The old saw asks if it is possible to beat city hall. The current question in Forest Park, though, is whether village hall can beat the Army.
In the sort of self-preservation action that makes citizens dubious about all government, the Army has petitioned to keep the Forest Park Naval Reserve Center on Roosevelt Road open”yes, without the Navy”despite a federal government base closing commission recommendation that the base be closed.
The Army request ought to be battled diligently by both Forest Park officials and all legislators who represent Forest Park. This is 6.5 acres of prime acreage in a crucial location for redevelopment. At this time, there is no more valuable piece of land in town.
That use trumps the convenience of a couple hundred weekend warriors who might use the base if the Army prevails.
Logic, however, does not always win the day when huge federal bureaucracies are grinding away at a problem. The officials in Washington who will ultimately make this decision know nothing of Forest Park, don’t recognize the resurgence of the Forest Park Mall just next door, don’t care about the economic jolt this parcel could provide a town like ours.
That’s why local officials need to raise their voices. We’re happy to see Mayor Anthony Calderone working the phones. He will need emphatic support from state and federal legislators to get the attention of Pentagon bureaucrats.
This issue may be Number 15,765 on the Pentagon’s to-do list. But it is in the Top Five in Forest Park. So let’s make the case and turn up the heat.
Library must involve the public
There is no questioning the fact that the library needs more money. A budget of $700,000 per year just isn’t going to cut it in a town of 16,000. But as library officials are well aware, there is a public skepticism regarding the way things have been run at the library that must be addressed before the coming library tax referendum vote.
In order for the library to regain the public’s trust, it must open its books and be willing to answer tough questions from taxpayers. Though it’s wonderful that officials contacted a select group of citizens asking them to join the committee that will work on the referendum, we question why the committee wasn’t advertised publicly.
While a small group might be easier to work with, the referendum process cannot be an inside job. The library needs to begin regularly hosting town hall meetings to directly communicate its goals to residents.
If Mayor Calderone has other priorities besides organizing a meeting to explain the library’s budget, as was promised in November, library officials must host the meeting themselves, and soon. After all, if residents cannot rely on the library to explain its current budget, they certainly will not be willing to trust it with a bigger one.
We are certainly inclined to support a referendum for the library. Short of strong evidence of mismanagement by the current board, the only thing that could stop us is a lack of openness and public involvement during the process.