In this week’s Review, we took some time to reflect on some of the major stories that shaped local news in Forest Park over the past year. In doing so, we noticed that, more so than past years, 2005’s major news stories are a work in progress.
It is not unlikely that, when the time comes for our 2006 year in review, many of the same stories will once again appear, along with a couple new ones. At that point, hopefully, these matters will have been concluded, or will at least have taken some firm enough direction to comfort those who are concerned with their implications for the village’s future.
Here are a few entries we’d like to see in next year’s year in review.
• Proviso cuts spending, keeps magnet school open
In 2006, Proviso Chief Education Officer Robert Libka decided to prove to his doubters that he is more than just a rubber stamp for board president Chris Welch and his Students First Party.
He conducted a thorough analysis of Proviso’s spending over the past couple years, and found several items to cut. High paid public relations firm Danielle Ashley was shown the exit door, and Welch was told that if he wants to make every public appearance a photo-op, he can bring his own camera. Legal bills from the law firm Odelson and Sterk are now put through an intensive review process before being approved, and Libka has begun speaking out publicly against actions by the board that are sure to lead to further legal bills.
Though it is too late to take back the money that was handed out during construction of the Proviso Math and Science Academy, Libka recently announced that because of those cutbacks and others, the District has enough money in the bank to keep the magnet school open until 2009, when its first freshman class will graduate.
Though the Students First Party would love to fire Libka for his change of heart, they know that, considering his current popularity, it would be political suicide to do so. And while a referendum will still be necessary in the future to keep the magnet school opened, residents of the Proviso Township now have enough faith in the school district that there is a growing chance that such a tax increase would be approved.
• Brutality claims investigated, no wrongdoing found
After hearing nearly a fifth of the Forest Park Police Department testify during the termination hearing of Sgt. Dan Harder that, over the past few years, they had been concerned about brutality among few years during the termination hearing of Sgt. Dan Harder, the village council voted to launch a comprehensive investigation of these allegations.
In the end, it was found that the majority of the incidents in question had been fabricated by prisoners seeking to have their cases dismissed. Officers who were the subject of numerous complaints of violence, it was found, had been disciplined sufficiently and no longer posed a threat.
Though the investigation put the village in position to defend itself in case Harder again brought the allegations forth in a lawsuit, the suit never occurred as the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners dismissed the case against Harder due to a lack of evidence for the charges against him.
• Construction begins on Forest Park YMCA
After months of negotiations, the West Cook YMCA finally agreed to purchase a large chunk of the village-owned Altenheim property and began construction of the Y’s new site in Forest Park. Residents and officials on both sides of the village’s political fence heralded the move, stating that the Y would make Forest Park a destination point for residents all around the Western suburbs.
Wishful thinking, we know, but that’s what the start of a new year is all about.