The topic surfaced late in the spring campaign for the Forest Park Village Council: Should the village take another look at video gambling in local bars and restaurants?
We will admit surprise when every candidate for village council answered in the affirmative when the question was asked during the Review/Chamber debate in March. Our point of view is that Forest Park voters answered that question definitively when they opposed such gaming in a 2013 referendum by a two-to-one margin.
But last week as the village council gathered for a briefing on the new fiscal year budget and, inevitably, possible new revenue sources were discussed, it was Mayor Anthony Calderone who raised video gambling as a possibility for further discussion.
In a Review interview with Calderone to be published next week, he said that with two years of history on video gambling in other communities now obtainable, it might be possible to more completely assess the issues that worried opponents of these games in the past.
We know that local bar owners are still looking to scratch this itch. We know that the village hates to see nearby municipalities getting a taste of gambling money while Forest Park sits on a white horse of noble opposition. We’ll wait for the debate that is sure to come. But if the village leadership is ready to cave, and the special interest of bar ownership is organized and ready to campaign, then a disorganized opposition holding fast to the simple notion that Forest Park business owners ought to aim higher than video gaming is starting in a deep hole.
That Harlem viaduct
The viaduct on Harlem Avenue at Circle is a mess. Built 104 years ago, it was certainly not engineered for the intense mix of uses and volume of traffic it receives today. Set at the single junction where Forest Park, River Forest and Oak Park meet, this perpetual bottleneck also features other key players — the CTA, Union Pacific and Illinois Department of Transportation — who mostly care that the sturdy bridge doesn’t collapse and slow down its trains. That drivers, bikers, and pedestrians suffer daily as traffic stops, crashes happen, and the main business districts of Oak Park and River Forest clog, is of no worry to the Union Pacific and its freight trains.
It is those long odds of ever getting everyone on board, so to speak, that makes us admire the continuing efforts of the three neighboring towns to push for federal funding — think $20 million — necessary to actually fix this demon intersection. Again this year, an application has been made for dwindling federal money under the TIGER grant program. Our federal government has not been exactly progressive lately in funding such essential infrastructure issues.
But the trio of towns is hopeful that they have further refined their application and that the news might be positive when grants are awarded this fall. We are suckers for this sort of perseverance and optimism.