Do small town mayors have 100-day countdown clocks? Very likely an overhyped gimmick going back, we think, to JFK. But when there is a new Forest Park mayor for the first time in 20 years, a thoughtful to-do list makes sense. Especially true when an ongoing budget crunch is likely to consume a lot of the new mayor’s early attention.
Here are the things where we’d urge Mayor Rory Hoskins to focus his work, the agenda of the village council and the work of staff:
Pass an anti-nepotism policy. In an organization the size of Forest Park, every new hire is precious. Dictating new hiring procedures that widely cast a net for applicants will bring fresh ideas, a more diverse pool of candidates and send a message of transparency that Forest Park is looking outward and not to its old-school network for talent.
Explaining current hiring practices by blaming union contracts is an excuse to cover a too-cozy hiring culture. Change the contracts. This is important.
Also, while we reported last week on two department heads who had hired their children, we also reported that two of Mayor Hoskins children had turned up on the payroll of village agencies. Yes, it was after his term as a commissioner. Yes, they were short-term positions. Still the wrong message to send. Every elected official needs to commit now to not hiring any relatives for municipal positions.
The Altenheim open space has sat underused for well-over a decade. We need a two-year plan for a village-appointed commission to gather public input, consider all options for this village-owned land, recommend, and price out that plan. Our only proviso is that while a portion of the 11 acres might be best sold off for development, the majority has to remain open, free and clear.
Meanwhile, the village should seek immediate funding to carry out demolition of derelict properties on the site.
Forest Park has created two commissions recently: Diversity and Sustainability. These are issues that should be central to Forest Park’s self-definition. Raise these commissions — and all the commissions — up. New blood, more diversity, meatier agendas, more citizen energy will benefit the village and expand the bench for future council positions.
The culture of the police department is improving but still needs conscious work. Too many lawsuits. Not enough diversity. And the chief should be asked to make the case for why the auxiliary force is not disbanded.
The Commission form of government is an active deterrent to good government in Forest Park. The mayor and commissioners should be policy-setters not department managers. Hiring a professional manager in the future will be difficult with this inefficient and obsolete structure. The arrival of a new mayor is the only time this issue can come to the top of the list. Make this happen, Mr. Mayor.
Sunlight. In every choice opt for transparency. This government operates as a closed loop. Has for decades. Inbred hiring. Meetings before meetings. Disdain for citizen involvement. If this is a new day, make it real every day.