It feels as if Citizens United in Forest Park is lurching. This small, still relatively new, community group needs to find a path and plow it deep. But first it needs to decide on which path to claim.
Is CUinFP a political watchdog determined to monitor local government by videotaping public meetings and sharing access to that video? Is the group focusing on expanding public information through impartial forums and debates? Those missions would make it a hometown version of the Better Government Association. A worthy model.
Or, despite its tax status as a nonprofit, is CUinFP effectively the loyal opposition to the entrenched political power in town? It says no. The group does not endorse candidates, does not slate candidates.Yet, any claim that it is impartial in local politics doesn’t hold water given its criticism of the Calderone administration.
The group, which has been dominated over the years by the intensity of its founder Steven Backman, recently held elections and chose a new president, Jerry Webster. Webster is a longtime resident and activist, having served on boards and stirred the pot in opposition to a major development project, the Roos on Harrison. Like many critics of the current administration, Webster was once allied with that administration.
Webster sees his role as helping get CUinFP “back to doing some of the things we used to do – holding informational meetings, and with elections coming up, candidate forums, too.”
That’s fine. That’s a needed role. But if the group is to succeed in that effort, it needs to hew to the impartial line and not get drawn into the inevitable debates and, in Forest Park, the sometimes petty squabbles.
All that said, there is a place in Forest Park for active political opposition to the current administration. Right now, we some harping and carping but no sincere effort to organize an effective alternative. Village elections are now less than a year away. If there is some basis for political opposition to form and organize, now is the moment.