Disturbing Events in Park Forest Mayoral Race

campaign literature for JeRome Brown shoved behind the writer's mailbox.
Campaign literature from JeRome Brown left Saturday, shoved behind the writer’s mailbox. This is not permitted or legal. (Photo: Gary Kopycinski)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- There have been some disturbing events in the race for Park Forest Mayor. These should not go unnoticed by the voters. On one level, the campaign has taken a direction inappropriate and foreign to Park Forest’s tradition of nonpartisan local government. On another level, one candidate has gone negative in a Chicago way. The ugly Chicago way.

First, for some reason, the Rich Township Democratic Organization (RTDO) has seen fit to endorse candidates in the election, a meddling, bizarre, and unprecedented move. The RTDO even endorsed candidates in Park Forest who are running unopposed.

Including candidates for the Park Forest Library Board.

The RTDO went so far as to send a mailer to residents of Park Forest, certainly not an inexpensive move. This writer lives in Bloom Township and received this mailer.

The mailer did not go unnoticed by the Park Forest Nonpartisan Local Government Committee, which sent the RTDO on March 29 an email telling the RTDO in no uncertain terms to butt out:

From: Committee for Non-Partisan Elections in Park Forest

We note that your organization has endorsed Jonathan Vanderbilt for mayor of Park Forest as well as trustee candidates Tiffani Graham,  Joseph Woods and Candyce Herron and library board candidates Linda Marron and Marcus Hampton.

All of these candidates have signed an agreement that includes the following:

3) I understand that I may accept the endorsement and support of a group (other than a political party) providing the group advocates only my candidacy.

The Non-Partisan Committee requests that your organization respect the decades-long tradition of non-involvement of political parties in Park Forest local elections and not endorse candidates for Village office. 

Al Sturges, Acting Secretary
Committee for Non-Partisan Elections in Park Forest
P.O. Box 1001
Park Forest, IL 60466

Emphasis added.

The RTDO never endorsed candidates in Park Forest prior to this election.
None of those endorsed admits asking for the organization’s backing. The fact that the Rich Township Democratic Organization did endorse candidates in this election is incredibly disturbing. The RTDO endorsement is a clear violation of the Committee for Non-Partisan Elections in Park Forest rules. These rules allow candidates, anyone, to run at little expense compared to races where the parties choose candidates. This endorsement tramples on a history in Park Forest over seven decades long.

Accepting Money from Realtors in Dispute with Village

The local Realtors’ Association sent a mailer to Park Park Forest residents on behalf of Trustee Jon Vanderbilt, a candidate for mayor. Candidates may accept money from companies. However, the Village currently is in a dispute with the Realtors’ Association over the building inspection process. A recent mailer sent Village-wide by the Association attacked the Village for procedures of the Village of Park Forest.

“A sitting Trustee should NOT be accepting such a mailer at this time; it clearly bows to a special interest,” Mayor John Ostenburg told eNews Park Forest. “A contribution at any other time would not be a matter of concern for me.” Under the current circumstances, this, too, is very disturbing.

No Matter How They Go, JeRome Brown Goes Low

And that leaves the final disturbing twist in this year’s election, a filthy piece of campaign literature sent by candidate JeRome Brown.

Note: the literature in question is not that pictured above. That was hand-delivered and placed behind this writer’s mailbox. That’s another matter:

By law, a mailbox is intended only for receipt of postage-paid U.S. Mail. … Additionally, the Postal Service has received complaints of flyers without paid postage being placed in mailboxes. Though many may be unaware, it is important to know that this type of activity is illegal by federal law.


The matter at hand, however, pertains to a mailer, properly sent through the USPS, which this writer and others in Park Forest received. This mailer appears somewhat normal on the front, sent from JeRome Brown, and claims that his opponents have “no plan.”

Side two of the mailer is the problem.

Side two dredges up Facebook posts by candidate Jon Vanderbilt made in February and March of 2013, and another from August 2010. Two posts from 2013 are in opposition to same-sex marriage, the other, from 2010, opposes the building of a Mosque near “ground zero.”

In all fairness, none of these views seem to be consistent with where Trustee Vanderbilt is today. “My views have evolved on topics with in the LGBT community and those of the Muslim Faith,” he responded when asked about his old posts. “I completely understand.”

However, he would have been wise to trek through his old posts on social media and delete such references. Indeed, this writer recalls the specific homophobic posts on his Facebook page when he ran for trustee years ago. This writer also endorsed Mr. Vanderbilt for Village Trustee when he ran two years ago, as the person I came to know was not that person from 2010 or 2013.

As a candidate for mayor, Mr. Vanderbilt would have been wise to peruse his social media presence.

As a candidate for mayor, JeRome Brown showed himself once again as a mean-spirited, desperate candidate, spending a lot of money to throw mud.

In the worst Chicago way.

Mr. Brown failed at the opportunity to say something positive about himself. The mailer he sent is filth, pure and simple.

The only candidate who is not embroiled in anything negative remains Mae Brandon.

I repeat my endorsement for Mae Brandon as Mayor of Park Forest.