Is it just us, or does the work to be performed under a new consultant’s contract the village government just signed off on bear a striking resemblance to the work that should have been done better under the already forgotten Comprehensive Plan process in Forest Park?
Stakeholder interviews, Survey Monkey inquiries, assessments of Madison Street and Roosevelt Road business districts, reports to the village board. All worthy efforts if properly conducted and if there is sufficient buy-in by the intended participants. That never happened during the painfully extended comp plan process.
So in Consultant Redux, we have the village shelling out a small sum, $15,300, to a consulting firm that was not chosen to participate (through a larger vendor) in the comp plan but which does have some 20 year old history with the village in advising on economic development.
OK. Fine. Not the most logical way to get to this point. But we’re not disappointed that village hall has come to realize that economic development has stalled in the village. Current efforts from the mayor, from his hand-picked Economic Development Commission, from the slim-pickings of leadership in the current business community are not cutting it.
In 1995 when the village first hired Business Districts, Inc. things were different. Madison Street was a mess, always a good palette for a consultant to start with. The new generation of political leadership — yep, Tony Calderone and Tim Gillian — were young and fresh and unencumbered by defensiveness and ego. Neighboring towns weren’t competitive with Oak Park already stuck in its endless hand-wringing and River Forest still sound asleep. And, most notably, there was exceptional civilian leadership on the street, people with a vision and money to invest in property. Didn’t hurt that the economy was strong.
It was a scene set for a magical comeback and, by God, it happened. The rise of Madison continued into this new century when a new wave of remarkable entrepreneurs rose on the street and took charge of marketing and promotion, self-policing and encouraging their fellows to rise higher. The economic collapse snuffed that energy.
So, welcome back Business Districts, Inc. Step up business leaders and entrepreneurs. And, village leaders, adapt to a new day and fresh opportunities.
Here comes the rain again
Yes, Forest Park needs massive investment in its aged and obsolete sewer system. And we give credit to the village government for finally conceding that point even as we all realize this will be an extended, expensive timeline.
But, like many towns, Forest Park also needs to take a thousand small steps in a broad effort to mitigate flooding. Last week, and just possibly related to an election in two weeks, Gov. Pat Quinn bestowed a half-million bucks on Forest Park to build out two new permeable alleys. There will also be funds to help disconnect downspouts on many homes from the sewers.
Like Quinn, we believe in rain barrels and rain gardens, porous pavers and redirected downspouts. Forest Park needs to take actions, big and small, to protect us from flooding.