Doubts raised over candidates’ claims

I was very interested in reading the letter to the editor from Dr. Negale T. Jackson, declaring her candidacy for mayor of Forest Park. I am always pleased to hear of people who are willing and able to serve their community.

However, some things in Jackson’s letter were troubling to me. Jackson says that she has a Ph.D in international law from National Conference of Black Lawyer Community College of Law. I know that community colleges are chartered to grant the associate degree, not a bachelor’s degree, not a master’s degree, and certainly not a Ph.D. I went on line to find out about the institution and found no listing for it whatsoever. If this is not a university it has no right to grant

academic degrees. Is this a university? If so, where is it? Is it accredited? If so, by whom? If not, what is it?

Also, Jackson says she has a doctor of jurisprudence from La Salle University. A doctor of jurisprudence is a law degree. I am somewhat familiar with La Salle University in Philadelphia, but was not aware that they had a law school, so I went online again. Sure enough, La Salle University does not have a law school.

What’s up, Dr(?) Jackson? You have just thrown your hat into the mayoral ring and you have already created a serious credibility gap.

If you want your candidacy to be taken seriously, you have some explaining to do. I would also suggest that if you write another letter to the editor, you should write one that is not filled with grammatical errors. Such writing does not inspire confidence.

James Murray
Forest Park

Editor’s note: James Murray is a columnist for the Forest Park Review.

Vote squares with zoning

After reading the Forest Park Review’s opinion piece in last week’s paper, I feel it is important to clarify some facts that appeared to be missing from the article.

The Review wrote: “It’s true that dozens of residents turned out asking that the project not be allowed to go through, and that effort was sustained for several months. But it’s also true that developer Barney O’Reilly played by the rules put in place by the village, only to find out that the village isn’t happy with its rules.”

Mr. O’Reilly’s original proposal several months ago was for 12 units (150 percent of zoning) and required seven total variances. The ZBA turned it down based on those, and also (this is very important) because it did not conform to the neighborhood. His most recent development was basically the same building, with fewer units.

In Forest Park, every proposed multi-family development must go before the planning commission and the village council. According to Section 9-7-9 of our village code, the “plan commission and village council shall consider the following listed below as appropriate.” I will not list all 16 items, but provision “E” states that “Adequate provision shall be made to ensure the compatibility of the proposed development, including mass, scale, site layout and site design with the character of the surrounding property and the neighborhood.”

This proposed development was not denied based on zoning classifications; it was turned down based on the site plan review because it is not “compatible” with the neighborhood. A four-story building that faces north/south, with a driveway down the middle does not “conform” to a block predominantly made up of two-story single-family homes and two-flats that face towards the street. The rules of the game were not changed, neither was the village’s message. Cherryfield was told nearly a year ago that its proposal did not conform to the neighborhood. In case he didn’t listen back then, he was told again.

As far as the zoning change, he has known about that since at least June, when he attended the village council meeting in which they voted to initiate the process of changing the zoning. Months prior to that, he was told by residents of the neighborhood that we would lobby to have the zoning changed. What’s more, the village council specifically voted on his site plan prior to voting to direct the village attorney to write the ordinance to change the zoning map. I would say it sounds like the village “played by the rules” on this one.

The Review also said: “A separate but related concern we have with the vote on this proposal is the apparent gall of village commissioners in ignoring the recommendations of paid staff. The village administrator stated in no uncertain terms that the project complied with Forest Park’s zoning. The village attorney warned that defeating the proposal could lead to court action.”

I am not sure if by “paid staff” you are referring to the planning commission (who I believe are unpaid) or the village administrator’s staff, who specifically recommended changing the zoning to R-2 and does not give an opinion on site plan review, except to state whether or not they conform to zoning (which, of course, is not an opinion, but rather a review). If you were referring to the village attorney, who is not technically on staff, his statement about the proposal leading to court action does not necessarily mean that the complainant would be successful. To suggest that we should conform to the desires of a developer just because he might threaten to sue would be short-sided in my view. It is somewhat interesting to note that the planning commission granted only a “conditional” approval of the site plan, including eight specific changes, modifications, or clarifications. Two of these conditions were left off of the petition (reducing the height of the unit closest to Elgin Avenue and using “eco-pavers” that absorb rain water) that was sent to the village council because the developer indicated that he was unwilling to make the required modifications. Nice to see that he was “playing by the rules.”

John Plepel
Forest Park

Eyesore across the yard

I’m sure the most unsightly building in Forest Park is the house behind me at 108 Rockford. The siding is falling off, weeds have taken over the yard and black trash bags filled with who knows what are all over the yard and by the garage.

Wednesday as I was pulling out of my garage I met my new neighbor who apparently has taken up residence at 108-an animal with a very long snout.

Barbara Plona
Forest Park

Riveted young reader

I just wanted to let the people of the paper know what a great job they are doing. If the Forest Park Review gets a 16-year-old kid to sit down every Wednesday and read it front-to-back and back-to-front, you must be doing something right. So, thank you very much.

Jenna Calderone
Plainfield, Ill.

Responsible government

I don’t know if the title for the rebuttal to the Review’s Sept 19 “Responsible Zoning” editorial should be “Half Right” or “Half Write,” but however you address it, the Review only had part of the story-and maybe that is why they came to the conclusions that they did.

In its editorial, the Review frames the developer as the party injured by the residents of the 500 block of Elgin who exerted ‘mob rule’ on the board to exact a no vote. What the Review should have recognized was that the turnout at the board meeting of residents from all over Forest Park signaled that this issue had broad implications for the whole of the village-going beyond the concerns of the people living on Elgin Avenue.

Since the original editorial was less than complete in its reporting, a brief summary of the primary facts is in order: the developer’s original proposal, which required a variance to build something larger than allowed, was denied (probably, had he been willing to build within what was allowed he would be half finished now); concerns over such important issues as compatibility, water run-off, noise generation and traffic were not sufficiently (if at all) addressed in succeeding applications; during the ensuing period a proposal for a change in zoning was approved by the planning board. The proposed project that was voted down has issues with elements of Section 979 of the zoning ordinance and conflicts with the spirit, if not the letter, of the ordinance, and is in direct conflict with the comprehensive plan for the development of the village-all items of public record that could have been factored into a rational development plan.

The board vote does not preclude development it just asks the developer to revise his plan to account for the concerns listed above. The Review should explain what is unfair about this accord.

But as was stated this was not just a vote about this development. The reason there was village-wide turnout at this meeting is that this was a bellwether vote.

Forest Park has entered the 21st century and in doing so the administration of Forest Park government has become complex. The Review properly points out the need to rework the outdated zoning code. While these revisions are taking place we ask that our village officials use discernment and judgment, good judgment, in reviewing applications. This vote was a test to see if our officials were up to the task. We should congratulate the mayor and most of the commissioners for the judicious use of their discretionary powers.

This village, through visionary leadership, has drafted a comprehensive plan. This vote on development tested our elected officials’ willingness to implement this plan. As a resident, I am proud of the many compliant developments that have happened during the current village administration and I am proud of our mayor and of the commissioners who voted no regarding this development.

Perhaps the title for the Review’s editorial should have been “Hurray for Responsible Government!” Unfortunately, what we heard instead was a short-sighted commentary.

Trudy Roznos
Forest Park

Ad clarification

The Citizens’ Committee for the Forest Park Public Library Referendum wishes to clarify our ad which was placed on page 33 of last week’s Forest Park Review (9/13/06). This ad was paid for by the Citizens’ Committee and not by the Forest Park Public Library. Future ads and flyers will have a notice to this effect. We apologize for the oversight.

Karen Childs
Chairman, Citizens’ Committee for the FPPL Referendum

Rib contest was a hit

I am writing to express my sincere appreciation to everyone who contributed to the success of our first Rib-Off on Saturday, Sept. 16. To our sponsors? Mesirow Financial, Forest Park Wal-Mart, Miller Brewing Company and Robinson’s Ribs who contributed financially. To our contestants? Amy and Dave Rita, Adam Schauer, Don Cheval and the Forest Park Fire Department, Barbara Piltaver, Michael Racanelli, Mark Passariello, Chi-Town Smokers, Anthony Lazzara, Matt Hegna and Kris Carey, Ken Novotny, Brian Moritz, Robert Walsh, Christine Evans, Jerrene Meier, Dan Novak, Michael Benavides, Mark Finley, Chris Leahy, Tom Grams and Sterling Jones who cooked up hundreds of slabs of delicious ribs.

To our judges? Bill Artlip, WXRT-FM; Rob Bonaccorsi, Alpine Food Shop; Michael O’Shea, Culinary Instructor, Triton College; Charlie Robinson, Robinson’s Ribs; Maurice Sivek and Mike Sturino, Forest Park village administrator who tasted ribs and scored the contestants.

To the Forest Park businesses? Team Blonde, Famous Liquors, La Piazza and Briolette Beads who offered wine and food tastings and jewelry making. To Dave Novak and the Park District of Forest Park for use of their stage. To Doc Ryan’s for donating the goodie basket and gift certificate for our raffle.

To our food vendors? Robinson’s Ribs, Deko’s and Harlem Maenner Und Damen Chor for the great variety of incredible edibles. To Rocket USA for donating the Piggy Chefs and Food Flippin’ Marios for the contestants and a very special thank you to Charlie Robinson who helped us in many ways.

To the entire Community Center staff, volunteers and Rib-Off committee including Rich Barger, Karen Dylewski, Brenda Powers, Bridget & Bob Dowdle, Patti Marino, Katrina and Greg Jones, Terry Meffley, Pat Riske, Adrian Echevarria, Diana Dylewski, Scott Gerhke, Beth Koranda, Nikki Petrey, Lisa Richards, Paul Richards, Chris Thomas, Amanda Bartucci, Dee Gray, Kathleen Ryan and Robert Marani who worked very hard to make the day a success. To Bob Kutak, John Doss and the Public Works Department for helping with grove set up and trash removal and Chief Jim Ryan and the police department for maintaining public safety.

Thank you to all who attended our Rib-Off Festival and sampled the delicious ribs and to Mayor Anthony Calderone for acting as our MC and announcing the winners. First place went to Anthony Lazzara, second place to Don Cheval and the Forest Park Fire Department, third place to Chi-Town Smokers and the crowd favorite went to Dan Novak. Congratulations to all the contestants.

Beverly Thompson
Community Center Director