With a new mayor in office, there will be many opportunities to watch for changes in the direction and focus of our village government, some big, some small.
We got a hint about one such change last week when the Review reported on an ongoing protest by union workers at a Madison Street construction site. This is the apartment and commercial project being constructed by Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group, owned largely by Jerry Reinsdorf, the sports mogul.
The development company chooses, when possible, to avoid hiring union workers on its projects. When possible would be when municipalities don’t turn the screws on a developer to force hiring of union workers, local workers, minority workers, to force pay levels at prevailing wages.
Forest Park lacks Home Rule authority to enforce such hiring but has also typically lacked the will to make such hiring an issue as projects move through the permitting process. The village council unanimously approved the Madison Street project 13 months ago. Former Commissioner Tom Mannix made a last-minute request for village staff to urge the developer to hire union workers but that request came late and lacked muscle.
Now with Rory Hoskins seated as mayor, it seems as if Forest Park might be ready to be more forceful in demanding that developers use union workers and follow other more progressive hiring standards on wages, benefits, safety. Hoskins has a strong connection to labor and his views come as no surprise.
When, hopefully, another notable development comes forward, we will see how persuasive Hoskins can be in bringing his village council with him down this new path which might be packaged as part of a “responsible bidder ordinance.”
Meanwhile, buried well down in last week’s coverage, was Hoskins’ casual aside that the time may come when he asks Forest Park voters to again consider Home Rule authority. When, fairly early in his 20-year tenure, former Mayor Anthony Calderone sought Home Rule powers, that referendum went down in spectacular fashion. Times, of course, change but we presume Home Rule would remain a heavy lift.
Our library launches
The bids are in, the construction contracts are close to signed and the anticipated remaking of Forest Park’s public library is ready to begin. The six-month, $1.3 million project has many purposes: Using limited space more effectively, repurposing space to meet the dynamic needs of this modern library, and widening accessibility for all visitors.
This project has long been contemplated and library trustees have been socking away money for the effort. Now we’ve all gotten a boost as the library has won a $50,000 grant from the state to fuel accessibility work specifically to remake restrooms constructed just before America became aware of this inequity. Of course, the library had planned to redo the restrooms but now we have help from our fellow Illinoisans. And the library has that $50,000 extra to invest in the facility or programs as this erupting gem moves forward.
This editorial has been updated to reflect that the library is close to signing construction contracts for a remodel.