Forest Park still suffers from its inexplicable decision to stick with the obsolete commissioner form of government. Yes, we know, inside baseball. Who cares if the town has a city manager form of government, a commissioner form, or strong mayor form?
We’ve always cared because the form of government says a lot about what the community’s elected leaders have in the way of vision for the village. The commission form, which to this day gives specific commissioners sway over individual departments, was designed for one-stoplight farm towns of a century ago. This is not how a complex urban-suburban community should govern itself in 2022.
A key indicator of this backward view is that Forest Park operated without any sort of central administrative leadership until 25 years ago when it hired its first village hall administrator. That fellow, Jim Thomas, served for three years and was followed in short order by a string of professionals who never quite fit in with Forest Park’s ego-centric mayors and a form of government that confused the organizational chart.
The midground was reached when then-mayor Anthony Calderone hired his boyhood friend and political ally Tim Gillian as administrator. Gillian had served two terms as a commissioner and knew plenty about Forest Park government. He wasn’t a book-trained manager and never pretended to be.
When Gillian retired midway through the first term of Mayor Rory Hoskins, the search — like most searches for top talent during the pandemic — was sparse. The person finally chosen was Moses Amidei. He’d been the manager for 14 years of an exurban Chicago suburb so small we had to go to Google to find it. Wadsworth, the Village of Country Living, has a population of 3,517 souls.
We were not optimistic when Amidei arrived a year ago. And time will tell. But there are indications that he is steadily moving Forest Park’s government through a series of planned steps that professionalizes and prioritizes important issues in town.
This week we see a plan put forward to make Forest Park compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as it relates to all public ways. Yes, Forest Park has been installing curb cuts as streets are redone but the new plan applies a system and a tracking mechanism to the work.
Also laudable was the tree inventory issued last week which detailed the condition of Forest Park’s urban forest. Done in conjunction with, and partially paid for by, the Morton Arboretum, the inventory reported the condition of the trees on public ways is good while specifically dictating that a handful of trees must come down and 175 more that are in worsening shape. The inventory also reported Forest Park is overstocked with maples and needs to further diversify its plantings if it is to avoid some potential future scourge such as the ones that took out so many elm and ash trees in America.
These are the sort of projects a well-run community executes as a matter of planning and purpose.
We’re impressed to see Forest Park on this path.