Mundelein trustee tells residents complaining about snow removal to 'drive less'
In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, Mundelein Trustee Dakotah Norton lashed out at residents complaining about the quality of local roads after Saturday's snowstorm, telling them to "drive less."
An hour later Norton deleted the comment, in which he also told people, "You don't HAVE to go to all those (expletive) places you wanted to." But it was up long enough to garner criticism from Facebook followers and some of his peers at village hall.
"His vulgarity is very much unbecoming of an elected official representing Mundelein and its residents," Trustee Ray Semple said. "His recent thoughts and words coupled with his past actions are painting a very vivid picture of who he really is."
Those past actions include a guilty plea for DUI earlier this year that led to Norton's driver's license being suspended for six months, among other penalties.
Mayor Steve Lentz called Norton's Facebook post "very disappointing."
"I disagree strongly with both the content and tone of his post," Lentz said.
Norton posted the remark to his Facebook page about 11 a.m. Tuesday.
"To everyone complaining about the roads not being plowed or whatever, I have some pretty solid advice: drive less," he wrote.
Norton then used an expletive to describe potential destinations and urged people to be more self-sufficient.
"Enjoy your own company," he said. "If you must go somewhere, walk. It's way more fun."
When contacted by the Daily Herald, Norton said the post was prompted by complaints made on Facebook about local snowplowing efforts after the big snowfall.
Norton praised the efforts of Mundelein's public works crews to clear the streets during the storm that dumped more than a foot of snow across the parts of the suburbs.
"I firmly believe that the streets have been handled to the best of their ability," Norton said.
Norton went on to clarify the Facebook post, saying it was directed at people who were complaining even though they wanted to drive to places "of convenience," as opposed to people driving to work or school or medical appointments.
"I guess the nuance there is drive less," Norton said. "I didn't say don't drive at all."
Norton made the Facebook post the same day Mundelein officials unveiled a pro-business campaign called "Think Local Mundelein" that encourages people to visit small businesses this Saturday, as the Christmas shopping season begins.
That especially frustrated Semple.
"The timing of his comments and this (announcement) are impeccable," Semple said.
Trustee Bill Rekus said Norton's comment and use of the curse word were "difficult for me to comprehend."
"I know that I, as a trustee, hold myself to a higher standard," Rekus said.
While acknowledging the controversial post was public, Norton stressed it was made on a Facebook page he considers personal, as opposed to the one that identifies him as a Mundelein trustee.
"I have a right to behave more as a resident on that page than as a trustee or a representative," he said.
Norton also addressed the complaints about the snow on the Facebook page that identifies him as a trustee. That post was curse-free.
"If you are still experiencing difficulties getting around in this weather, I urge you to drive less, consolidate trips, put off less needed activities until later, use the Internet to pick up a new hobby without leaving the home, ask your boss if you can telecommute or work from home, eat home canned food from stuff you grew in your garden, or just put on some boots and walk where you're going," he wrote.
When asked about whether Norton's effort to differentiate between his public and personal Facebook pages, Lentz said readers and social media participants will "make their own judgment."
Norton said he deleted the remarks after receiving phone calls from people who were concerned about them.
He doesn't regret the post, however.
"I understand that people may be upset by the way I've phrased that, but I maintain I did not do anything wrong," Norton said.