Here’s a Forest Park works story that gives us hope and confidence that collaboration can solve problems, even small problems, in town.

It started with the planting of two rounds of arborvitaes, a small evergreen, on a patch of village-owned land at the intersection of Constitution Court and its cul-de-sac with Thomas Avenue. The first batch of plantings quickly died. And several of the second batch also failed.

A neighbor down the street reached out to Commissioner Jessica Voogd, who responded and also reached out to Sal Stella, the village’s new public works director. Rather than the defensiveness one might often expect from a local government, Voogd and Stella were open in sharing their frustration and the steps they took to follow up.

Specifically, the village asked McAdam landscaping, its contractor, to try and figure out what had gone wrong since the village knew the second plantings had been well-watered. McAdam investigated and concluded that the small space absorbs a lot of street salt during the winter from both the parking lot side and the Thomas Avenue cul-de-sac side. Additionally the soil had a high clay content that kept water from penetrating.

The recommended solution is for the village to dig out the top layer of clay and replace it with a more welcoming soil and mulch mix. And McAdam will follow with a blend of salt and heat tolerant shrubs and plants that should gradually prosper. 

Good work by neighbor Christian Altman (appoint him to a commission), Voogd, Stella and McAdam. This is how things should work.

 Participating remotely

Here’s an unexpected dive into Forest Park’s village code: Section 1-4-4-H-b to be precise.

The provision focuses on why elected officials can and cannot participate remotely in public meetings. 

First, why do we care? Well, Commissioner Ryan Nero was recently prohibited from taking part remotely in a critical village council meeting while he was on vacation. Nero wanted to participate. Turns out that being on vacation is not one of the three reasons the village code allows Zooming or phoning in to a meeting.

Remote attendance, under the current code, is allowed if a commissioner is sick or disabled, must be absent due to work or being on village government business, and in the event of a family or other emergency.

A well-earned vacation inexplicably does not make the cut.

However, on Monday night Mayor Rory Hoskins was allowed to attend a council meeting remotely because he was out of town on village-related business.

We’d suggest it is past time to update this code to allow and encourage electeds to participate remotely. The technology certainly makes it possible. Perhaps a limit on the percentage of meetings one can attend remotely ought to be included.

More voices around even a virtual table are preferable to limiting debate and discussion.