Residents must help plan for growth

Two old and dear friends visited my home recently. They had lived for many years on the 500 block of Elgin Avenue. They remarked “Gosh half the block is gone!” Afterwards I honestly could not tell them what was in store for the future plan or construction.

With the quiet demise of Main Street discreetly labeled a “merger” with the Chamber of Commerce, I realized that the citizen or public interaction with the Forest Park planning and development system is again in jeopardy.

After a decade of personal participation with other like minded residents I have come to value citizen activism as an agent of change. I found this true when I served on the Main Street Board, the preservation ordinance committee, the Forest Park high school task force, as a parent and client of District 91 and as a parent, client, and board of education member in Proviso District 209. It is frustrating that when it comes to local issues like neighborhood preservation, form zoning, suburban sprawl, parking and economic development, the powers that be just don’t get it.

National Main Street policies and guidelines that were originally chartered in the late ’90s had a solid foundation that included the partnership of residents. Sensing that change after 2001, I chose to participate with other grassroots groups. Forest Park Main Street became more of a special event group run by insiders. This is factually supported by their actions and inactions, which were by no means all win-win for Forest Park.

Exceptions were groups like M2, CUinFP, the 500 Elgin Club and the residents against teardowns for surface parking lots that saw the void of lack of imagination, community dialogue, and planning.

I have an admiration for those neighbors that have spoken up in the past. Practicing some civil disobedience is a component of democracy, it is the public way. As residents we need to speak up more. It truly gets the governing bodies to listen. I know that all Forest Park community members interested in development need to stay in the economic stability conversation. As a group, we need to also act more. This is a topic that governments and elected officials pay attention to, but as citizens, they need our input and our partnership to solve.

Bob Cox,
American Planning Association member,
preservation activist
Forest Park

Cutting waste

During the past several weeks, I have received numerous letters and e-mails from law enforcement leaders concerning the Cook County budget debate.

The impetus for these letters is the false assertion, coupled with warnings and threats from Cook County Board President Todd Stroger and Finance Chairman John Daley, that if we do not raise taxes the county will have to cut vital services. These Stroger/Daley assertions are flat out false.

The fact is, these same politicians sold out law enforcement and healthcare last year, and will do so again this year in order to protect their patronage army.

The real choice this budget season is between raising taxes to protect political patronage and not raising taxes, which will mean the county will be forced to cut the waste and patronage from its budget.

Stroger and his allies claim they are unaware of any waste or of any “political hacks” within county government. These comments are insulting to the hard-working taxpayers of Cook County, who know better. Let’s take a quick look at the facts: Stroger’s team is claiming a false $280 million budget deficit, but this inflated deficit is based on Stroger’s FY 2008 proposal that increases the budget by $150 million and adds 1,100 new county employees to the payroll.

So, bottom line: there is no $280 million deficit.

Furthermore, Stroger and Daley are proposing a nearly $1 billion tax increase to cover this fabricated $280 million budget deficit. As happens every year at budget time, county officials are creating “doomsday scenarios” in order to justify massive tax increases. Again, this deficit amount is inaccurate, but even if it were not, why would we need almost a billion dollar tax increase to cover it?

If they really cared about our county’s first responders, and about protecting the public safety of Cook County citizens, then they would cut their patronage armies, and weed out waste and abuse to ensure that public safety and healthcare is fully funded.

During the past year, we have seen numerous examples of how millions in taxpayer dollars are being abused, misused or have simply gone missing. Whether its $30 million in misused homeland security funds, Todd Stroger’s million-dollar public relations staff, no-bid contracts to political donors, or even the hiring of friends/family to the county payroll, this administration has proven it is more concerned about funding its family, friends and political allies than protecting the health and public safety of our residents and taxpayers.

Todd Stroger, John Daley, and the other commissioners who are using fear tactics and inflated budget numbers to fabricate their way to a nearly $1 billion tax increase should be ashamed.

There is a reason they are having so much trouble passing their budget, even among members of their own political party: because their budget proposal is a sham, and because those of us who oppose their efforts are putting the health and well-being of our county’s taxpayers and residents first.

My proposal, which was rejected by Stroger and company, would resolve the vast majority of the county’s actual financial problems. I proposed a 2 percent cut across the board off of the 2007 budget, and not the inflated 2008 budget proposal from the Stroger administration. In these tough times, I feel it is better that the county reduce expenditures by a reasonable amount than hit up the taxpayers for yet another unnecessary tax increase.

Tony Peraica
Cook County Commissioner, 16th District

Where’s my warning?

“Officers make every effort to avoid towing the car …” I laughed out loud at that statement (“When it snows, they will tow,” Feb. 20, page one). Seriously, has anyone ever gotten a knock on your door or even a phone call before a police officer gives you a ticket or tows your car? I know I haven’t.

Eric Bonjour
Forest Park