Elgin mayor, citizens must rebuild trust

By Observer editorial March 02, 2012 01:20 pm

Now that the effort to recall Elgin Mayor John Stover is over, it is time for his supporters and detractors to put aside their differences for the good of Elgin.

Stover survived a recall election by the narrowest of margins --- 12 votes --- after 251 citizens voted no and 239 voted yes.

The campaign to unseat Stover led to acrimonious debate throughout the community and in the letters to the editor section of The Observer.

We were neutral on the recall issue, leaving it up to Elgin voters to decide for themselves, but it was painful to watch as the divisiveness pitted friends and neighbors against each other.

On Wednesday, after the recall election was over, Stover said, “Maybe the city can move forward into positive territory now and get things done.”

We can only hope so. But nearly half of the citizens who voted thought Stover should be removed from office and he needs to take their concerns to heart if the community is to heal.

The recall effort came about in the wake of an officer-involved shooting that took the life of Elgin resident Richard Shafer last August.

A grand jury ruled the shooting justified but outrage over the incident plus a host of other police performance issues spilled out at subsequent council meetings.

Recall organizers blamed Stover, accusing him of being lax in his management of the police department, and took him to task for the way he runs meetings and the city
conducts business.

Polly Parsons, leader of the recall effort, said after the election that “A race this close is a wake-up call. Hopefully, this message will prompt positive change in the way our elected leaders do business. With integrity and transparency, trust can be rebuilt.”

Well said. But trust is a two-way street and Stover’s opponents need to give him and the city council a chance to respond to their concerns.

The city is close to hiring a new police chief and plans to hire two more officers to restore the city’s police department.

With proper oversight by the mayor and city council, Elgin can put the controversy over the police department behind it and move forward.