The fireworks may be canceled in Forest Park this year, but there were plenty of outbursts and explosions at Village Hall when the Forest Park Village Council met for a special budget meeting June 25.
As soon as the meeting got underway, the discussion degenerated into a heated and sometimes personal argument when Commissioner Rory Hoskins complained that he and two other commissioners were not provided with the same extensive three ring binder of paperwork that Commissioner of Finance Mark Hosty and Mayor Anthony Calderone had.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever done it this way when only the commissioner of accounts and finance, the mayor and the Administrator have the full binder, and the budget director of course, but the three board members don’t get a binder,” Hoskins said at the start of the meeting. “That’s an interesting break with custom. I honestly don’t think it’s proper. I can’t believe I’m sitting here without a whole binder. I prefer that we table the meeting until we all have more information.”
However Hosty told Hoskins that the budget meeting would be done a little differently this year. This first meeting was only to get an overview of the budget from Village Administrator Tim Gillian and for commissioners to have the opportunity to say if there was anything they would like to add or subtract from their own departments. There would be another meeting soon to discuss the budget in detail Hosty said. In any case Hosty said that Hoskins and the other commissioners received a detailed list of all the line items in the budget and the full binder did not add much information to that.
“I think we got derailed and I think it became political last time,” Hosty said. “We are having two meetings and there will be an overview of the entire village. This is just the first budget meeting. For the second budget meeting you will have these binders well in advance.”
Despite not having a binder himself Village Commissioner Tom Mannix did not think much of Hoskins’s complaint.
“I just feel it’s interesting that you’re bringing this up because as of 6:45 p.m. (Monday night) there was paper overflowing out of your mailbox upstairs where you hadn’t even pulled your own department’s budget out of it, yet it’s been sitting there for the better part of a week ,” Mannix told Hoskins. “So while you’re trying to raise an issue to try and get a little bit of political traction here just because you don’t have a binder. I don’t think it makes a difference. We’ve got a nice overview of what’s going on.”
Calderone was frustrated with Hoskins’s complaint and thought that Hoskins was just engaging in political posturing. Calderone said that the binder had nothing to do with the presentation that Gillian was going to present. He offered to share his binder with Hoskins and then, clearly frustrated, Calderone grabbed his binder and walked over and stood right in front of Hoskins plopped his binder down in front of Hoskins and told him to take a look at it.
“Take a look at my complete binder and see if you see what you’re seeing on the screen,” Calderone told Hoskins. “Do you see it? Take a look.”
Then after walking back to his seat Calderone let loose.
“In the 14 years I’ve been mayor I’ve never experienced this type of drama that I’ve experienced in the last six years (Hoskins was elected six years ago) because we have a couple of couple of commissioners that like to come down here and like to overdramatize everything,” Calderone said.
“Let’s not politicize the process. You didn’t get elected as a commissioner to politicize the process. As an elected official you’re supposed to be both an ombudsmen and a steward to the village, to all the constituents in the village – all of them,” he said. “So before we start throwing any darts let’s at least go through the presentation and listen to what this is all about before you start saying ‘I don’t have a binder,'” Calderone added.
Hoskins did not retreat.
“You have a binder and I don’t,” Hoskins told Calderone.
“Let’s go find you a binder and then will you be happy,” Calderone said.
But Hosty wasn’t having that. He wanted to get the meeting moving.
“Will you listen to the presentation,” Hosty yelled at Hoskins.
“You don’t need to yell at me, I’m not yelling at you,” Hoskins replied.
“You don’t have to ask stupid questions seven times either,” Hosty shot back. “We’re presenting information. If there is a problem afterwards ask them. Let him go through the process.”
Commissioner Chris Harris came to Hoskins’s defense.
“Why is there certain people with more information than others?” Harris asked. “Why do commissioners Mannix, Hoskins, and myself not have the same information that you have, the mayor has, Tim as and Tish has?”
Hoskins stood his ground.
“I’ve been here for six years and I’ve never started a budget meeting with less information than any other commissioner or any other person sitting in the room,” Hoskins told Hosty. “I just don’t think that’s right. It’s not an attack on you. I don’t know. We have never done it this way.”
Mannix pointed out that he, Harris and Hoskins had lists of every line item in the budget.
“Just because they don’t print out and hand us three reams of paper in a three ring binder doesn’t mean we don’t have the information,” Mannix said. “If you take a second to look at it the only difference between this stack here and that three ring binder is that we don’t have the pretty signatures on the individual pages.”
Hosty chimed in.
“As stated in the beginning binders will be sent out after today’s meeting,” Hosty told Hoskins. “Today is for a village overview, for you to present and question your own department. This process isn’t done today. Don’t tell me what you don’t know before something is presented to you. Complain afterwards.”
Hoskins had the final word in the exchange.
“I respect you,” Hoskins told Hosty. “I think you’re a good guy, but this is not the way to go.”
Altenheim dog park shot down
The talk turned to dog parks at a special meeting of the Forest Park Village Council on Tuesday morning regarding the 2013-14 village budget. One item up for discussion was a proposal to fence in a second temporary dog park at the village-owned Altenheim property near the Residences at the Grove.
Commissioner Chris Harris brought up the idea saying it had strong support at a “participatory budgeting” hearing Harris hosted in April at the Forest Park Public Library.
At the library meeting in April, Harris pointed out that the space is already being used as an unofficial dog park. He claimed River Forest residents were playing with their dogs in the area, which is marked “No Dogs.”
Harris said at the earlier meeting constructing a $4,000 temporary fence would allow Forest Park to capture some membership income from interloping dog owners. The out-of-town rate for the Forest Bark Dog Park at Circle and Lehmer is $50.
But, on Tuesday, Harris could not get majority support for the second dog park as Mayor Anthony Calderone, Commissioner Tom Mannix and Commissioner Mark Hosty opposed the idea. Harris admitted he could not come up with a guess as to how much revenue a second dog park could bring in.
Calderone didn’t think much of the idea.
“Why would we invest any money to help non-Forest Park residents,” Calderone said. “In my opinion it’s a stupid idea.”
“I just don’t think that we should be spending Forest Park tax dollars to build something for River Forest residents when there is no guarantee of return,” Mannix said.
Calderone also said that since the second dog park idea was made public in April, a number of residents had expressed their opposition to him.
“I’ve had somewhere between 40 to 60 [people] voice their opinion to me that they think it is an unwise use of public revenues,” Calderone said. “Now that’s a pretty large number of people that voiced their opinion to me. I think the number of people not liking that idea is a couple more than voiced their opinion at the library in favor of it.”
“We have a dog park,” the mayor added. “Our existing dog park needs some maintenance, and we should focus on taking care of our existing dog park before we start allocating additional public resources based upon a couple of people’s ideas. I can’t support the idea of us spending money, whether its $500 or $5,000, to market it to River Forest to make some money.”
Hosty also opposed creating a dog park on the Altenheim property, saying that he wanted to sell the land.
“I don’t oppose dog parks,” Hosty said. “I oppose any development on Altenheim, because I think we should be marketing it.”