Every three years the Base Realignment and Closure “BRAC” Commission decides which military facilities should be closed and consolidated. After BRAC makes its recommendations, there is wailing, gnashing of teeth and haggling to attempt to modify the list.

Most communities want to keep their bases. They want to keep the spigot of federal largess flowing. Cutting against this trend Forest Park has a base but wants it closed.

On Roosevelt, between Circle Ave. and the Forest Park Mall, there is a small reserve center occupying the remnants of a WWII torpedo factory. Ever wonder why Mohr Concrete on Harlem has a torpedo monument? That torpedo and a whole bunch like it were built in Forest Park.

Forest Park is no more virtuous than the communities feeding at the federal trough. The Forest Park reserve center doesn’t employ enough people to be an asset to the community. The Village of Forest Park would realize more revenue by closing the reserve center and putting the land on the tax rolls. The feds don’t pay property tax.

But the BRAC Commission did something worse than maintaining the status quo. The reserve center has twenty units that drill there. Five units belong to the Army Reserves; fifteen belong to the Navy Reserves.

The Navy is consolidating to one reserve center per state. In Illinois the one reserve center will be at Naval Training Center Great Lakes, near Waukegan. NTC Great Lakes is not centrally located for Illinois reservists being in the extreme northeast corner of the state, but it has significant infrastructure.

BRAC recommended that all fifteen Navy Reserve units be moved, but the five Army reserve units will remain. So Forest Park will lose over 75% of the business generated at local restaurants, but not gain one square foot of the land for the tax rolls.

You may ask, isn’t there another reserve center at First Avenue and Cermak Road, about two and a half miles away? Doesn’t it seem strange to have two Army facilities so close, but in separate locations?

The facility at First and Cermak is not Army Reserves; it’s Illinois National Guard. While there would be special considerations, it would seem possible to get the Illinois National Guard to host five Army Reserve units.

To make it work, the Forest Park Commissioners would have to learn the bureaucracies of the Army Reserves and Illinois National Guard. They would have to do some shrewd bargaining with Governor Rod Blagojevich, members of Congress, the Bush administration and local unit commanders.

When I read about Mayor Anthony Calderone and Commissioner Patrick Doolin brawling I’m something between sad and frustrated. This time and effort that could be put into increasing the Forest Park tax base by persuading people to move five Army Reserve units a mere 2 ½ miles.

I’m concerned that Forest Park officials have extrapolated the wrong lessons from attempts to acquire the land under the U.S. Postal Service bulk mail facility. The USPS doesn’t want to move a huge facility just so Forest Park can develop the land. Forest Park seems to have assumed that being rebuffed by the feds on a “pie in the sky” idea means it’s not even worth trying on the reserve center.

Politicians are supposed to be crafty negotiators. If Oak Park can get four million dollars to study putting a cap on the Eisenhower, Forest Park ought to be able to persuade five Army Reserve units to move 2 ½ miles.

Where can whistleblowers go?

On January 3, 2005 I attended a meeting of the village board. Village Clerk Joan White said the insurance company warned Forest Park that the police department would have more sick days and vehicle collisions in the wake of the sexual harassment lawsuit in which Dan Harder was a plaintiff. Stress creates many problems that can’t be traced directly to the cause of the stress. White was impressed that this prediction came true.

I’m not an insurance guru, but the current conflict between Harder and the police department was easier to predict than increasing vehicle collisions. Two parties can’t go through a bitter lawsuit and work together harmoniously afterward. It would be like going through a bitter divorce and continuing to live together, except not doing the married stuff.

Both sides of the sexual harassment case should be rebuked for keeping the aggrieved individuals on the police force in Forest Park. The village should have offered more money if Harder and the other plaintiffs would leave. And Harder’s side should have been pressing to end the relationship too.

This does draw attention to a major problem facing whistleblowers. Where do they go to work after drawing attention to misconduct by their bosses? Having “whistleblower” on the resume makes it hard to get a job. If a police department has the choice between hiring someone who has been a whistleblower and someone who hasn’t, who’s going to be hired?

Traditionally good government advocates have pushed for laws and rules to protect whistleblowers from retribution. In theory this sounds nice, but in practice it leaves the whistleblower in an awkward”if not impossible”spot. The whistleblower’s supervisors usually have some loyalties to the former supervisors. So the supervisors tend to do what they can to make the whistleblower feel unwelcome without “crossing the line”. Whistleblowers can either quit or invest their emotional energy into documenting the insults and abuses.

Proviso Probe blog

Yes, I’m a blogger, as many of you learned in last week’s paper. And in the blogosphere it’s considered rude to refer to a blog or any website without providing the URL. Proviso Probe is located at http://provisoprobe.blogspot.com.