Soon enough we’ll get into the minutiae of the new year. Snow will come and we will debate its removal. There will be a late-winter primary election and we’ll yak about lawn signs. School test scores will be released and we’ll bury ourselves in data.
But right now, the whole of an unblemished 2012 in Forest Park stretches out in front of us and these are the big issues we ought to pay attention to:
Water, everywhere: Whether coming out of your faucet or up through the sewer drain in the cellar, we’re likely to be thinking about water in 2012. The decision by the new, and the former, mayor of Chicago to radically jack up the price of water coming out of Lake Michigan and then through city pipes to all suburban areas will have an impact on homeowners. By the time the current roster of rate hikes is finished in three years, the price of water will have doubled.
Forest Park has no choice but to pass through these costs. There is no margin in the water fund that would allow rebates. The worldwide reality is that water is a scarce resource and is going to cost more. Each of us should ration its use by retrofitting our old homes with low-flow devices and changing our water-use habits.
Where the village must do a more aggressive job is on flooding. If the mammoth storms of the past two years are somehow the new norm, then our government must adapt the infrastructure to minimize flooding. The recent agreement to collaborate with Cook County to share their G.I.S. system is a baseline. The challenge, particularly in these times of state and federal cutbacks, is make a plan and craft the funding to re-do the aging sewer system in town. Has to happen.
Madison Street’s latest comeback: Enough recession. 2012 is the year for Madison Street to celebrate its survival through three years of economic pain and to reinvest in the future. Here are some seeds: Grand Appliance by spring. Skrine Chops by spring. Firenze, a new Italian spot, hopefully open by Valentine’s Day. The Chamber of Commerce plans a stepped-up advertising plan to tell its story. And the village needs to keep plugging on its loyalty card initiative.
Our schools: No town grows without its schools. Forest Park starts with the disadvantage of the Proviso Township high schools. That is just the way it is for now. And it makes the elementary and middle schools even more essential to Forest Park’s definition of itself. Progress continues here with a school board and administration that have brought hope and ambition back to the agenda. New curriculum is the latest essential initiative at D91. This is fun to watch.
Collaboration: Kudos to the village for its increasing efforts to collaborate with our neighbors. The recent affordable housing grant is notable. An area we’d like to see more leadership on is the critical decision-making coming soon on the rebuilding of the Ike. Containing the highway within its existing footprint, even as the state pushes hard for added lanes through town, is a critical issue for Forest Park.
Raising expectations: If you can’t be hopeful at New Year’s, you ought to just give up. So we end with the hope that in 2012 the level of civil discussion in Forest Park will improve. Disagreement and debate are healthy. Engage more voices. Listen well. Don’t make it personal. Go out and have a beer.