Vox60130 (formerly Citizens United in Forest Park) will celebrate its 10th anniversary this spring and looking back, I can surely say we have we covered a lot of turf and picked up a mountain of slack left behind by a still dysfunctional village hall.

Vox has a quirky resume starting with shaming the village into providing chairs for the audience at Village Council meetings to proper, legitimate notification of zoning and construction changes. Who can forget always pushing VH staff to post meeting agendas in compliance with state law and getting access to the common, functional government documents prepared for village meetings without having to constantly generate a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Vox also got into the entertainment business by teaching an old trick to a new and stubborn pony. Videotaping public meetings is as ancient as cable TV but following that 1980s trend was not for Forest Park. They didn’t want no stinking cameras in their town! So we took up the practice in 2004 and wore the constant ridicule like a badge. Not liking that we at Vox were having all the fun, village hall finally got their video game on around 2007.

On the flip side, Vox is the only home grown organization to consistently provide voter registration since 2004 and host presentations about issues of concern that our officials ignore.

When homes were being ripped down and replaced with “super sized” portions, Vox got experts to come talk about the phenomenon and its effects. When signs of gang activity started showing up around town, Vox got experts from the Forest Park Police Department to come out and educate citizens on their efforts. Vox even had to have a pow wow about ethics and whistleblowing because the powers that be neglected to comply with a state mandate to create the legislation for our town.

More recently, when village hall dropped the ball failing to follow through with a promised meeting on video gambling, we took up the task and got smart, passionate and candid foot soldiers representing all sides in this controversial issue. And, after realizing we in Forest Park had heard nothing about the proposed Eisenhower expansion from our elected officials, Vox organized a presentation and went door to door in Forest Park and Maywood neighborhoods along the Ike to come and listen to pros from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Citizens for Appropriate Transportation (CAT) give us an accounting of this billion dollar proposal.

Seeing a real need for additional candidate forums driven by citizens, Vox held its first candidate forum for the Park District race in 2005. Interestingly, only 2 of the 6 candidates showed up. They were the Vox members. So Vox bucked up and pushed ahead with forums for State Reps and Senators. In addition, we hosted meet and greets for Park District and School Board candidates. By 2007, candidates were eager for exposure. Vox’s Commissioner forum netted 7 of the 8 candidates and Mayoral forum 2 out of 3. Success continued in 2011 and 2013. Point of fact, all elected council members since 2007 have participated in Vox forums except two. Care to guess?

In closing, Vox is already getting its stuff together for the next 10 years and the outlook is bright. So far we’re having a presentation on Political Action Committees (PACs) and their effect on local communities and of course, we have elections next year.

If you want to know more about Vox, go to our website at vox60130.org. Our presentations and Candidate Forums are always free but if you like what Vox has been up to this past decade join us, it’s a bargain and pays for promoting our free events.

Thank you to all of our loyal members.

Steven Backman is a retired teacher from the University of Illinois Chicago College of Architecture & Art but very active in the fields of design and fabrication.

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