Forest Park Commissioner Jessica Voogd has announced her plan to run for re-election in the April municipal election. Her platform, as outlined in a front-page story today by Igor Studenkov, is transparency.
We are all in on that.
While Forest Park has made progress over the past four years under the leadership of Mayor Rory Hoskins, it has clung to secretive governing habits that have limited the village over multiple decades. That proclivity is driven by the mayor, who controls the agenda and has the greatest influence within village hall.
Voogd was frank in her interview in detailing frustrations with this behind-closed-doors approach to local governance. Most recently she was unhappy that Hoskins polled village commissioners privately for their views on increasing salary ranges for department heads at village hall. Hoskins avoided the Open Meetings Act with this approach, but he also missed the chance to articulate the worthy goal of boosting compensation for women in leadership posts who have been historically underpaid. This was a discussion that could certainly have taken place at a public meeting.
We have objected to Hoskins’ behind-the-curtains effort to move all municipal facilities to an abandoned military facility on Roosevelt Road. Talk about a project that needs vetting and a strategic plan, this would be it.
We’ve been gladdened by the work of Voogd and Commissioner Maria Maxham to finally get a credible public planning process in place for the village-owned Altenheim property. That happened despite Hoskins’ impulse toward secrecy.
We see active efforts at transparent government to be a sign of confidence and inclusion, which ought to be primary goals for this village government. Good for Voogd to be leading on this issue.
Out of nowhere, a TIF extension
Elsewhere in today’s Review, we have a story about Village Administrator Moses Amidei being dispatched to pitch other local governments on the previously publicly undiscussed idea of extending the Brown/Harlem TIF for another 12 years.
He made a detailed presentation last week to the school board at the District 91 public elementary schools. That board rightly said it needed time to discuss a plan that would continue to divert increases in property taxes within this TIF district for a dozen more years, over and above the initial 23-year term of the TIF.
Again, where was the public discussion by the village council of the pros and cons of this notable ask? Odd that we need to report the details of this village plan by covering a school board meeting.
Amidei will continue to pitch each local taxing body on this request. If they unanimously sign on, then the village will use its strong Springfield ties to get the legislative OK necessary to extend a TIF.
Forest Park’s village government needs to do much better than this skulking around on critical issues that impact taxpayers.