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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jay Leonardi Proves Doing the Right Thing Is the Way To Save Our City

Jay Leonardi's campaign for 4th Ward Alderman was a case study in trying to understand everything that's both right and wrong with Aurora, Illinois.

On the positive, here is a young man who is doing exactly what we always say we want someone to do in our community, which is to understand the issues, ask key questions, sort out facts, find out the truth, speak up, take action and even step into the ring to fight for what's right.

But, this is Aurora, where corruption is second to none thanks to a political mafia that runs/ruins the city and wants to hide information, attack those who speak up, exploit taxpayers, use threats, slander and intimidation to discourage people from doing anything but just accept it, pay for it and just give up.

At the age of 20, some questioned his age and "life experience" but the reality is that as people get older, they are less likely to challenge the status-quo, rock the boat or put their energy into making real change.

We say to all those people "older" that maybe life experience sometimes leads to accepting chronic bad habits around us and it may take someone who has higher expectations and not knowing "this is how it's always done" to push for what is truly needed.

In a race of seven candidates, two of whom are part of that old-guard, old way of thinking, the other five had a mathematical challenge in getting into the final two.

That's aside, of course, from the way the mayor and one candidate (Bill Donnell) forced the Aurora Election Commission to change the rules after-the-fact when it was supposed to be four candidates in the final.

After doing the new math, Kevin Mathews did the right thing for the community by stepping aside and throwing his support to Jay Leonardi, who ended up only 7 votes short of getting into the general election.

During the campaign, it was becoming clear to anyone paying attention that Jay Leonardi wasn't just running on his name, but he was running on issues, principles and understanding the serious issues that face the ward and community.

Many, including the mayor, noticed it, too, calling him the "next Rick Lawrence" in reference to the current 4th Ward Alderman who is a candidate for Alderman-at-Large.

Lawrence, who has been the only voice on the Aurora City Council, speaking up for taxpayers, asking key questions and holding the administration accountable, has been essential for the city, but what isn't as well-known to people outside the 4th Ward is how effective he's been in dealing with solving problems in neighborhoods and dealing with constituents.

In fact, as one longtime supporter of the mayor told us "Rick has been the best alderman in the history of Aurora.  He's addressed chronic issues like Jericho Circle and worked with the police, schools and neighbors to solve problems that nobody hears about and nobody else would.  That's leadership and he takes his responsibility seriously.  That's aside from everything he does at city council meetings."

So, while the mayor's allergic reaction to anyone being like Rick Lawrence implies independence, protecting taxpayers and not coming down to City Hall to attend parties, but to do the right thing, as we look back at the results of Jay Leonardi's campaign, it's clear that mayor's much bigger fear was that the 4th Ward would end up with someone like Rick who would be involved in solving problems and improving the community, not just leaving it up to the mayor to choose which problem solve or ignore, based upon who's who instead of what's right.

Jay is not the only person in the city who's standing up to do what is right and there are other people of his age and older who are making efforts to save this city from the Dark Side it has been stuck in.

There are also many examples of people who tried to do the right thing, but got pushed around by the political mafia and there are some who decided to give up and join the bad guys (Stephanie Kifowit comes to mind as a good example of someone who tried to be independent early on and then traded her soul).

But, Jay Leonardi stayed on course and didn't flinch despite various serious attempts to rattle him.  He stuck with it and now he comes out of this experience seeing both the good and bad of our community.  By sticking to principles and doing the right thing, he has demonstrated he can't be bought or pushed around.

Jay says he will continue to be involved, attending meetings and being involved in the key issues on the neighborhoods and community, but regardless of future elected office, he has a bigger plan.  He wants to attend law school and become a federal prosecutor.

That is great news for anyone who lives in Aurora who does the right thing and expects that of others.

That's very bad news for the political mafia and the Dark Side of Aurora.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason and sometimes, good things take time.

Thanks Jay for reminding everyone that anyone can step up and do the right thing.

We look forward to your future and hope many others will join you in saving our community.

May the Force be with you.

Note:  See inside for more on Denise Crosby's column on Jay Leonardi...and we will also be doing a story on Kevin Mathews efforts to do the right and save our city.


Denise Crosby said...

Jay Leonardi may not admit it, but he’s still a tad miffed he was not taken seriously at the start of his political career way back ... well, a few months ago.

At the same time, he can also understand why his first campaign was viewed as a novelty.

After all, at age 19 when he threw his hat into the crowded primary ring for Fourth Ward alderman last fall, he probably landed in the record books as the youngest candidate to ever run for Aurora City Council.

Some of that uniqueness turned out to be a good thing. He got some extra press because of his age; and that made it a lot easier knocking on doors in his quest to take over the large West Side ward being vacated by Rick Lawrence who’s making a run for alderman at-large.

Plus, Leonardi understands why his youth was a factor. When he had his birthday Jan. 1, six weeks or so after his campaign began, he notified the newsroom immediately, asking that we make sure in all stories going forward, we please note that he’s no longer a teenager.

“Twenty sounds a whole lot better than 19, don’t you think?” he asked, then also requested that we use the new photo of him in the red tie ... so it doesn’t look like he’s campaigning with his high school senior picture.

How can you blame Leonardi for being sensitive? Certainly at the beginning of his campaign, he wasn’t taken all that seriously, especially by the other candidates, he said, one of whom even mocked him as he waited in line to file his petition. “You’re way too young,” he remembers the candidate joking. “No one is going to vote for you.”

One thing I learned about Jay Leonardi since meeting him last fall: Don’t tell him he can’t do something. Leonardi may be young in birthdays — I’ve got canned goods that have been around longer than he has — but if ever there is an old soul walking around, it’s this kid ... ah, young man.

And he sure did plenty of walking. Leonardi insists that by Election Day, he’d knocked on “every single door in the ward” and was “shocked” at the number of people who “invited me into their homes and talked with me for over an hour.” In fact, only one resident refused to let him come inside ... because of his age, of course.

“He told me I have no business running for alderman, no life experience,” Leonardi recalls. Still, when he ran into that same man on Election Day at the polls, the resident gave him a big smile, “and was very nice to me.”

Unfortunately for the young candidate, he came up a little short. Only two of the seven candidates on the ballot got to move on to the general election April 9. Leonardi was just seven votes away from second-place finisher Mavis Bates, a race so close the outcome was decided by missing absentee ballots counted weeks later.

While disappointed, Leonardi has no regrets, and says he was empowered by the many people who threw their support behind him.

“They really listened,” he said of the residents. “And that support from voters meant more to me than any support from politicians or any other special interest group.”

Denise Crosby said...


Leonardi said he spent just under $3,000 on the campaign, most of which was his own money saved while working for his dad’s appliance store. The only other contributions he took were from a few family members and a couple of close personal friends.

“I didn’t want to be indebted to any groups or strangers,” he said. “Too much of politics turns into pleasing the people you owe instead of the people you represent. I wasn’t running to sit on City Council or belong to some political clique. I was not in it to make friends in City Hall. I wanted to be a voice for the people.”

Because of his conservative tendencies and ties to business, some compared Leonardi to a “mini Rick Lawrence,” the controversial alderman he was trying to replace who’s been a thorn in the mayor’s side for years. But Leonardi rejects that description.

“(Lawrence) told me he was going to support me, but I didn’t ask for it,” he said. “I was running my own campaign.”

And what that campaign taught him was this: That West Side residents are passionate about their neighborhood; that every vote does count, especially at the local level; and that there is, indeed, a dark side to politics.

Though Leonardi would not go on record with any specifics, he said he saw enough of this underside to know exactly what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Currently taking classes at Waubonsee Community College, he’s planning on attending the University of Illinois at Chicago in the fall and majoring in communication. After that, Leonardi’s going to law school with the goal of becoming a federal prosecutor.

“Politics can be a dirty business,” he said. “Someone needs to keep an eye on what’s going on.”

That’s not to say the young man won’t rule out another run. At something. Some day.

In the meantime, he’s buying a home on the West Side of Aurora and plans to stay involved by attending City Council, School Board and community group meetings.

And he wants to encourage others to do the same, no matter what their birthdays. It’s at the local level where decisions are made that can most affect your life, he said.

“We need to get more voters involved.”

Sounds like a quote for the ages. All ages.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand I am sure many people look at this election cycle and think that if Jay Leonardi had the experience, judgment, and maturity of an adult he would have dropped out of the race and endorsed a serious candidate. We will now have Bill Donnell for Alderman because of Jay Leonardi.

Anonymous said...

7:41 -is that you again Mike Leonardi, bashing your family? Such a sore loser!! Time to grow up and realize that Jay Leonardi is wise beyond his years and you have years to go to catch up to him. The mayor might do well to remember that as well.

Anonymous said...

I'll go with 7:41. After the Feb 18 candidate forum it was pretty obvious who the opponent to Donnell should have been and it was not Jay. If Jay had dropped and endorsed Matthews we would now have a race against a man of accomplishment and Bill Donnell. Instead we have daffy duck vs goofy.

Anonymous said...

If, if, if. IF the rules hadn't been changed to only 2 for the general election, Jay Leonardi would be going to the next level. IF more voters had come out, he would have beat Bates. IF that pretty new Openline bus had fallen from the sky and landed on Bates, he would be going to the next level. Yes, it's a shame. I think it would have been very good for the 4th ward and city. BUT it didn't happen, and the voters of the 4th ward have themselves to thank for that.

Anonymous said...

"wants to hide information, attack those who speak up, exploit taxpayers, use threats, slander and intimidation"

Hey, that sounds like Openline.

Anonymous said...

At the age of 20, some questioned his age and "life experience" but the reality is that as people get older, they are less likely to challenge the status-quo, rock the boat or put their energy into making real change.

then how does openline explain kevin matthews? Speaking of which, wasn’t “do the right thing” matthews refrain? Seems to me openline now wants to attribute that to jay leonardi, rick lawrence’s darling who seemed only to care about jay and what jay wanted.

Anonymous said...

I don't live in Aurora anymore; but I pay attention. I grew up there and it means something to me. I have watched the city be looted by the current administration. Personal agendas run rampant here and it shows. This is what Jay does not have - a personal agenda. His age doesn't allow him that. I hope he runs again - because if he stays active in the city - he'll win. Jay - don't listen to the negativity. This was a win-win situation for you that will only make you an even stronger candidate in the next election. Kudos on not backing down.

Anonymous said...

I sit in the 5th ward but I want to say I watched and I think Jay has a bright future in ahead of him.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who met Jay Leonardi would know that he is the "real deal" and I told him so after one of the debates.

The sad story should be the very low turnout of the 4th Ward residents. How can these people turn their backs on the election process??? It is so unimportant to most people yet they can continue to complain.

People like Jay are our future and with someone like him in the picture it looks brighter.

Good Luck Jay in whatever you decide to are a leader!

Anonymous said...

First, hilarious that once again Openline steals material from the same Beacon they always blast -- especially from Denise Crosby! "The Beacon sucks and should be shut down -- but their material is good enough for us to steal."

Second, Jay I REALLY wish you had won, and you would have had my vote if I was in the 4th ward (and yes I DID vote in the primary). But if you're trying to appear older to the extent of calling and asking them to use a different picture (I do like the red tie), either go beard or no beard. Yes, the "semi-beard" is kinda in style, but I think it came across as someone trying to grow a beard but not quite ready yet. It doesn't have to be long (heaven forbid anyone look like Weisner), but I think filled in would make you look older.

Anonymous said...

The trash reporter Denise Crosby is was actually a good article on her part. But because she works for a trash paper and has the skills of a trash reporter she missed the real story Why does Ward 3 have three running with no run off and Ward 4 only 2 gee Denise why can you never report a complete story

Anonymous said...

Jay never knocked on the doors of the old third ward. Were was he? Oh yeah kissing the backsides of the westside voters! Little right!

Anonymous said...

Third, 5:38 goes gush, gush, gush all over herself.

Hey Jay, if you ever find out who 5:38 is, run like hell the other way.

She sounds like a reality show that's a cross between a personal
make over and Criminal Minds.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought 5:38 was his mom.