Over the next four months or so, those running for local office will need to formulate opinions on village finances, ethics, police protection, and the mother of all election topics: development in Forest Park.
As the recent brouhaha over the parking proposal illustrates, nothing gets villagers in a blood boiling, finger pointing, accusation-throwing mood more than a plan to alter the landscape of the town with a significant development. It’s like touching the exposed nerve on the collective bicuspid of Forest Park.
While it will be important for each candidate to explain his/her position on development, it is as important to discuss if and how they are going to change the process of implementing development. The recent snafu over the parking proposal is a great example of this. When word got out about the eminent domain portion, several people spoke out against the proposal. The council wisely decided to have a special meeting on the matter. Let’s hope the commissioners have a copy of the engineering report available and some numbers to disseminate to the attendees.
In the Nov. 21 issue of the Review, Commissioners Gillian, Doolin, and Steinbach said they didn’t even have a copy of the engineering report. Gillian is quoted as saying the council didn’t have any hard numbers, just estimates. How in blazes could anyone be expected to vote without that information?
About a year ago there was a proposal by the village council to increase the property taxes on the businesses located on Industrial Drive in order to fund improvements of said drive. The problem was that the initiative came from the council apparently without the input of business owners, and once they found out, they strongly opposed the plan. In the face of this opposition the council withdrew the proposal.
I remember being at the podium at a village council meeting in 2003 imploring the members not to approve a plan to turn the Roos building into condos, at least until area residents had a chance for input. When I was told the village had contacted those people required by law, there was a collective sound, louder than a murmur but not quite an outcry, from the assembled crowd indicating their collective disappointment with that assertion.
Now, I’m not against expanding parking in the village. Nor am I against eminent domain in theory. I do have issues with certain aspects of the plan, like catering to lazy shoppers that can’t walk more than 600 feet to a store. It also seems silly to address only one-third of the village’s parking needs. If we are going to have the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth on the parking issue, let’s do it once.
It’s the process that frustrates myself and others the most. After engineering studies, public input and preliminary appraisals, you would think it was time to take a vote. Instead, a lack of information and public support has postponed this vote for almost a month. It would also improve the process to get rid of the secrecy that seems to shroud these issues. Word travels fast in a small town like Forest Park, and in the void of information, opinion and guesswork get tossed around like truth. Simple requests to view a copy of the report shouldn’t be denied for goofy reasons only to appear on the village website a week later.
In November there was a meet and greet session for candidates at the Brown Cow. From what I heard a good time was had by all. There will obviously be additional forums to help the public form its opinion. In the meantime there is the special meeting on Dec. 11. I would encourage all persons aspiring to public office to attend. It would be a logical place for them to hone their opinions on development and the processes that drive it.