Jim Mason owner of Mason Properties is brash and unabashed as a speaker. Mason Properties holds a vast portfolio of local residential and commercial property. He is committed to DeKalb. Combined, his style and his holdings, can really make him a target for criticism. Earned or not.
Bessie Chronopolous former mayor and 5th ward alderman is compassionate about DeKalb and right or wrong her decisions on the elected board came from her heart. Some of those decisions can really make her a target for criticism, too. Earned or not.
Chronopolous spoke at FOCUS DeKalb’s second Town Hall meeting. She doesn’t like the direction DeKalb is headed. She came to show her support and offered advice from lessons learned on how to engage the city council for meaningful results. She reflected on the staff recommended proposal for a Shodeen/park land swap controversy and the park district clear cutting controversy on the bike trail and the efforts citizens put in to opposing the measures.
She offered a suggestion for city council members in attendance (Baker and Jacobson) for how to control hiring decisions of the city manager. Zero fund the position(s) at budget time. She warned of the consequences of the success in the attempts to minimize the intent and purpose of the elected city clerk. She said the attempt to minimize the office is a direct intentional slap in the face to voters who overwhelmingly rejected the attempt to eliminate the elected city clerk’s office in two separate referendums.
Mason’s been on message consistently on the unfriendly culture towards doing business in DeKalb and the need to change it by electing qualified candidates with the backbone to represent their constituents instead of their staff when elected. In order for citizens to have the clout the appointed staff has with the council members they have to hold their elected officials accountable to elected representation.
At times Mason can be bluntly confrontational. He reminisced on the derailment of the railport when it was proposed in 2000 for Maple Park and considered for a DeKalb location. Mason said former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert told him Union Pacific would consider moving the rail line running though DeKalb to south of DeKalb if a railport was built at the DeKalb location. Chronopolous was a staunch opponent of the railport in DeKalb and in Maple Park. The railport eventually landed in Rochelle. Mason called out Chronopolous for her opposition as an example of the culture of unfriendliness.
When the town hall meeting broke out to a nuts and bolts discussion among attendees of the town hall meeting I hooked up with Chronopolous. We agree on the need to re-establish the office of the elected city clerk. The mayor and council have to vote to fund the office to restore its legitimate and valued service as keeper of the public records. While they’ll say they can’t control the staffing decisions of the city manager they do control the ability to restore the independent office of the elected clerk. Fund it.
Mason approached Chronopolous unapologetic but respectfully to banter about the railport. It was clear the two have had many terse discussions over the years.
When he walked away Chronopolous smiled and told well wishers that her career in teaching prepared her for Mason.
“He’s that kid that used to sit up on the back of his chair and cut up in class,” she said.
That could be. I heard about those kids when I was in school. There wasn’t a word Mason spoke that I disagreed with but helping hands should shake not slap.
Moving forward DeKalb needs Jim Mason. Local investors like Mason are what makes DeKalb grow from within. DeKalb needs Bessie Chronopolous to continue to share her knowledge of and experience with local government in ways that help citizens hold their elected officials accountable and their appointed staff friendly.
The good news is DeKalb will get friendlier and friendlier as long as the community stays informed, engaged and involved. Property owners, residential and commercial, benefit from a friendly city hall. Property values are higher in communities where corporate and private residents want to live, work and play in than in those who feel stuck where they’re at. That should be a no brainer even to the most aggressive of transient policy makers.