The vote last week by the Forest Park Village Council to raise the rates charged local residential and commercial clients for water was the right one, the inevitable one. By itself, the 1.5 percent increase is modest and a reflection of increased costs the village incurs from the city of Chicago.
More importantly, the mayor and council seemingly signaled that all future hikes on water imposed by Chicago’s city government — the source of the Lake Michigan water we drink — will, more or less automatically, be passed on to local consumers. That’s a wise decision.
The village has not increased water rates since 2015, a time period in which the city has been aggressively raising water costs. Makes no sense, especially when its own budget is so tight, for the village government to effectively subsidize the cost of water.
More prudent is simply the habit of passing on the increases. As a non-home rule community, Forest Park faces very real limits on its abilities to increase revenues. It cannot forego the low-hanging fruit. Further, like every older community, Forest Park has water and sewer infrastructure issues. Every water rate increase foregone by the village chips away at future funding of vital investments in our water and sewer systems.
Forest Park continues to face a tough and chronic budget challenge. Pushing through fee increases, while annoying to taxpayers, is required action. And then the village needs some wins, such as the repopulation of the Forest Park Mall with the arrival of HOBO and Living Fresh Market. It will take some time to figure out — Mayor Anthony Calderone says three to five months — but those stores will prove to be steady contributors to the village coffers.
Baiting car thieves
Well, we say we like to encourage innovation in government and policing. So here’s one for you, courtesy of the Forest Park Police Department and, of all entities, Nationwide Insurance.
With a goal of cutting the number of stolen cars — and carjackings are top of mind in the Near West suburbs these days — the insurance company will provide the village with a “bait car” for the next three years.
What on earth is that, you say? Same question we had. Turns out to be a specially turned-out vehicle that is made to be “stolen.” Police place the car — make, model and color kept a secret — in places most likely to attract the interest of car thieves. But with an ignition system controlled by the cops, doors that can be remotely locked, and, of course, hidden audio and video to catch the perpetrators in action, the escape route will be hard to find.
Forest Park police, facing a notable hike in stolen cars over the past year, went out looking for new tools. And this is an interesting one.