Unofficial polling results show 60 percent of voters favored the tax referendum that would allow the park district to purchase additional land. Roy Sansone, a member of the park board, said the margin of victory doesn’t matter to him.
“Give me 51 percent,” he said. “I’ll be a happy camper.”
The Feb. 2 primary was an anxious, but ultimately joyous, event for park district officials hoping the community would support its expansion plans. Poll watchers returned to the park’s headquarters on Harrison Street with reports of a near sweep of the village’s 11 precincts, and dozens of supporters gathered there began to celebrate. Sansone among them, said he was “getting goose bumps” with each return.
The Cook County Clerk’s office is yet to make the vote totals official, but 1,452 voters came out in support of the measure and 968 came out against. The margin of victory for the park district varied from neighborhood to neighborhood, and ranged from as high as almost 73 percent to as narrow as 50.4 percent.
Only in Precinct 112 did voters reject the tax increase. The count there was 58-78.
Slightly more than 27 percent of Forest Park’s 8,877 registered voters made it to the polls.
Cathy McDermott, president of the park district board of commissioners, was pleased with the results, though she acknowledged being a little “surprised” that as many as 40 percent of voters rejected the referendum. During the approximately 10 weeks supporters had to convince taxpayers to support the expansion, McDermott said there was very little negative feedback. Of course, asking for a tax increase during a severe national recession isn’t going to sit well with everyone, she said.
As McDermott and the park board moves toward purchasing the 2.5-acre Roos property at Harrison and Circle, transparency and public involvement must be priorities, she said – especially for the 40 percent who voted against the tax increase.
“We’re not done with them yet, and we hope to win them over,” McDermott said.
Rachell Entler and Kelly Crawford, two women with deep ties to the park district, spearheaded Friends of the Park, which worked to convince voters to support the referendum. Both McDermott and Sansone said the credit for the outcome belongs to Entler and Crawford.
Crawford is a park district employee and Entler’s husband, Eric, is a commissioner.
Entler agreed that there was little negative feedback on the campaign trail, which, she said, made it difficult to gauge how people truly felt. She said she wasn’t surprised by the 60-40 split because she didn’t know what to expect.
The overall turnout for the primary was an eye opener, though, said Entler. Typically, non-presidential primaries draw few voters to the polls and Entler was anticipating vote totals to be in the neighborhood of 1,200. To see double that estimate is encouraging, she said, because it suggests the community has a genuine interest in the park district – one way or the other.
“It shows they were invested in something,” Entler said.