The 2015 election is in the books by the time you read this editorial. But on Monday, as we are writing, we don’t know the outcome. Who is the mayor of Forest Park? The commissioners? And who will be running the corrupt and failing Proviso Township high schools?
Sure, the outcome is important. But this short moment between the close of this remarkable and appalling campaign and the swearing-ins, is the necessary opportunity to ask and demand civic accountability. This is our town. It is our township.
It is time for Forest Park to stand up and fight for its civic soul. How despicable will our small-town politics get before a majority of people put a stop to it? How miserable will the 11th hour mailers get — four years ago virulent racism, this time false charges of criminal behavior — before the decent people of Forest Park repudiate the tactics.
It is time for the whole of Proviso Township to stand up and declare whether it is going to be run by political hacks out for their own or if it is going to be clawed back from those forces by sincere people in 10 towns who have been screwed over for decades with high taxes, schools failing from grade one, a plague of crime, and physical decay.
We are better than this. Much, much better.
We see that kindness and community at every other turn in our local lives. At an event along Madison Street, a PTO gathering at Betsy Ross, a chance encounter at Schauer’s. Forest Park is a great town with a political culture that has descended into the muck. Our politics are far too personal. We win by dividing. We denigrate the vitality and capacity of our neighbors to join in solving problems. And now, after years of these debilitating tactics, it has caught up with us. Our civic life is miserable and depressing.
Is there a light in this election? There sure is and, win or lose, it all comes from the 209 Together movement. We would not have thought it possible to unite frustrated families across this fractured township with a shared vision that our high schools are worth fighting for. We are inspired by watching so many matches made. Forest Parkers and Maywoodians, Bellwood and Melrose. Blacks and whites and Hispanics. People united by a slate of hopeful, determined candidates who found we share more values than what we ordinarily assume divides us.
We do not see the Proviso Way surviving this election. Whether a new majority was elected on April 7 at the high schools or it takes two more years to gather up a majority on the 209 board, this energy will not be contained.
And Forest Park’s tattered flag will also need mending. We need to start fresh with words of respect and sharing. The divisions that allowed narrow electoral wins in recent years must be salved.
Today is the day to start.