My wife and I bought a house in the Galewood neighborhood of Chicago three years ago, because we couldn’t afford to buy one in Forest Park. I therefore had one mental foot in Chicago on Election Day last month and one in Forest Park where I work.
If you compare the size of the two communities, one is an elephant and the other an ant. But as I reflect on the Feb. 27 election, I notice some similarities.
Both incumbent mayors did well. Mayor Richard Daley received something like 70 percent of the votes and Mayor Anthony Calderone got 52 percent. When asked why they voted for Daley despite almost daily reports of corruption in Chicago, supporters responded by more or less saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Maybe there is some corruption, but for me the city works.
I wonder if that explains the low turnout in Forest Park and why Tony Calderone got a majority of the primary votes. There has been plenty of controversy lately-who gets hired, who gets fired, where do we park-but for most residents and most business owners, things are going pretty well. The garbage gets picked up, potholes get filled and streets are plowed after snow storms. Heck, even the sidewalks get plowed. No one is saying that Forest Park is perfect, but it’s better than a lot of places.
Another similarity is that both Daley and Calderone have completed or started some big, rather visionary projects. For Daley it’s been the museum campus, beautification of the city, the airport and the recent pitch for the Olympics. For Mayor Calderone, it’s been the massive reconstruction of Madison Street and now the apparently imminent moving of the YMCA to Forest Park.
A third similarity is that the mayors of both towns are pro-business. I’m not saying that they aren’t pro-other things as well, but clearly, they are pro-business.
These similarities aside, I want the village council to copy what is happening in Chicago on the environmental front. I want Forest Park to think green.
Mayor Daley has encouraged the greening of the Second City through the bully pulpit and tax incentives. When I was doing a story on the Community Savings Center at the corner of Lake and Pulaski streets, two staff members took me up on the roof where they showed me big rectangular containers of earth in which grass was growing. Daley has encouraged owners to do the same for every building in the Loop.
Forest Park is blessed with a lot of trees. That’s a good start. The problem, however, is that the amount of green space in Forest Park is shrinking instead of expanding. As good as the YMCA’s arrival is going to be for our village the bottom line is that green space is going to disappear. If green space is going to increase in Forest Park, the village council will need a plan. It will have to know what the goal is and make funds available when opportunities present themselves.
We have a much better recycling program than does Chicago. That’s good too. Now let’s talk about government vehicles powered by ethanol or electricity, recycled paper products in public buildings and maybe even a wind generator on top of the fire station.
The new council also needs to address affordable housing. Look around at your neighbors. That old couple living next to you, the ones who are so nice to your kids, they wouldn’t be able to buy the very house they are living in.