A group of local volunteers is trying to put a video gambling referendum on the ballot next April. But they’re not the only ones who are trying.
Former village commissioner Rory Hoskins and another volunteer, Kris McCoy, said others were out on Election Day trying to get various referenda questions on the spring ballot. McCoy said someone knocked on her door recently asking her to sign a petition regarding yet another referendum.
She said it had three questions on it, such as “Should the Village of Forest Park continue to plow all of the sidewalks in the community?” Usually there is only room on the ballot for three referendums. Other Forest Parkers who voted on Tuesday reported questions including, “Should the Village of Forest Park restrict tobacco sales to only those persons over the age of 21 years?” “Should the Village of Forest Park work to remove the Forest park [sic] students from Proviso High School District 209?” and “Should the Village of Forest Park use the estimated $200,000 in future annual video gaming license revenue to lower property taxes on residents?”
McCoy doesn’t know who is behind this petition drive but believes the move is not a coincidence.
“Thinking about it, this might be an effort to put the questions on the April ballot, and I’m thinking they are trying to crowd us off,” she said. “It’s a little disappointing and seems underhanded to put us off again.” [See Kris McCoy’s letter to the editor in today’s Viewpoints, page 16.]
Nonetheless the volunteers remain undaunted.
“It’s about the process,” said Hoskins, explaining why they were out on Election Day at polling places trying to get signatures for a binding referendum regarding video gaming.
A previous effort was stalled when the Forest Park Village Board passed an ordinance last month allowing video gaming in the village after much debate for and against the issue.
Hoskins said the board’s move to approve the ordinance was a very quick turnaround and didn’t give residents much time to get involved prior to the village council’s vote, Oct. 24.
So the group is trying to get a binding referendum on the ballot in the spring.
“It’s a citizens group,” he said. “The motivation is that the people voted in 2013. We would like to see the people vote on it again. It’s about the process.”
He said he and others who are getting signatures were disappointed with the board’s move on an ordinance with little prior notice.
“Most people were disappointed in the abrupt manner the council did pass the ordinance,” he said.
An attempt was made to contact the Mayor Anthony Calderone, but he was unavailable for comment.
Hoskins said getting a new petition out on the ballot in the spring is not primarily about video gaming but about the voice of the residents being heard.
“Not that people are for or against this, but they didn’t like the process,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of people [today] who didn’t like the process and wanted to vote.”
Despite the potential roadblocks, the group says they’ve been out since September gathering signatures and Hoskins hopes the Election Day efforts will give them the 2,500-plus they need.
“I think this committee is doing their best to cover all the polling places,” he said. “Everyone who is doing this is doing it as a volunteer. There are some [others] circulating other referendums, but I don’t know what their interests are and they don’t live in Forest Park.”
Patrick Jacknow, who spearheaded the effort to get the referendum on the Nov. 8 ballot said he is not involved in the current drive and will work with the village instead on strong legislation when it comes to limiting video gaming signage in businesses. He said he was never anti-business but believes the village board dropped the ball regarding the issue.
“I still feel that the council as a whole could have been more open to our group,” he said. “They could have stepped up and been more hands on and ‘let’s figure this out together.'”