Here are some thoughts about planning for the future in general and the comprehensive plan in particular.

The comprehensive plan being worked on right now in our village seems to deal mainly with residential concerns: sidewalks, alleys, what to do with the Altenheim property, the library and of course the high school. The plan, it seems to me, will focus primarily on the quality of life for folks who live in Forest Park.

Mayor Calderone, to his credit, has brought together a group of business people whose primary focus is economic. What the mayor’s group is concerned about is economic health of Forest Park, i.e. the needs of people who own businesses here.

Although the concerns of the residents on the one hand and business people on the other affect each other in the long run, in the short run they may not. Many business owners in town do not live in Forest Park. The worry about where to send their kids to high school is therefore not in the center of their radar screen. Many residents of Forest don’t have businesses here, so whether one restaurant closes and another stays open, is not their immediate concern. If Fiorenza closes, hey, Jimmy’s and Francesca are right across the street and Gaetano’s is a few blocks west. And that’s just Italian cuisine.

I think Mayor Caldorone and the rest of our village government have the balance between the needs of residents and business owners just about right. In the long run the two communities need each other.

Thinking out of the box

Did you hear what the City of Kalamazoo, Michigan is doing? A group of private donors got together and established a fund which guarantees that every kid who graduates from a high school in Kalamazoo will have their tuition in a state university completely paid for.

Our neighbors here in town who have school age children, will tell that before they worry about where their sons and daughters will go to college, many have long discussions about whether they should send them to a private high school—Fenwick, Trinity or Walther—or move out of town.

Would it be possible to put together a kind of foundation with both private and public funding which would guarantee every eighth grader a tuition subsidy when they graduate from our middle school and pass the entrance exams of these private schools? An arrangement with the three schools for a discount in tuition would enable families to see staying in town more financially doable. 

I’m not wedded to this particular proposal. What I do believe in is the potential of smart, committed people to come up with creative, doable proposals—if we just keep at the issue.

Ready, shoot, aim

The only way to aim a weapon called a mortar is to take a shot, see where the round lands, then make adjustments and repeat the process. Here’s another metaphor. When I would go pheasant hunting with my dad, when we flushed one, we had about three seconds to take a shot. If we waited until we had perfect aim, the pheasant would be in the next corn field.

The point is that in changing times in which outcomes are unpredictable, it’s important to make plans—i.e. take as good an aim as you can—but not get anal about the plans being perfect. How many basketball games have you watched in which the Bulls were down by ten points at half time, changes were made in the game plan while the team was in the locker room and the whole dynamic of the game changed in the second half?

The comprehensive plan will probably include an expansion of the library. The Park District’s forthcoming proposal will most likely include the construction of some kind of facility. Let’s go for it, while the same time building in flexibility so that the facilities can be easily remodeled and repurposed to keep up with changing needs in the community.

Good for us. We’re making plans. Even better for us if we build into the plan implementation the possibility of adjusting our aim as the target moves, of changing our plan at half time if the game isn’t going the way we want. 

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