Belleville officials are still works in progress

December 15, 2013 

It's important to hold elected officials accountable, but seven months into the terms of Belleville's mayor, treasurer and clerk, the only grade we can give each of them is an "incomplete."

Treasurer Dean Hardt said he has been so busy learning the job and handling unexpected assignments -- implementing a new software system and making recommendations on sewer rates -- that he hasn't had time to figure out a campaign promise of whether the treasurer's position can be eliminated.

Fair enough, although at some point, not answering the question will become the answer.

Clerk Dallas Cook said he has been so hamstrung by the mayor's lack of cooperation and a budget he didn't create that he hasn't been able to fulfill his promises of transparency and improved technology in the clerk's office. He, also, has been learning a new job. He gets more time, too. However, he can't blame the mayor for inaction his whole term.

Mayor Mark Eckert as an incumbent didn't have to make campaign promises but he continues to add to his accomplishments -- installation of new computer system for the police and the crime-free housing ordinance to name two.

However, we'd like to see Eckert change his approach with Cook in particular. Eckert as the senior citywide officeholder must lead the efforts to build working relationships with other officials. The mayor said he's not trying to be difficult or less transparent, but if Cook were a member of Eckert's Good Government Party, you can bet there would be a better level of cooperation.

Eckert won re-election in a three-way race this year because most people believe his heart is in the right place. He cares deeply about the city.

But he also needs to remember that voters threw out his allies the incumbent treasurer and clerk and added more independent aldermen to the City Council because they want a diversity of ideas and approaches at City Hall. Eckert received a warning from the voters to put aside partisanship and work with all of the city's elected leaders. His ultimate grade will depend on how well he responds to that warning.

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