Mayor campaign dust-ups good for Belleville, but check candidates’ facts

Filing just started, but already you’ve got to be excited about the April 4 municipal elections. O’Fallon will be picking a new mayor, but in Belleville the two mayor candidates came out swinging.

Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook started his mayoral campaign by announcing he’s planning to fire Police Chief Bill Clay. He doesn’t think Clay is warm and fuzzy enough to effectively bond with Belleville’s bürgers.

If elected, Cook promises to take the politics out of street repairs, stop micromanaging the department heads and build a splash pad on the land being reclaimed under the big white tent and across Richland Creek from the police station.

Maybe Clay could be a volunteer lifeguard there if Cook gives him unlimited down time.

Mayor Mark Eckert said Cook’s statements were mainly made from a point of ignorance, and that Cook doesn’t spend enough time at his job to know what’s really going on.

Debating and discussing public works, city management and crime are all good for the city. Think of the election as the mechanism through which those issues will be explored and addressed.

But fire the police chief? We’d like to hear Cook’s supporting evidence that Clay is anything but an able administrator and a dedicated leader who passionately defends his people. Could he be kinder and gentler? Sure, if what you want is a happy puppy rather than a guard dog.

Belleville’s crime numbers argue that whatever Clay is doing, maybe he should keep doing it. Belleville had 1,066 fewer crimes last year than in 2010, according to the crime stats tracked by the state.

So let the games begin, but let’s all check the competitors’ facts.