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As Forest Park continues to struggle to find solutions to the lack of parking along Madison Street, a key part of the puzzle is being ignored – adequate enforcement of the existing regulations.

In November 2005, the village council approved paying R.H. Anderson and Associates $19,000 to study the need for additional parking on Madison Street between Desplaines and Harlem avenues. That study quantified the shortage to be some 160 parking spaces. It also pointed out, accurately, the need for additional parking lots and eventually a garage.

This being Forest Park, in the fall of 2006 the village responded with a buffoonish attempt to use eminent domain to take six private properties adjacent to Madison Street, and paid one of the mayor’s political contributors, the Giglio and DelGaldo law firm, thousands of dollars to lay the groundwork. Public officials retreated in the face of an outraged citizenry, claiming they’d never use eminent domain for such a purpose, despite having just done so.

That was about it, except for a widely ignored plan to require Madison Street business employees to park away from Madison Street.

Then on Jan. 21 some Madison Street business owners sent a letter to the village council complaining that nothing was being done regarding the parking shortage.

“We have concerns that the village is not pursuing properties that are available for sale,” the letter states. They noted that additional parking spaces acquired through the purchase of property from willing owners is to be encouraged. What’s also to be encouraged, but isn’t, is the fair and equitable use of the spaces on Madison itself.

Last November village commissioners did away with 12-hour parking at 114 meters within a brief walk of Madison Street. They finally realized that such long durations are appropriate for lots near public transit, but not retail areas. By encouraging turnover, it was reasoned, businesses would benefit.

Why not then, I’d ask, encourage turnover on Madison Street itself? Why not enforce existing regulations, or better yet, install parking meters?

Some businesses have willingly cooperated with a plan that proposed having employees of Madison Street businesses park roughly a block away, with the assurance of not being ticketed.

But many business owners ignored the plan. Non-metered spaces up and down Madison Street, which have either two or three hour time limits, are routinely monopolized by their employees. Their cars sit on Madison from the early morning to late afternoon and beyond, while the other business owners who try to fairly cooperate with an attempt to solve the problem feel like suckers.

A review of parking citations issued over the past 18 months shows there have been fewer than 100 tickets written for time violations on Madison. They account for just 1 percent of all tickets written. So much for encouraging turnover.

Of course, parking meters – and even more so, parking lots and garages – are expensive undertakings. So I’m encouraged to hear the village is placing some $140,000 per year in a fund earmarked for retail district parking improvements, and raising meter rates. At best that’s only a modest start, however, if my understanding of the problem is accurate. We’ll need to provide much more annual funding, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and ultimately several million, to effectively address these issues.

That funding will need to come from a combination of sources, including motor fuel taxes, businesses, residents and fees. That large a pool of public money might even entice Mayor Calderone to expand his already well-connected business dealings and start up a parking meter company.

You can bet that if that ever came to pass, we’d have strictly enforced metered parking on Madison Street faster than you can say “Melrose Park security contracts.”