Ready for the new year? Here it comes and with it some of the issues Forest Park has the opportunity to move forward on in 2014. 

Finally, a recovery: It has been a bruising few years in our real estate. And while Forest Park has taken its lumps with falling housing prices, residential foreclosures and the loss of some commercial activity, overall our village has fared well. Now with some signs of a more sustainable recovery, we’re looking for new investment in our housing stock and hope it comes more from first time buyers than national investors cherry-picking foreclosures to turn into rentals. The village’s single-family housing stock is limited and must be preserved.

Confidence and growth: Forest Park’s village government has shown admirable courage in recalibrating the place of liquor service in our village. Reducing slightly the hours when liquor can be sold and holding off a concerted industry push for video poker were decisions based on the village council’s confidence in Madison Street’s enduring renewal. We share that confidence.

Let parties evolve: Speaking of confidence, kudos to the park district and the Chamber of Commerce for making the tough decisions a year ago on the 4th of July fireworks and SummerFest. Since then the park district has introduced a July 3rd family event that shows signs of life and the Chamber is ramping up its Halloween casket race event. Maybe someday the fireworks and SummerFest can be brought back. Maybe not. But in the meantime, let’s accept that sometimes change is necessary and focus on creating new ways to have fun in Forest Park.

Year of the Roos: After demonstrating years of patience and good negotiating skills, the park district has title to the Roos Building site. The building was brought down even as it began to collapse of its own weight. In 2014, the park district board needs to listen well to the community, to its professional staff, to its architects and then to move smartly to execute this once in a lifetime opportunity to grow the park.

Come on already: In 2014, no more unvetted, politically connected contracts please. We hope the D91 school board will have the good sense to vote down a contract for school bus cameras that the village board recently passed. If there is a problem with drivers passing stopped school buses, and perhaps there is, let’s work with the school district and the police department to craft a solution.  If the solution is technology then let’s have a bidding process to choose a vendor. 

Starting early: We are believers in early childhood education as a key to long-term academic and social success. After a strong start, D91 is moving quickly – as in next week – to expand its free tuition, universal preschool. This school board will not make a better decision, nor taxpayers a better investment.

Collaboration: This year will see the fruits of Forest Park’s leadership in seeking grants to redo the west end of Madison Street. The effort will be made in collaboration with neighboring River Forest but make no mistake, this project is Forest Park’s baby. Our sense is that Mayor Anthony Calderone has already made strong connections with newly elected leaders in both River Forest and Oak Park. This week in our Oak Park paper we urged Oak Park’s Anan Abu-Taleb and River Forest’s Cathy Adduci to actively explore a merger of fire departments and suggested that Forest Park also be invited to that effort. We hope Calderone might be open to such discussions. Collaboration is our future.