The Village of Forest Park debuted its new interactive meeting and agenda website program at the same meeting where debate broke out over whether a new village policy on Internet postings and social media was too restrictive.
The village’s new software links agenda documents at village council meetings with specific sections of video from the meeting so residents can view debate on specific items without watching the entire video. The link to the software appears in the center of the village homepage at www.forestpark.net. The village commissioners also have moved all of their documents to iPad tablets eliminating cumbersome binders that contained hundreds of pages of documents.
At Monday’s meeting, debate flared about the village’s new Internet policy for employees. Commissioner Chris Harris complained the policy was too restrictive and Commissioner Mark Hosty countered that the policy was necessary to proactively prevent the village from being liable for online misstatements from employees.
The policy states that employees representing themselves as working at the Village of Forest Park cannot post libelous, pornographic, proprietary, harassing or defamatory content or content that creates a hostile work environment. Harris, one of two commissioners typically in the minority on council votes, complained the policy then expanded too far by saying the village could remove anything from a Facebook page that was “otherwise objectionable” and that no employee could speak on behalf of the village unless given permission by Mayor Anthony Calderone.
“Does that mean that if there’s Senior Bingo at the Community Center that Karen [Dylewski, the center director] can’t post it unless the Mayor tells her she can?”
Harris also complained that employees were restricted in what they could blog or post on the Internet. He read from the new rules that asked any village employee who wrote a private blog and in the course of that blog identified themselves as working for the village to “please let the Village Mayor know you are writing [it]. The Village Mayor may choose to visit from time to time to understand your point of view.”
But Hosty said the rules were a proactive step taken by the village to reduce liability and give guidance to employees. “It’s the responsible thing to do as employers.” Hosty pointed out that government bodies have different rules than the business world.
Water saving devices may be subsidized
Commissioner Tom Mannix asked the village to consider crafting a rebate program for water saving devices that would help Forest Park residents use less water in light of the city of Chicago’s pass-through water rate increases. Water bills increased by 25 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2012.
Mannix brought two toilet flush valves, a faucet aerator and a shower head water restrictor to show the council. He said he would like to propose a rebate of 50 percent for Forest Park residents (with a BEST program membership) on items when purchased at Schauer Hardware, 7449 Madison St.
Also on the topic of the water rate increase, Mayor Anthony Calderone said he was working with other suburban mayors in the West Cook Metropolitan Mayors Conference to explore either litigation against the City of Chicago or possible legislation that would prevent the city from jacking up water rates again.
Union contract renewed
In a new contract with Teamsters Local 705, the union representing some Public Works employees, the two sides spelled out the terms under which the village can contract specific work to outside vendors. The pact now includes a list of sub-contracted jobs for which the village could hire outside the Public Works Department. The list includes heavy concrete work, some tree trimming, snow hauling, the repair and maintenance of traffic and electrical lights and sewer work. Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the changes spell out subcontracting that is already performed by outside companies that requires heavy equipment or special skills. “We already subcontract that work out. We’re just putting it into writing this time.” Gillian said both the village and the union were glad to have subcontracting spelled out for clarification’s sake.