Dear fellow communities,

It’s time for our annual Christmas letter and I’m sure you’re anxious to hear how our Forest Park family fared in 2006. First, there have been several additions to the clan along Madison Street. Our knitting shop just turned one – isn’t it cute? So many classy businesses are being born – I can’t keep their names straight.

Besides the gift of commercial life, we have a new pedestrian bridge over the Des Plaines. I can’t wait to pedal across it to the Prairie Path.

We’re hoping for another big present this year. I don’t know if a parking structure would fit under the tree but it would be better than paving part of paradise to put up a parking lot.

There’s another big present we’re supposed to get: a YMCA. For a hundred years we’ve been waiting for a community indoor recreational facility. The commissioner candidates talked about how our teens need something to do – this would be like building them a rec room.

I hope you got the hint about the hundred years – yep, we’re having a big birthday party next year. I know some of you used cows and pigs as street sculptures. We’re going bigger and better; think elephants.

I suppose you heard the library wasn’t feeling well. It turned out all it needed was a transfusion of tax dollars, so we passed the referendum. Speaking of tax dollars, we spent a lot in legal fees for our police hearings. It’s been like Christmas for the lawyers.

I’m sorry to say we got a very bad report card from our high school district this year – straight F’s. Our math and science academy got off to a rough start, and the other two schools, well they’re dead last in performance in the whole area. But there’s even some Christmas cheer for them because in their evaluation they learned they have a “chance to be part of a historic turnaround.”

Our grade schools brought home a much better report card. They also plan to keep your kids out of our schools with tougher residency investigations.

Some of our kids were disappointed we didn’t have trick-or-treating on Madison this year. But I have two words to get them excited for next Halloween: art fair. Actually, the holiday walk on Madison was very kid friendly: face painting, balloon animals and smores, just for starters.

Like any other family we have some troublemakers, but our crimes tended to be more colorful than serious, making the police report a must-read.

All in all, it was a good year. Our houses are more valuable (but darn those rising property taxes.) Our streets and alleys are getting smoother and our park is getting a makeover.

Well, I hope you’re all doing well. I don’t want to sound superior here, but when you’re trying to make your community better, ask yourself, “What would Forest Park do?”

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.