The Forest Park Review sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The Review’s questions are in bold and the candidate’s responses are below.
Name: John Doss
Previous Political Experience: Commissioner for the Park District of Forest Park, 16 years, currently serving 4th term as president
Previous/Current Community Involvement: Park District of Forest Park Commissioner, 16” softball advocate, participant, volunteer, and planning leader; life-time volunteer for numerous Village of Forest Park and Park District of Forest Park events.
Occupation: Retired Director of Public Works, Forest Park
Education: Proviso East High School
1. Do you believe Forest Park should actively pursue acquisition of the former U.S. Army Reserve site on Roosevelt Road? If so, what do you believe would be the best use of this property and what do you think should be the minimum bid for its purchase?
I believe the Village is not in the financial position to purchase this property. I strongly believe that the Village can use its network to find a developer for this land, leveraging the resources that come with professional municipal planning companies to ensure this large site, on a major commercial corridor, is developed into retail use space that produces economic benefit, such as retail sales tax, for our Village. In the past the Village developed an introductory plan for this property and I would like to bring this to the attention of the Village Council for a more in-depth, and targeted, discussion.
2. How should the discussion of this acquisition be more public and transparent?
My position as candidate for the office of Mayor of Forest Park is strongly focused on community transparency and involvement. There is no greater team than the team of residents who live in our Village; those most directly impacted by the decisions of Village leadership. Under my administration, when important decisions which affect the residents of Forest Park are being considered, town halls, forums, and commissions which include a wide variety of residents’ interests will be encouraged and welcomed. John Doss’s door will be open.
3. What do you believe is the single greatest commercial development opportunity in Forest Park?
Madison Street has been the crown gem of Forest Park’s commercial development focus for many years and as a result our Madison Street district has experienced many encouraging changes. I do, however, believe that our Roosevelt corridor routinely goes unsupported or unnoticed. Some of our neighboring communities have embraced the opportunity on Roosevelt with tremendous success, and Forest Park would benefit to equally support both Madison Street and Roosevelt Road commercial districts in the go-forward.
4. What do you believe is the minimum portion of the 11 acres at the Altenheim property that should be preserved as green space for public use? Is the park district the best option for building out and operating that green space or do you believe that there are better options for operating the space?
Deindustrialization and deeper rural expansion driven by COVID19 pandemic housing flight patterns have left many American cities with thousands of vacant properties. In fact, one analysis identified 60 cities with at least two vacant properties for every 1,000 residents. More than just an eyesore, vacant or abandoned properties can affect residents’ physical and mental health conditions, and have been associated with neighborhood gun violence. The “broken window” theory provides a framework for understanding how vacant properties affect the larger community. Vacant properties weaken social ties and the deterioration of both physical buildings and relationships comes to symbolize a lack of accountability. This theory helps explain why the same neighborhoods struggling with urban decay and vacant properties often face a higher risk of gun violence. Forest Park is in a unique position to combat all of this by putting the park back in Forest Park. When other municipalities attempt the remediation of these situations, the landscaping process is called “greening”, which involves clearing debris, planting grass and trees, and adding public places for residents to gather and connect. While I will always believe that “Greener is Better”, and am a strong advocate for green spaces and the effect such spaces have on a community, I can speak first hand to say the Park District of Forest Park is not interested in taking ownership of this space. The Park District would, however, be interested in partnering with the Village of Forest Park to support developing a plan for how we can best use the space. If elected mayor I would strongly encourage a collaboration of this caliber. Additionally, and as I’ve noted previously, I firmly believe there is no greater team than the team of residents most directly impacted by a decision of this sort and before I could ever reasonably state a definitive plan for this Altenheim Property a legitimate, unbiased, and special interest-free series of Town Hall meetings, commissions, and resident information forums would have to be introduced. I believe, and in many ways know, that the social benefits of connecting with one another through community spaces, such as parks and green space, is a core value of this great Village. This Altenheim property is a once in a generation opportunity for Forest Park to ensure our village’s legacy is solidified, but no singular government official, mayor or otherwise, should make this decision without the input of the people who call Forest Park home.
5. How do you define racial equity in municipal government? Do you believe it should be a priority? What are the specific opportunities in which an equity lens might improve local governance?
Municipal governments in Illinois have been trending positively with respect to racial equity for a while now. But this does not mean we still do not have a long way to go. I believe our Village has been thoughtful about its approach to equality thus far. However, equity and equality are not the same and in order for equity to be realized at full potential opportunities for disadvantaged or marginalized people need to be generated at the municipal level. I know for fact that I cannot speak to the situations of every Forest Park resident with certainty, as I have not walked or lived in their shoes. What I am committed to do, if elected Mayor of Forest Park in 2023, is remain open minded with an open door and be willing to listen to all people who reside in Forest Park. Until every citizen is an owner, planner, and decision-maker in the systems that govern their lives and are provided the infrastructure needed to thrive, we will always have work to do.
6. How should Forest Park balance public safety concerns with making policing more equitable and community-engaged?
Public safety should not have to be an equity issue, it should be a legal concern, and a legal concern that needs to take priority. I envision Forest Park as a safe place to live, work, and participate in community events for all people, both residents and visitors alike. To develop solutions for public safety we need to fully support our Police Department by not only collaborating with their leadership to ensure proper support from Village Hall, but also by listening to residents, the boots-on-the-ground, regarding safety concerns and ensuring community information is properly presented to public safety officials. Integrating community interest with those of our Police Department is integral to a village such as ours, with a small police department and limited resources. Identifying the needs of both the police department and the citizens they protect and serve will require collaboration, a core value of my administration. Resourcing those needs may require necessary help from outside the village. In those cases, I would drive planning sessions with the village council, public service leaders, and community leaders to ensure our village works as one team to achieve the goal of a safe place to live, work, and enjoy.
7. Do you view as an impediment the fact that Forest Park does not have home rule? Do you think Forest Park should seek home rule authority?
Not having Home Rule is certainly an impediment. Home Rule provides a long list of advantages over non-home rule communities, especially in the areas of revenue opportunity, taxation control, and housing codes and standards, the last of which is a topic directly related to resident safety – a key component to my campaign agenda. Only Home Rule units can generate money from Home Rule sales taxes, gasoline taxes, hotel/motel taxes, and real estate transfer fees taxes, among others. The village had, in early 2000, attempted to gain home rule status and was rejected. When elected I will be making Home Rule a discussion with the village council commissioners once again, because determining how the business of this village is managed is integral to its future success as a safe, clean, well-funded place to call home.
8. Do you believe that Forest Park’s commission form of government is preferable for Forest Park in comparison to a city manager form?
I do not know enough about the city manager form of government, such as where it has been successful or where it has failed, to have an opinion on its preferability. I do know this topic has recently seen more traction among some village leadership, and if it is a topic of public interest, you can trust that I am genuinely curious to know more. Ultimately, I believe in doing what is right for the Village of Forest Park. Before any significant changes are implemented under the Doss Administration, as your mayor you can trust, I will require input from village leaders, at many levels, community engagement, and thorough examination of all elements of an initiative before supporting or denouncing the proposal.
9. What role do you think village commissioners should play in the operations of the village government? Do you believe that the current mayor and commissioners should have active authority in the operations of the departments to which they are assigned?
The Village of Forest Park has a full-time Administrator whose job it is to oversee village operations. I served as the Director of Public Works from 2008-2021, when I retired. During my tenure I had extensive, first-hand, experience in the day-to-day operations of our village. Our village commissioners should play an important role as first points of contact within the community for the departments they are entrusted to oversee. When commissioners embrace the privilege of this duty the residents of Forest Park benefit from having someone to engage on matters related to municipal operations. However, in my time working for our village, I can say I have never felt an active authority exercised by our commissioners. They have questions and concerns, and rightfully so. Their concerns should reflect those of the constituents who elected them. It is a commissioner’s privilege and duty to address those concerns. But I can say, with some measure of confidence, the Village Administrator is the day-to-day person guiding municipal service department heads. When I am elected Mayor of Forest Park on April 4, 2023 I see no reason any of that would benefit from a change that did not include considerable collaboration, ideation, and community engagement.