In hashing out the issues during the campaign season, candidates and voters have touched on a theme in their discussions, but did not address the matter specifically. The problem we speak of is that there seems to be a terrible lack of consistency in how the village conducts its business.
That description is admittedly broad, but that’s in part because these inconsistencies have struck in a number of places. Various departments, individual employees and residents have all been wronged.
In September a developer whose townhouse project met all of the village’s code requirements but was unpopular with the neighbors was denied the right to use his property the way he–and the codes–deemed appropriate.
Lengthy termination hearings were held to dismiss a police officer who, at worst, abused a department policy regulating sick time and, at best, said a curse word. Meanwhile, a lieutenant on the force carries a criminal record for acts committed in the line of duty.
A couple of neighbors on Thomas Avenue couldn’t get a straight answer from village hall for nine months when a landscaping project came into dispute. All the while, the village ordered one of the property owners to change several exterior features of his house, despite having given its approval to construct the house with those features in place.
A significant source of general fund revenue goes uncollected when almost half of the vehicle owners in Forest Park ignore a registration ordinance and then are allowed to blow off the enforcement effort.
And as reported on the front page of today’s paper, the village has no explanation for why an activist group that wasn’t forced to comply with a public policy in 2005 and 2006 is suddenly yanked into formation.
No doubt there’s a range of possible explanations for these inconsistencies, and it’s likely that to one degree or another they all play a role. The commission form of government begs for political meddling in administrative duties. It stands to reason that when a few strings are pulled in one direction, something on the other side has to give. Certainly in the case of our zoning codes, outdated or poorly written ordinances are causing confusion. On the personnel side, employees may be lacking a clear and consistent message from their superiors as to what should take priority.
In all of these scenarios, the day-to-day task of improving village services falls in the lap of the village administrator. Until the council, or the voters, opt to do away with the commission form of government, the village administrator’s oversight extends only as far as any one commissioner allows.
Short of this much needed improvement, the solution must come from the administrator and the council deciding together to prioritize these issues. Hopefully then the village administrator can begin to pull himself out of the political battles he has become far too immersed in, and the rest of us can know what to expect when we walk into village hall.