Everyone from time to time makes a mistake. It’s part of being human.
A mistake tends to be amplified in some minds, however, when the person making it is a public figure — like the mayor, for instance — and when it appears to be inconsiderate — such as parking in a handicapped space without a permit, for example. Public figures are, after all, supposed to set a good example.
So when Eric Robben took his son grocery shopping Saturday afternoon at Village Market Place, which is in Carol Stream, just across Geneva Street from Wheaton, it’s understandable that he became perturbed when he found the mayor’s car parked in a handicapped parking space.
Robben said he could discern no accompanying placard or sticker to indicate the use of the spot was warranted. So he snapped a photo of the mayor’s car and emailed it to Wheaton Patch.
“Barring some explanation I am not thinking of, it is really disappointing that our Mayor seemed to think that the rules did not apply to him,” Robben wrote.
Emailed a copy of the photo over the weekend with a request for an explanation, an embarrassed Mayor Michael J. Gresk on Monday said the rules do indeed apply to him, and he agreed the situation reflects poorly.
“It’s my car, obviously — I have my name all over it. Everybody can see it,” he said. “It was a mistake. I did not see that faded” handicapped parking symbol on the pavement. Had he noticed it, Gresk added, he would have parked in another spot, because there were others available.
Gresk added that the gaffe flies in the face of his work over seven years as mayor with organizations like NAMI DuPage County, as well as his fundraising efforts for organizations serving handicapped children.
Also reflecting favorably on him was that Gresk did not hem or haw about it when asked about the photo of his vehicle. He did not try to deny it, and in fact he recalled stopping at Village Market Place on Saturday afternoon, which is when Robben said he took the photo.
“This is not who I am,” he said. “It was a mistake that I regret.”
He also invited Robben to call him to talk about it.
For his part, however, Robben indicated he’s willing to see past a mistake.
“You are of course free to use your own editorial judgment, but if you got the sense that it was truly and honestly an oversight I am less concerned,” Robben wrote by email on Monday. “I am not trying to embarrass the mayor if he made a mistake. But I was frustrated when I saw it, and looking at the picture it is hard to think he would not have noticed that marking on the nearest spot in the lot. Particularly when it was fully visible behind the car after he got out.”