The arrival of HOBO and Living Fresh Market at the Forest Park Mall has been welcome news on all fronts. As noted last week at the Forest Park village council’s budget workshop, the inflow of sales tax receipts from spaces otherwise vacant may prove especially welcome.

Those sales tax dollars will lessen the ongoing deficits the village government is facing. Not a full-fledged solution but a contributing positive factor to a financial situation that is worrisome. 

In the fiscal year that ended just recently, the village government’s general fund posted a $1.6 million shortfall. By percentage that is a big number. And Tim Gillian, the longtime village administrator, is predicting that despite the increase in sales tax that the current fiscal year will also produce a deficit.

Over time, new development in the village, residential and mixed use projects we have reported on, will also contribute to revenues in a positive way. Incremental gains.

At the budget workshop, council members brainstormed cost saving measures. But the ideas suggested were small and limited in their potential impact. And we have little doubt that Gillian and his staff have already picked the bones on the expense side of the ledger. 

The chronic nature of these shortfalls is going to require bigger thinking and reimagining of how local government operates. Whether it is consolidating services or sparking added development, the challenges are immediate and real. 

High-risk funerals

Good to see attention being paid to the issue of the few but raucous funeral processions that pass through our villages causing disruption and seeding potential violence.

Last week, taking action, based on the efforts of Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, a gathering was held in Forest Park of county and local law enforcement and local funeral directors. It was a fruitful discussion that will be a foundation for a coming Cook County task force on the subject.

We were struck by the shared concerns of both parties over these gang-activated exhibitions of traffic weaving, loud shouting, and, occasionally, gunfire-accompanied processions. At the same time, there were interesting differences in how to describe these sporadic events and how to issue consequences.

In the conversation, law enforcement termed these events “rowdy processions.” But a local funeral director took issue and said the language has made the conversation more difficult. Not that the funeral industry is sugar-coating the troubling events. They choose the term “high-risk funerals.” 

Detective Sergeant Jason Moran of the county sheriff’s office has been charged with working on this issue. He noted, “The first thing we said is we cannot criminalize funerals and wakes, so that is something that is very important.” 

But criminal acts are criminal, beyond the stunning break with the norm of burying one’s dead with reverence. A funeral director at the meeting said there needs to be added police presence and the possibility of legal consequences

A first conversation on a complex topic. Positive and informative to see the interested parties set out their thoughts.