The debate over video gaming is creating an unnecessary division within our village, pitting neighbors against neighbors, friends against friends, business owners against business owners and putting village officials in a very tough spot.
As a local business owner, Forest Park resident and a person who finds this division and conflict unnecessarily uncomfortable, I feel it is important to help find a solution so the village can move forward on this divisive topic.
The solution is simple. Luckily for us, we live in America. Our forefathers fought hard to create our democratic process by which we can solve such debates allowing registered voters the right to have a voice in the governance of our communities. I suggest that Forest Park citizens should have the opportunity to vote whether or not to overturn the current ban on video gaming via a binding referendum on the ballot in the general election Nov. 8, 2016.
Didn’t we just vote on this? Yes. Three years ago there was a non-binding referendum on the ballot in the municipal election. However, much of the debate on video gaming has stemmed from three issues some people in the community have had with the results of the last referendum.
First, it was non-binding and basically an informational poll of the constituents. The results of this referendum concluded that 68 percent of Forest Park citizens voted to uphold the ban on video gaming.
However, it was non-binding and the village commissioners now have the ability to bring the topic back for discussion. They even have the authority to override the non-binding referendum and make video gaming legal in Forest Park without a vote from the citizens. This can be perceived as disregarding the will of the people.
The second challenge with the last referendum is that some suggest that there was low voter turnout and therefore not an accurate representation of the community’s position on this topic.
Although the municipal elections, held in early April, are the most important local elections, they yield lower voter turnout. The municipal ballot is far less glamorous than the general elections when we get to choose a president or governor.
The municipal elections, allow us to vote for our judges, school boards, village commissioners, mayors and a plethora of other offices and referendums. As exemplified by this debate, it is local elections that allow you to have a direct one to one vote on a topic or for the people who make the real decisions that impact you personally and financially.
The third challenge was that voters expressed confusion about the wording of the last referendum. Voting “yes” meant that you did not want video gaming. And voting “no” meant that you did want video gaming.
Unfortunately, legalese somewhat dictates the language used, but a more clearly written referendum could have helped alleviate some voter confusion: “Shall video gaming be prohibited in the village of Forest Park?”
The solution is clear. In order to a provide a fair and permanent solution for our village, the citizens of Forest Park should have the opportunity to vote whether or not to uphold the ban on video gaming in a referendum on the ballot in the November general election.
I will be working with a group of people (for and against video gaming) over the coming weeks to pass petitions and gather signatures in order to add this referendum to the ballot. I encourage everyone to make sure you are registered to vote, and for registered voters to sign the petition so that your voice can be heard.
For more information or if you would like to gather signatures in your neighborhood, please visit SayYesToAVote.com.