Forest Park, as many people have pointed out the past few years, is changing. The village’s once sleepy main drag has lost its “drag” and been transformed into a vibrant and attractive Main Street. Along with it, the village has seen real estate values soar, and an influx of outsiders willing to dump big bucks into buying and improving their new piece of Forest Park.
Of course, all that’s only accelerated the changes already underway. Shots and beers have long given way to Cabernet and Chardonnay, the Golden Steer to La Piazza, bleached blondes to Team Blonde. A village once known for its pool halls, among other pastimes, is now more known for its pool and, frankly, any Chicago Outfit types still residing in the village are more likely to be shopping at Two Fish than “sleeping with the fishes.”
I know this because my wife and I unchained ourselves from Oak Park’s property tax liability and bought our own piece of this village last May. But while it ain’t your grandfather’s Forest Park anymore, folks, we’ve still got a ways to go. Forest Parkers have long liked to view themselves as primarily blue collar, salt-of-the-earth types. But like everyone else, they have their flaws.
One of those flaws is a generally negative attitude toward public discourse, at least where personal accountability is concerned. For a no-nonsense sort of burb, there’s a rather nonsensical attitude around here regarding the give and take of public commentary.
That attitude was perfectly represented by an anonymous woman who telephoned this paper’s editor, Melissa Lou, around 11:30 the night of Wednesday, May 11. Thinking no one would actually pick up the phone that late at night, she was surprised when Melissa, who had forwarded her calls, answered on her cell phone. The woman quickly hung up when she realized she might have to engage someone in actual dialogue. When she called back and Melissa again answered, the woman, clearly in a huff, told Melissa that she didn’t want to actually talk to anyone, darn it, she just wanted to leave a message about something.
So the woman called back a third time, Melissa let it go to voice mail, and the caller angrily asked why REVIEW columnist David Goetz was privy to facts that hadn’t been published in the paper yet (Goetz had gotten a peek at a letter written by Mayor Anthony Calderone to Park District Executive Director Dave Novak that apparently contradicted the comments of some people, including the would-be developer of the Roos building site).
How, the caller asked, could this be? Well, I thought when I heard the story the next morning, it probably was because Goetz is one of the paper’s columnists, and columnists are frequently privy to facts that the paper has uncovered. But the woman caller just couldn’t accept that someone writing for a newspaper might actually know something ahead of the general populace.
Understand that every town has people like that, including my native Oak Park, as well as River Forest. So I’m not singling out Forest Park. It’s just that Forest Park seems to have more people like that woman”people who, for whatever reason, don’t care to actually engage in debate, but simply criticize those who do and do it anonymously.
Disagreeing with someone is fine”I say, even essential”but let’s see your reasons, and let’s hear your name. When people don’t offer up alternative arguments to support their criticisms of other’s ideas, or do so from behind a screen, I tend to assume it’s due to one of two things. Either they lack the mental wattage to form an opinion and express it to others and so are afraid to engage in an exchange of views, or they’re simply arrogant and don’t feel they need to explain themselves.
I was reminded of this recently as I looked through the relatively new ForestPark.com website. The site refers to itself as “A Friendly Online Community Magazine.” They have a message board that allows people to comment on a variety of subjects of interest.
Unfortunately, like most of these types of forums, people can hide behind non de plumes, i.e. fake names, which, for me at least, really waters down the impact.
Too bad, because, despite the inevitable pointless diatribes and lame attempts at humour, there are some pretty well-informed and thoughtful points of view expressed on the site.
There are people moving to Forest Park”and others who have lived here all their lives”who not only have something to say, but are quite comfortable speaking out on issues. I suspect those people don’t care to live in an environment where things get decided without open, frank and complete public discussion”the type of discussion that includes a signature at the bottom of the letter or e-mail and opinions backed up by facts, not just blind faith in certain individuals or one political camp or another.
By the way, if you care to, you can learn what I’m thinking by reading my monthly column in this paper. Or on the Forest Park.com message board.
I’ll be easy to identify, since I’ll use my real name there, just as I do in this newspaper.