Forest Park’s Springfield lobbyist Matt O’Shea gave a summary of his past year’s efforts at Monday’s village council meeting, and just like last year, said the state pension crisis has overwhelmed the statehouse. But lobbyists and others managed to prevent the legislature from getting their hands on any of the pass-through money that goes to municipalities, O’Shea said – at least for this year.

“We’re sort of back at Groundhog Day again,” he said, referring to his last presentation to the village in June, 2012. O’Shea recapped the pension dilemma: More than $100 billion in unfunded liabilities, costing $17 million a day. He spoke about how the state’s credit rating had been downgraded, causing borrowing to be more expensive. “We’re just a few clicks away from junk bond status,” he added.

But luckily, at least this year, the Local Government Distribution Fund remains unscathed, O’Shea said. A campaign to cap income tax money collected by the state and paid out to municipalities based on population fizzled out, he said. This would have allowed the state to keep any income tax growth from fiscal year 2014 and beyond.

Medical marijuana on verge of legality

O’Shea said a medical marijuana bill has passed the General Assembly and awaits the governor’s signature. If the law passes, up to 22 cultivation centers are permitted in the state, as well as up to 60 dispensaries.

“Unlike video poker, local government cannot opt out of allowing a dispensary or cultivation center to open up,” O’Shea’s report said. Municipalities may zone areas where the medical marijuana industry can open businesses, although they cannot be located near schools, residential areas or day cares.

 

Taser inspections

 

Another bill awaiting the governor’s OK allows the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board to randomly inspect police departments and evaluate their use of Tasers between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 21, 2015. Forest Park’s Police Department is known to encourage Taser training and the use of the stun guns during arrests on a regular basis.

Crime-free multi-unit housing

O’Shea also reported that smaller non-home rule communities can now adopt a crime-free multi-unit residential housing ordinance. Forest Park already has a voluntary crime-free multi-housing unit within the police department. But new rules would allow the village to license landlords and require them to submit to crime inspections, attend crime safety and prevention training programs, have criminal behavior by tenants as a reason to void leases, conduct tenant background checks and submit to periodic inspections of rental property.

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...