t a sales document and available for scrutiny. There is only Mr. Watson’s story.
There are also allegations of graft, incompetence, deceit, and corruption. Come back tomorrow as we go deeper into what some claim is a grift. The story is more like a comedy about chicanery; only this is real life.
Check back Friday for part II, “Rent-a-Mayor.”