The most recent crop of Oak Park businesses to announce their upcoming moves to Madison Street proves what most Forest Parkers have recognized for some time now. Something unusual and quite remarkable is happening in town, and businesses all over seem to be getting the word and asking where they can sign up. Sure, the surge has much to do with lower costs compared to surrounding towns, but even the escalating property taxes in Forest Park don’t seem to be slowing Madison’s momentum. And with word of expanded offerings at the Forest Park mall to come in 2006, the good news appears to be growing.

The collaborative spirit of Madison Street merchants, enhanced by organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, the Main Street Association and M2, seems to have as much to do with Madison Street’s popularity as any financial incentive.

Events like the recent Holiday Walk showcase this spirit of togetherness. Though Forest Park residents may be divided politically, everyone from the Backmans to the Hostys of the world were able to put all else aside and enjoy the tremendous efforts made by business owners to take advantage of Madison’s moment in the spotlight.

Anyone who enters a Madison Street business, whether to sit down to dinner at La Piazza, get a haircut at Macdaddy’s or purchase a piece of custom-made jewelry at Team Blonde, will quickly realize that the street’s entrepreneurs truly enjoy doing business in the village, and that, more than anything, will continue to draw exciting new businesses into the village for a long time.

Making the best of a bad situation

Though Monday’s public hearing to discuss a tax increase for Industrial Drive property owners was certainly not the village’s shining moment, Mayor Anthony Calderone handled a potentially embarrassing situation in the best way possible. He admitted that mistakes might have been made, and stopped what could have been a long, drawn-out struggle before it went too far.

It is certainly understandable that nobody likes to pick up the newspaper and find out that the village is seeking to increase their taxes. Had there been some sort of communication with the affected property owners before beginning to discuss the tax, perhaps Monday’s meeting could have proceeded with a less combative tone, or perhaps the whole thing could have been nipped in the bud without time being wasted.

As Calderone emphasized at the meeting, the procedure for instituting a Special Service Tax area makes clear that if more than half the people affected don’t want it, it does not happen. With more communication, the property owners might have realized in advance that much of the drama that occurred Monday was unwarranted. Still, village officials must understand that not everyone is an expert on municipal law, and such things cannot be understood if they are not explained.

Though mistakes were certainly made, Calderone deserves credit for taking the high road and accommodating property owners rather than arguing with them. Let’s hope that the remainder of the commissioners and village officials, some of whom took a rather hostile tone with taxpayers on Monday, are able to put tensions aside and work out a sensible compromise.