Stop sign proposal causes process pile-up

Parent's petition has already collected about 100 signatures

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By Nona Tepper

Staff Reporter

Julianne Bonwit stood outside Garfield Elementary School, her curly brown hair blowing behind her as she handed parents a petition to read and, hopefully, sign.

When Bonwit caught a signature, her lips curved into a wide smile. Dressed in a purple down jacket and wearing black gloves, she has braved the cold almost daily to collect signatures calling for a new stop sign at the intersection Jackson Boulevard and Hannah Avenue. In 10 days, Bonwit said she's compiled nearly 100 names on her petition, with concerned parents and community members alike scribbling signatures.

Bonwit has heard the excuses from Garfield, located at 543 Hannah Ave. Administrators say the school has no say in instituting new traffic controls. Bonwit has heard the excuses from village officials, saying she didn't contact the right department to submit her request. She still feels hopeful her petition will inspire change but wonders why a simple stop sign request caused such a bureaucratic mess.

"It just seems like there's a lot of pointing fingers, but nobody's doing anything about it," she said. "I do feel like I'm getting the runaround," Bonwit added. "It just seems like there's something about this intersection causing a lot of strife. All I want is my 3-year-old and her friends to get safely across the street." 

School response

Initially, Bonwit said the request for the sign wasn't even her own. In early September, she said, Garfield parents reached out to her as the preschool representative on the district's Citizens Advisory Council parent interest group, asking her to bring up the matter at the next council meeting.

Bonwit did. She said council members told her the request for a stop sign at Jackson and Hannah had a long history at Garfield. Parents had brought it to the village. The school had complained to the village. In response, the village put up warning signs, made Hannah a one-way street and widened the curbs so buses could more easily travel down Jackson Boulevard, said Tim Gillian, village administrator. Gillian said he's even assigned a uniformed police officer most mornings to Garfield, who can help with traffic control measures.

"The placement of stop signs in the village is not controlled by the school district and is solely a village decision," said D91 Supt. Louis Cavallo in an email to the Forest Park Review. "I trust that the village makes those decisions based on all available information. I have no comment beyond this."

Bonwit said she told Garfield parents about the measures already in place by the village. But the group wanted more: Parents called for a new stop sign, or at least a blinking light or better signage to make the intersection safer for Garfield's growing number of preschoolers.

Jason Fustar, 37, said he lives near Garfield, and his 2-year-old daughter Fiona will soon be enrolled there.

"As of right now, I'm a guy on the outside looking in because I have not dealt with the administration myself," Fustar said. "Everything I'm seeing or hearing is through the grapevine. Obviously, people are feeling brushed off. That doesn't make me feel very excited" to enroll Fiona at Garfield. Fustar added his name to Bonwit's petition.

Bonwit decided to take her request to the school board. At the Nov. 9 meeting, a board member suggested Bonwit bring her case to the village's Traffic & Safety Commission, which had an upcoming meeting scheduled for Nov. 16, she said. The board member also recommended Bonwit start a petition. 

Village response

The new advice inspired Bonwit. That night, she Googled a template for a simple petition. She wanted to be ready to collect signatures the next day. On Nov. 10, she arrived at Garfield, dropped off her 3-year-old daughter Evangeline and started taking names.

Bonwit also posted on Facebook about the petition on Nov. 13, writing, "I started a petition to get a stop sign installed on Jackson at Hannah in front of Garfield Elementary School. A number of preschool parents brought it up as a major concern. Hope to be at that corner with [the] petition the next three days. Please stop by and say hi and add your name to the petition."

She noted that she would be taking her petition to the village's Traffic & Safety Commission and "the more signatures and the more parents to show up at the meeting, the better!" Sally Cody, Forest Park's executive secretary, replied to the post saying the village's Traffic & Safety Commission meeting had been cancelled that month.

Mayor Anthony Calderone then commented on the Facebook post, telling Bonwit she was going through the wrong commission and needed to write a letter to the Forest Park Village Council first.

"I have no desire to derail your initiative because I think it warrants further review, but we do have processes in place," Calderone wrote.

But Calderone's explanation of how Forest Park government works differs from what's written on the village website, which says the Traffic & Safety Commission first reviews requests and then sends them to the Village Council. Calderone said no change has recently been made in the village's decision-making process. Gillian said he hadn't seen the language on the village website, and that it might just be a mistake. He said he expects Bonwit's request will be up for review on the upcoming Village Council agenda on Nov. 27.

But "why not call somebody who can fix it for her?" Gillian said. "I'm not sure that you or any of the other 60 or 70 people she's spoken to have any ability to get her on the Traffic & Safety Commission. If she called village hall, that's my frustration, I can fix that."

Bonwit said she had no idea she could directly submit requests to the village council. She said she feels like the village is upset she posted about the issue on Facebook, but that it's hard to know the right process when even the village website doesn't offer correct information.

Still, "I am confident something will be done. I'm hopeful that will happen," Bonwit said. The parents are engaged and want something to happen, and I would imagine that the mayor would also want the best interest of the youngest kids in our community — to feel safe going to school."

Reader Comments

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Julianne Murphy Bonwit from Forest Park   

Posted: November 27th, 2017 3:25 PM

Appreciate Commissioner Dan Novak's immediate response and follow up once the issue was brought to his attention. Confident that he and others understand and will continue to work for a safer resolution as to what is happening now at the particular crosswalk in question.

Michelle Woehrle  

Posted: November 27th, 2017 3:04 PM

Kathryn and Jill really get to the point here. What worked a decade ago is no longer ideal, and there's nothing lost by recognizing that and acting on new information and patterns of use. This isn't about failure of people to parent or use crosswalks. Way to deflect.

Matthew Corrado from Forest Park  

Posted: November 25th, 2017 5:37 PM

I have two stop signs in front of my house but not many people actually stop.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 23rd, 2017 11:03 AM

I don't think any one is getting the run around. The Mayor is very serious about making Forest Park a great place to live and if there is something that needs to be addressed to ensure safety to the residents of Forest Park, you should know that unlike other towns who will spend months and months and spend money on consultants, you will find Forest Park can actually do their own thinking and will resolve the problem quickly if there is some thing that really needs to be changed to benefit the safety of the residents of Forest Park. If the woman is being given the run around, call Sally Cody and ask if she can meet with the Mayor. I am think she will find the Mayor will meet with her and answer her questions.

Kathryn Kamp from Forest Park  

Posted: November 23rd, 2017 9:48 AM

The village is giving her the run-around on what the proper protocol is to bring this to formal discussion. Each one of us should be concerned with that issue alone. If any of us have suggestions on how to make Forest Park a better place to live - whether that concern is related to traffic management, the building of a new cultural park, or concerns about carjackings and home invasions - I do hope you are given a fair and honest chance to raise them without being criticized personally. I'd prefer we all stop telling people to just live with things they way they are and instead put that energy into encouraging productive discussion on the topic at hand. I count the folks working to make Forest Park a better place for all of us to be among the many things I am thankful for - Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Jill Wagner from Forest Park  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 7:19 PM

Reorganization to meet the needs of current families.... that's Forest Park's strength, a small Village that can adapt quickly to the needs of citizens and families.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 7:08 PM

Julianne, you daughter is young to be crossing the street on her own. Take your daughter to school. The first picture shows a woman on her cell phone blocking her field of vision on the right side and her child is on the right side. State laws are in place to slow traffic near schools when children are present. If there is a problem with cars speeding by the school then call the Police department

Steven Woltman  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 1:18 PM

Why don't you cross with the crossing guard? I mean, really - what does it take to get people to cross the street property? It wasn't too long ago that the village established a one-way street on the 500 block of Hannah in the pursuit of safety. Parents should follow the rules - I imagine most do. In my youth we were taken to the principal's office if they didn't cross with the crossing guard. What's happened to society when even parents ignore the properly covered crosswalks? I really don't understand people today.

Megan Reid  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 10:45 AM

How can we sign the petition? People do not respect the crosswalks near the school at all. It is scary to watch cars fly right through.

Michelle Woehrle  

Posted: November 22nd, 2017 8:34 AM

I am sure the current placement of stop signs was based on rational studies of the traffic patterns, but there are new use patterns now due probably to the very popular (and awesome!) free preschool program. Now the Village knows this is a problem thanks in part to Julianne's effort. The easy thing might be to just move one stop sign down a block or two. Or have we become the land of red tape?

Jerry Webster  

Posted: November 21st, 2017 11:31 PM

Guys, you both made very good points, the problem is this, they can't put their phones down because they might miss something important, like paying attention to their kids, what a concept. Steve, why should they cross where there is a crossing guard when there is the middle of the street and not looking. Don't you understand how important they are, we have to cuddle them so they are not bothered.

Steven Woltman from Forest Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2017 4:41 PM

Isn't there a crossing guard and a stop sign within a 100 yards in either direction? What parent doesn't choose to take the safest route? I'm sorry for pointing out the obvious, but why don't they all just cross at the designated crosswalk? Laziness? In too much of a hurry? Come on now. Let's use a little common sense please.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: November 21st, 2017 4:03 PM

And maybe, just maybe, parents could put their darn phones down for a minute when crossing the street with their children in tow! Look at the picture with this article with the woman cradling her precious phone, child and walking another child. PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN FOR A MINUTE.

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