This week’s Review happily carries a One View from Village Commissioner Tom Mannix. It is an intriguing, though perhaps somewhat rushed, proposal on a method to fund and organize the suddenly supported Culture Park proposal for the village-owned Altenheim property.
We’ve thought Ralph DiFebo’s concept of a destination outdoor amphitheater surrounded by an array of more neighborhood focused amenities is ambitious, lovely and as carefully developed as a small band of dedicated volunteers can make it. We’ve reported on and editorialized about DiFebo & Friends’ dedicated efforts on this over the past couple of years in hopes of keeping the concept alive in the face of the overwhelming silence that has come from village hall on the topic of this fabulous piece of land.
Now, after seeking some sign of support from village hall for months and months, DiFebo was put on the council agenda a couple of weeks back, made a 30-minute presentation and, just like that, Culture Park was deemed to be “it.”
All along we’ve assumed, and we know DiFebo assumed, that the village would appoint some sort of Altenheim planning commission to solicit and vet multiple ideas for how to use this 11-acre treasure. That never happened. So be it. As noted, we think the Culture Park concept is great.
But it still needs vetting. It needs more critical analysis. It needs to be tugged and poked in a loving but tough public process. And obviously, a key piece of that analysis has to do with financing a multimillion-dollar project. Another vital discussion has to do with long-term ownership of this now publicly owned parcel and how Culture Park would be organized and governed.
Which brings us to Mannix’s essay. First, thank you, Commissioner, for sharing your idea publicly. That’s how worthy public discussions start. Second, the governance/financing model suggested by Mannix is a fascinating one and absolutely needs to be on the short list of options. He is looking back at an obscure, some would say inside, piece of state legislation from the 1990s which authorized creation of a Forest Park Civic Center Authority. Neighboring River Forest won the same seldom-granted privilege in that era and used it to create the River Forest Community Center on Madison and Thatcher.
Powerfully, the civic center model comes with taxing authority via referendum. And, says Mannix, it would or could allow the village to retain ownership of the land which may or may not be essential.
Here’s where we urge a pause in Forest Park’s troubling tendency to do absolutely nothing and then leap off the high dive. Mannix suggests that the membership of the five- member board for a Civic Center Authority could be appointed as soon as the council’s next meeting. Whoa!
Rightly he calls for the appointment of Ralph DiFebo to the board and wisely suggests the inclusion of a resident of the Altenheim. But all in good time.
Finally, unexpectedly, we are at the starting gate for an Altenheim project. Let’s appoint a commission, set some parameters and a timeline and dig into this possibility.