The village’s freshman commissioners, Chris Harris and Tom Mannix, might have different personalities and styles, and, once in a while, they end up on opposite sides of a vote. But, despite these contrasts, recent discussions with both men indicate the two might actually think somewhat alike.
Both Mannix and Harris both seem to come down on the right side of the political spectrum – when it comes to spending – but both are wary of party labels, possibly because of the village’s non-partisan government. Mannix described himself simply as a fiscal conservative. Harris said that he is “truly independent” but sounded like a libertarian when he added, “I believe in liberty. I think people should be able to do what they want, as long as they are not harming anyone else … It’s not the government’s job to tell them otherwise.”
All politics is local
Both of these rookie commissioners will tell you they have spent much of their time studying local issues. Some of the matters they have tackled thus far include union contracts, a new sign for the Howard Mohr Community Center and promoting greater citizen involvement in local government.
“With every decision,” Mannix declared, “I am very cost-conscious. I make a point to specifically look at how the money we spend today will bring us benefits in the long run.”
Mannix said his input during recent discourse with the council about purchasing a new sign for the Community Center exemplifies such thinking. “A very high-end sign with a lot of bells and whistles sounds great,” he said, describing the conversations he had with board members and village officials. “But it comes with upkeep costs such as maintenance, artwork design, bulb replacement and electrical usage.”
Mannix ended up voting in favor or a new, non-full-color sign, which cost less than a full-color, digital sign would have.
As evidence of his fiscal conservatism, Harris said that he is the only commissioner who cut his department’s budget. He also expressed his opposition to increasing revenue by hiking parking-meter fees. What’s more, Harris said, he was the only board member to vote against a union contract with the village’s mechanic that “offered increases such as jumps from three sick days to 18 in a year. And wage increases that are not in line with what we in the private sector are getting.”
Both Mannix and Harris emphatically said they wish to include more Forest Parkers in local government’s decision-making process.
“In general terms,” Harris said, “I think the best approach is having maximum citizen involvement. This town is not the five people on the board. It is the citizens of Forest Park.”
Similarly, Mannix said, “I enjoy hearing from residents on issues important to them. I have visited the homes of many residents who have called me to discuss issues facing our village.”
This spirit of inclusiveness does not always apply on the board, though. Since being elected, Mannix has developed an alliance with Mayor Anthony Calderone and veteran Commissioner Mark Hosty – one that recently resulted in the formation of a political action committee intended to raise raise money for each of their future runs. Harris, on the other hand, has found himself at odds with Calderone, Hosty and Mannix, from time to time, as has his other colleague, Commissioner Rory Hoskins.
Parting words about style
Since being elected, Mannix has put his time in at village hall. He has worked to familiarize himself with the ins and outs of local government and the pertinent issues facing it.
“It is important to me to educate myself about each and every issue that will come before us so I can make an informed decision,” he said. “For example, I make a point of talking with the Village Administrator as soon as possible after I receive the agenda for the upcoming meetings and then do my own research over the weekend.”
Harris concluded by saying, “I am an open book. If you have a question, please ask. I am putting my all into this and trying to make decisions that are well thought out and that are in the best interest of the village.”
Nick Moroni contributed to this article