Elections have consequences.
Those are true words and they are playing out in Forest Park where a new mayor is having noticeable impact across a range of issues on which he campaigned in the spring.
Mayor Rory Hoskins’ impact is more noticeable for the sharp turn it represents after two decades of leadership offered by Mayor Tony Calderone.
Monday night the Forest Park Village Council by a 4-1 vote, approved a strong anti-nepotism ordinance. The new regulations prohibit the hiring of family members of current employees and current elected officials. It covers concerns of conflicts of interest, perceptions of bias and touts the need to provide equal employment opportunities. The village will “base personnel procedures and hiring practices upon individual merit and qualification, rather than political or family advantage or favoritism.”
It goes to the intense and historic insiderism in Forest Park. And it goes to the lack of diversity on a small staff in an increasingly diverse village.
Earlier this year when the Review reported on various instances of nepotism — including peripherally when the now mayor/former council member’s kids were hired for summer work at the community center — Village Administrator Tim Gillian said if the council passed an anti-nepotism law he’d willingly enforce it. Now they have.
Earlier this month, in a sign of how political sides have changed in both Forest Park and Springfield, Forest Park cut loose Matt O’Shea, its longtime lobbyist and a former village administrator with strong GOP ties. In his place is Michael Axelrod, an experienced lobbyist with a legion of Democratic links, most immediately to his dad, David Axelrod, a key adviser to President Barack Obama.
Hoskins ran on his ability to bring home money and support from Springfield. Now, working with Axelrod and Gillian, Hoskins has set three immediate targets for the lobbying effort:
Lock in promised money from the state to demolish several troubled buildings on the village-owned land at the Altenheim.
Push the CTA to solve maintenance issues at the Blue Line terminal at Desplaines, ranging from public urination to selling loose cigarettes. Hoskins is also looking to engage the CTA on future use of parking lots at the terminal which could also provide a gateway to new uses of Altenheim land.
And, maybe most quixotically, win shared funding with River Forest and Oak Park to replace the derelict Green Line viaduct at Harlem Avenue. Multiple previous efforts to fund that project through federal grants have never made the cut.
Beyond lobbying, we continue to watch with interest as Hoskins repopulates and reenergizes multiple village government commissions from the police and fire board to zoning to diversity. These commissions ought to be a training ground for active citizens and a laboratory of fresh ideas. They haven’t been in the past; they can be going forward.
It is early days in the Hoskins administration. We like the direction, the inclusion, the energy.