Many who vote “Yes” to the binding referendum — “Shall video gambling be prohibited in Forest Park?” — will not be voting against gaming per se, as much as expressing their displeasure with the tactics, aka shenanigans, used by some of the video gaming supporters to prevent the issue from even getting on the ballot, and then spending thousands of dollars on campaign advertising.  

For them, the issue on Nov. 6 will not be the issue.

To me, the pro-gambling cohort had a perfectly reasonable argument. Contrary to apocalyptic warnings, the quality of life in the village has not suffered at all. 

Likewise, an April 17 article in this paper reported, “For fiscal year 2017, the village [which is facing a more than $1 million deficit] earned $17,921 from gaming, according to data provided by the village,” and an August article added that as of this year the village had pocketed $156,648.

When I called Chief Tom Aftanas, he told me there have been no real problems for the police because of gambling. 

Several bars have been able to survive financially in the face of competition from suburbs to the west of us and some have made major improvements to their facilities.

To me, rational residents of our community would have — if simply given the facts — concluded that the introduction of video gambling two years ago has not negatively affected the charm of this small town.

But the issue is no longer the issue. The primary issue is trust.

There is a decision-making process called Modified Roberts Rules of Order (MRRO) which we used at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church when I was pastor there. Unlike Roberts Rules, which allow discussion to proceed only after a motion has been made and seconded, when using MRRO, the discussion precedes the motion. Making a motion first sets up a binary situation in which you are either for or against the motion.

For example, when a council member made the motion to allow video gambling in Forest Park, the commissioners had to decide whether they were for or against it.

If they had been using MRRO, they would have begun by identifying the issue. The council could have asked, “What can we do to support the food and drink sector of the Forest Park economy in the face of the introduction of video gambling in North Riverside and other villages near ours while preventing our community from becoming the sin city of the western suburbs?”

Then at town hall meetings, bar owners could have presented their fear that if they weren’t allowed to have video gambling, they would lose their competitive edge with suburbs that do permit it.

Residents would have been able to voice their fear that bar owners would take a mile if given an inch and eventually lobby the commissioners to allow signage in the front windows of their establishments — another iteration of the slippery slope argument. They could put on the table their concern that the quality of life in this village with small-town charm would decline.

There would be no proposal to respond to. Participants would be able to voice their concerns which would allow all stakeholders to really hear each other.

Way before a motion would come before the village council, a synergistic consensus could form which would be a win/win proposal rather than an either/or proposition. The commissioners would have input from both the business owners, who for the most part don’t live in Forest Park, and the residents, who mostly don’t own businesses here, with which to craft a village ordinance that would be a win for both sides.

But trust went down the drain when the village council voted to permit video gambling, knowing full well that, in a non-binding referendum in 2013, residents voted 951 to 452 not to allow gaming. Then some pro-gambling supporters tried to thwart, with the letter of the law, not spirit of the law, the effort to go to referendum.

So when pro-gambling supporters promise that bar owners will voluntarily refrain from putting signage in their windows, anti-gambling residents simply don’t trust that they’ll keep their word.

The result is that video gambling is no longer the issue. The issue is trust. When two sides of an issue trust the other side to be vulnerable enough to reveal the fears they have about a situation, empathy is possible. When empathy is present, synergy becomes a real possibility.

Without trust, residents and bar owners can easily perceive each other as opponents, if not enemies. With trust, they can approach each other as partners who work toward creative solutions which benefit everyone.

To build trust, both cohorts have to spend lots of time together in which they are willing to be vulnerable and share their fears. And that, of course, requires trust to begin with.

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