A perceived lack of action by village officials has led some Forest Park residents to rekindle the conversation about video gaming themselves.
A group of residents, including businesspeople Connie Brown and Aubrey Jacknow, has started a petition drive in the hopes of placing a binding referendum on video gaming on the Nov. 8 ballot. Separately, former village commissioner Chris Harris has put together a town hall discussion on video gaming, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21 at the Forest Park Historical Society Cultural Building, 1000 S. Elgin Ave.
Video gaming took center stage during the citizen comment portion of both village council meetings in April with village officials stating their desire to hold a public forum on the matter in May. However, they announced in May that the planned forum had been postponed until July due to scheduling complications in May and the unavailability of one elected official in June.
The petition drive was kicked off through an opinion piece by Connie Brown, owner of the Brown Cow Ice Cream Parlor, in the June 8 issue of the Forest Park Review, in which she decried how the debate over video gaming is “creating an unnecessary division within our village,” pitting residents against each other and business owners against each other.
She said she and members of her group, which includes those in favor of video gaming and those opposing it, see a binding referendum on the question as a “fair and permanent solution” to the debate.
The group has created a website, SayYesToAVote.com, which provides additional information, including the opportunity to sign the petition at Jacknow Realty, 7342 Madison St., from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Saturday, June 18, and Saturday, June 25. Brown, Jacknow and others also are circulating petitions individually.
The goal is to gather 2,264 signatures, which is 25 percent of the registered voters in the village, by Monday, Aug. 8. According to James Scalzitti, deputy communications director of the Cook County Clerk’s Office, any objections to the petitions must be filed by Monday Aug. 15.
Mayor Anthony Calderone defended the village’s efforts to provide a public forum on video gaming, reiterating the village’s position that July is the first opportunity to bring together desired participants and have all elected officials in attendance.
Calling the petition drive “a right the citizenry has,” he said, “As long as they collect the requisite number of signatures and submit them to the County Clerk, it will go on the ballot. I just hope they are being open and honest about the question and the petition.”
Harris, a former village commissioner who ran for mayor in 2015, said his event will feature a panel of four people whom he said have been “very open” about their stances on video gaming and how they feel it will impact Forest Park.
Businessman Dennis Miller, owner of Fat Duck Tavern and Grill, and resident Andrew Johnson will represent those who support video gambling and Brown’s husband, Matt, and resident Marty Tellelian will represent those who oppose it. According to Harris, the event will feature a three-minute opening statement from each speaker followed by audience-driven questions.
When asked to comment on the town hall discussion, Calderone said he found Harris to be “interestingly silent these past couple of months.”