The Forest Park Review sent questionnaires to each person running for public office in 2023. The candidates’ replies are as shown as they were received by the Review. For more on a candidate, click their name or photo.
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?
The former U.S. Army Reserve is a potential development opportunity for the Village of Forest Park. However, with most commercial real estate transactions with a historical background like the Army Reserve, an environmental study is in order. For example, we must fully access whether the site has asbestos in the buildings or leaky underground storage tanks. These issues could potentially cost the village hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to just remediate. We owe it to our taxpayers to do our due diligence to determine the true value of the property. So, for this reason, I do not believe the Village of Forest Park should pursue this opportunity at this time.
Furthermore, we need a clear understanding of the water drainage improvements to the facility in Fort Sheridan in the northern suburbs. We need the actual cost before we could determine if the U.S. Army Reserve is a fair trade for the Fort Sheridan project.
Lastly, the question I want to propose to the Village of Forest Park, is to address the numerous issues with purchasing the property, Do we really need to buy it? As the governing body, it is unnecessary to purchase a property to control it. We can control how the real estate is used by zoning. We determine the best use of the land and zone it accordingly. Then, we can let the private sector fund the project. We eliminate our exposure and potentially secure a steady tax stream.
Under fairly narrow and ideal conditions, Forest Park should pursue acquisition of the former U.S. Army Reserve site on Roosevelt Road. The possibility should stay on the village’s radar, since a large, revenue-generating development on a busy street would be highly beneficial both in terms of making Roosevelt Road a more attractive corridor and obviously in terms of economic benefit to the village. Acquisition of the property would give the village the ability to do an RFP and control future development, though future use can also be controlled by the village through zoning in the event that Forest Park is not the purchaser.
However, refusal by the Army’s Office of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) to allow environmental studies prior to an exchange partner being selected for the Fort Sheridan work in October 2022 was a red flag, as there are known contaminants on multiple areas of the property. Additionally, only a Phase 1 environmental study has been done on the property. Being allowed to do a Phase 2 environmental study, and the scope and breadth of environmental remediation needed, would certainly be determining factors in whether the village should pursue purchase and at what price.
In terms of a minimum bid, as asked, zero is the obvious answer. As for maximum, it is impossible to provide a number without due diligence, such as environmental studies and a market analysis, but the village should leverage relationships to ideally acquire the property at below market value. Initial discussions between the village and BRAC touched on preferential opportunities for the village, and the fact that the property has sat untouched and still available speaks to both the questionable desirability of the exchange process offered by the Army and the potential to acquire it cheaply.
The best use for the property would obviously be something that generates much-needed property or ideally sales tax revenue for the village; market forces will determine the specific use.
Yes, I do think that we need to be actively involved in the bid process. Our village government has been actively preparing for this eventuality for more than 10 years — to position the Roosevelt corridor as a second business district in Forest Park.
The bid process would provide us with additional information about the building, land, and the opportunity it presents. As I am not an expert in the procurement of decommissioned military bases, I’ll leave it to experts to advise us on the proper amount to bid. Participating in the process is an opportunity for the village to learn more. I would expect that it would include the opportunity to leave if our participation was not a good fit. We should always be open to asking questions while researching, especially concerning the village’s need to upgrade several areas of its physical plant and generate tax revenue.
Enhancing and expanding the businesses and unoccupied property on Roosevelt has been something I have been in favor of for years. The Army Reserve Site is just one of several locations, that if developed, can improve the appearance of our Roosevelt Road corridor, and help generate much-needed revenue to Forest Park. Specifically, the Army Reserve property would have to be appraised by a licensed appraiser, and more attention paid to the environmental conditions of the existing structure and the land it sits on. Potential uses for this parcel of land could be a car dealership, hotel, or a new residential development.
I do believe we should explore our options anywhere in town but especially on Roosevelt Rd. I think the site is an asset and as a council see what is the best use. The land should be tested to find out if there are any contaminants that would then need remediation then a much better cost analysis could be done to figure out a minimum bid.
I believe the village should continue to monitor the US Army reserve site as a potential future asset. It is important to thoughtfully consider the opportunity, which includes due diligence as it relates to the environmental condition of the property.
It is important to note that the Village has been looking to acquire this property for decades. A grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity helped the Village complete the FP Army Site Redevelopment Planning Study in 2012. That study said, “Forest Park is wise to be pursuing this long-term planning for this important geographic area within the municipality.”
It is also worth noting that the Forest Park Comprehensive Plan says of the property: “The Village should explore further opportunities for continuing discussions with the federal govt to explore the redevelopment of the army reserve center…If these properties become available, consideration should be made for pedestrian friendly development, along with the potential to generate additional revenue.” -Village Comprehensive Plan, pg 83
A TIF district was created around this area with the goal of unifying the look of the Roosevelt Road corridor with streetscape upgrades. Improvements were made with the anticipation of future development of the Army Reserve site.
Ultimately, I believe we should continue to monitor the site. There are many unanswered questions, a big one being the environmental state of the land, so it would be premature to speculate on a purchase price. That said, the Village’s acquisition of this property could provide some exciting opportunities for the future of Forest Park. The Village could build a new municipal complex, create pedestrian friendly greenspace, or lease land to casual dining restaurants. Development must be strategic, with a focus on sustainable uses while maintaining Roosevelt Rd as an economic engine. The Village must find that ideal balance between pragmatism and innovation.
2. How should the discussion of this acquisition be more public and transparent?
I do believe the discussion surrounding the acquisition of the U.S. Army Reserve should continue involving the community in a public and transparent manner. I encourage the village hall meetings to be open to the public and accessible by Zoom. Our agenda for these meetings will be clearly defined prior to meeting, and the documents will be made easily accessible. Most importantly, we should always have a seat at the table for community’s opinions and feedback.
The potential acquisition of the property, if being actively considered, should be discussed in open session during a village council meeting. A public hearing and presentation of a plan by the village should be offered to residents for their input and buy-in.
The reality is that Forest Park has a lean, hard-working group of staff and elected officials. We’ve elected individuals who care about their work. They all have full-time jobs in addition to their elected roles, which are also full-time responsibilities.
Public processes and transparency are the purposeful sharing and involvement of the community in purposeful decision-making. I’ve never found anyone in Forest Park to be shy about expressing their ideas – but creating forums to ensure that these ideas are expressed in a meaningful way to help folks feel that their ideas are heard and valued is important. Mayor Hoskins’ Altenheim forum is one such venue.
The due diligence for any property acquisition must be done by the department heads working in tandem with the Village Administrator, and third-party experts. The risk to the taxpayers must be considered to ensure we are protecting the interests of the community. We must have all the facts and discuss these openly. The early discussions should happen at the administrator level with council approval. Once purchase price has been established and the Council determines it has a funding mechanism, a public meeting could be held to determine the outcome.
Let’s get all the facts , be informed and make the best decisions for Forest Park.
To me, transparency means easy access to information. It means embracing citizen engagement and opinions. The Village should continue to monitor the Army base and its availability, while encouraging public engagement at every step.
The Army site and its potential acquisition should be part of a strategic plan that includes a search for grants to conduct a new planning study. Public discussions, a documented plan of action, and research into best uses of the property work together to provide clear, consistent information. This along with regular public engagement will make citizen involvement easier, more relevant, and ultimately better for the village.
3. What do you believe is the single greatest commercial development opportunity in Forest Park?
I believe the single greatest commercial development opportunity in Forest Park is the Roosevelt corridor. This is a large piece of land where we control both sides of the roadway for a long stretch. If we developed in this location, the increase in traffic flow would not cause severe congestion because of the two lanes heading east and west. In addition, this east/west thoroughfare is a main artery used to travel in and out of Chicago, Oak Park, Berwyn, North Riverside, Broadview, Maywood, etc. We have an opportunity capitalize on the commuters traveling on this road by offering more shops, easily accessible restaurants, and entertainment.
Circling back to the first question, the Army Reserve occupies a significant tract of land on Roosevelt and could potentially be a significant commercial development. At this stage, mixed use would be ideal in this location. A blend of affordable housing, retail shops, and potentially a hotel. It is important for the community to know that Forest Park does not have to purchase the property to control it. We could zone it based on our desired use. We will encourage private developers to pursue this opportunity with the potential of a long-term stream of tax revenue to Forest Park.
Most prominently, the village-owned Altenheim property is a development opportunity in Forest Park, though almost definitely not commercial. However, a companion analysis of the Desplaines corridor from I290 to Madison Street, as recommended by the Altenheim Advisory Committee, is something the village should investigate.
The Army Reserve Center should, of course, be on the village’s radar, as six acres along a heavily traveled route would provide robust opportunities for economic development. But due diligence must be completed and acquisition sought only under controllable circumstances, such as a Phase 2 environmental study. Zoning should be examined to control the outcome in the event that the property is purchased by an outside group.
Determining how to backfill or develop Bed, Bath, and Beyond will present exciting opportunities for the village, and there is no doubt that on a well-traveled route like Harlem Avenue, interest in the property will be abundant.
While perhaps less important but still of particular interest is the property previously known as Moran’s Garage at 7505 Randolph Street. Currently, the Department of Public Health and Safety, with help from the county’s Brownfield Site Redevelopment Program, has applied for a Phase II environmental study, and acquisition in the future is a possibility. If the site has limited contaminants, the village can go through the county’s no cash bid program to acquire the property. This would allow us to take control of the property and put it up for redevelopment and would clean up an eyesore.
The village is also waiting on an NFR letter for the property at 949 Harlem Avenue; if/when received, redevelopment will be imminent.
I don’t tend to put my eggs in one basket – something always breaks.
In talking to residents and business owners over the past year, I heard over and over again to heighten the “walkability of Madison Street.” Seeing increased business on Madison street has been incredibly important, especially during the years of the pandemic, when other towns have been losing businesses. Some have wondered how we can bring retailers to increase our uniqueness and small-town charm –unique makers that bring shoppers. Forest Park has many women-owned businesses and businesses owned by people of color, and we could continue to capitalize on that uniqueness.
Building on this, I want to add an innovation hub to Forest Park, where companies would be able to test their products with shoppers (there are pop-up stores like this on the north side and downtown Chicago for elite brands, it would be great to do this with west side brands to make Forest Park a destination). It’s a taste of what they do in the Fulton market.
It is exceedingly difficult to pick just one. Both the Harlem Avenue and Roosevelt Road sections of Forest Park are key locations for commercial development. Additionally, over the last 4 years Madison Street (DBD) has seen meaningful change and improvement. New businesses have come to Forest Park and have helped to rejuvenate the DBD. Our Chamber of Commerce has been working hard and closely with the department heads and elected officials to make this happen.
Harlem Avenue has seen positive change and we want to continue that trend. Once vacant properties or diminishing business have now seen new life. Taco bell, Mr. Beef and Pizza, and Chipotle have been the most recent additions to Harlem Avenue. Moving forward, the former locations of CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond, as well as the vacant property at Harlem and Harvard will be the new focus. Finding new ways to make Forest Park more attractive to potential buyers will be a priority for the current and newly elected administration. One idea that has been discussed is the opportunity for Forest Park to look at joining other communities and adopting an Enterprise Zone Program. Enterprise Zones are geographic regions that are granted special status to encourage development and economic growth. (“Southland Enterprise Zones — CSEDCWorks.org”) The zones may be subject to favorable tax rates, regulatory exemptions, or other incentives to encourage businesses to stay in Forest Park or Locate to Forest Park.
Roosevelt road is no exception to opportunities for improvement. The former Hobo location also provides an attractive opportunity.
Lastly, the Altenheim property is the most publicized parcel of land in Forest Park and is ready for development. I am excited to digest the findings and recommendations of the Altenheim Advisory Committee. This parcel of land has been cleaned up and freed from the crumbling abandoned buildings that once occupied the site and provides a unique opportunity for development.
Our single greatest development in Forest Park is our Downtown Business District.Always has and always will. Harlem and Roosevelt corridors are important also ,the DBD is our heart and soul.
The way folks shop, work, and enjoy their free time has changed dramatically in the last few years. Because of those changes, I don’t think there is a clear “single greatest commercial development” for Forest Park. I believe the greatest commercial development opportunity is to challenge the status quo. The Village must think about the big picture, about market trends and how innovation, equity, and sustainability are integral to successful development in the 21st century. We must consider how policy, infrastructure, and updates to village code and zoning are all vital to commercial development and investment. It is important we celebrate and protect our “small town charm” while we embrace innovation and development that provides long-term, sustainable growth for Forest Park.
Updating our Comprehensive Plan is crucial to successful commercial developments. In tandem with updating The Plan, the Village should explore creating an Economic Development Opportunity Plan, as recommended in 2014. This would outline goals, strategies, policies, and actions designed to support existing businesses, while attracting new commercial ventures and promoting growth.
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?
I believe there is a great opportunity for a balanced approach to developing the Altenheim property. One that marries the natural landscape with the potential for raising tax revenue for the community. With the 11 acres of land available, the majority would be dedicated to a beautiful green space, including walking paths and a garden area.
A benefit that should be incorporated into the design, should be access to the Prairie Path. I often ride my bike on this path to the neighboring western suburbs. The locations along the path become destinations where I spend a good amount of time in their downtown areas. We could integrate the path strategically, so that our local establishments also become destinations for fellow suburban path riders.
Furthermore, I would be interested in looking at developing some of that space to potentially create an arts district. We could offer temporary and/or permanent space based on seasonality and needs. This opportunity would offer art fairs, farmer markets, pop up shops, and more to support small and local businesses in our community. The balance of the property would potentially be townhomes and/or mid-rise condominiums. These units could be done tastefully and resemble the projects already built on Van Buren Street.
At this time, the park district’s resources are spread thin, and I believe they should not be further burdened with the build out and operations of this space.
The Altenheim property provides a good example of why the village should not be in the business of purchasing land. Here we are 20 years later, and we are still debating about the best use of this property. We are throwing away $300,000 a year of our already limited resources, to decide the future of this property. We could have zoned per our intended use and this land could have been sold to a private developer, where we would have generated an immediate stimulus and secured long term tax revenue.
A large majority of the village-owned property at the Altenheim should be left as green space preserved for public use.
Characteristics inherent to the property and its location, such as traffic restrictions and stormwater management needs, in addition to the restrictive covenant the village entered into when purchasing the parcel, are automatically limiting in terms of intensity and density of development.
The Altenheim Advisory Committee is comprised of a diverse, highly talented, and thoughtful group of residents who spent many hours over several months learning about the property, including a tour, hearing presentations from interested groups, and studying and discussing details about the zoning, restrictive covenant with the Altenheim Senior Home, easements, property lines, and more. Initial consensus from the group seems to be that the northern section of the property remain unimproved. The section immediately west of the Altenheim Senior Home has fundamental access issues and, combined with the need to meet Metropolitan Water Reclamation District stormwater management requirements, may be required to stay undeveloped. These two parcels alone account for at least 50 percent of the available property.
However, this is the bare minimum that should “stay green.” Residents paid for the property and should be allowed use and enjoyment on this large, unique, and special piece of land.
The Park District is not the best option for building and operating that green space because they have specifically said they are not interested in doing so now. The Park District has previously indicated that they don’t want to purchase it, since that would mean Forest Park residents would be paying for it twice. They have also indicated they are not interested in leasing it from the village at this point in time. Though not ideal, and though the village is not in the business of administering parks, for the time being we should continue to provide basic maintenance. Determining highest and best use for the undeveloped portion does not need to be rushed.
I respect the work of the citizen committee that has been reviewing the plans and discussing the Altenheim property. I’m in general agreement with the discussions of developing half of the available property and using half for green space, under the village’s covenant with Altenheim, maintaining a quiet, peaceful environment for the residents.
The Park District is an excellent organization and does a stellar job. I would trust them to tell us if they could take on this park when the time comes. It makes sense to keep this project in the purview of the Park District.
I am eager to see the final recommendations from the Altenheim Advisory Committee, and specifically how they, through community outreach, have ranked the opportunity for green space at this location. From my early days on the Ad-Hoc Altenheim Committee I was in favor of green space. However, to continue the growth of Forest Park, this parcel of land could best be served as a combination of ideas including residential development, and green space. I will support the work of the Committee and the voice of the residents. It is my understanding that the Park District has told the Village it is not in a position to manage any more green space at this time, however, they would be willing to revisit the issue of maintaining whatever is built in the future.
Absolutely, green space is key. It would be great to team up with park district but at the moment they are pretty busy doing great things! So I believe the village can figure out creative ways to fill the space.
The Altenheim sales contract allows for up to 8 acres of land to be developed, but at least 3 acres must remain greenspace. I am a proponent of greenspace and the economic value it provides. It is important to find a balance between preserving as much greenspace as possible, while exploring revenue generating opportunities that will provide long-term benefits. A rushed sale of land to a developer whose interest is simply maximizing profits would be a mismanagement of the taxpayers’ 20-year investment.
The park district previously stated that they are not able to assume responsibility for additional property and maintenance at this time. Depending on the development at the Altenheim property, the best option in caring for any greenspace will be determined based on the terms of the development.
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?
I define racial equity in the municipal government as the equitable access to resources and services. The policies should be established free of racial biases and sensitive to the myriad of community needs. The goal is to eliminate practices and policies that support disparate outcomes based on race. I absolutely believe racial equity should be a priority in municipal government. We should endeavor to create equitable communities. There are an immense number of opportunities in which an equity lens may improve local government. As a real estate broker, I am familiar with the importance of affordable housing and creating an equitable outcome for all residents. As a member of the Citizen Police Academy, I am learning how equitable policing practices can develop community relationships, and improved outcomes for law enforcement and the community. For example, opening economic opportunities such as minority owned cannabis dispensaries can lead to fewer barriers. Effective land use policies as my proposal for the Altenheim project, can foster a neutral space for the enjoyment for all citizens. Finally, a top-down approach from analyzing budgetary expenditures can help identify sources of inequity.
As a white individual, I don’t have the lens to accurately or in a meaningful enough manner understand all that goes into active work toward inclusion. I believe a robust diversity commission, tasked with providing regular guidance to the village council on matters, would be a good place to start. To reengage the diversity commission, including defining its role, I would like the village to seek guidance from a diversity, equity, and inclusion expert to assess shortfalls in resources and opportunities and address ways to bridge those gaps. Part of what a diversity commission might be tasked with is developing a definition of equity that Forest Park can embrace and use as a benchmark for decision-making. Reviving the diversity commission is a priority, and specific opportunities in which an equity lens might improve local government include, but are certainly not limited to, hiring practices to actively recruit a move diverse work-force; determining how to reach out to and engage people with a wider background for our commissions and committees; and ensuring that every resident has equitable access to resources and opportunities at all times.
In an ideal world, local government should model equity and inclusion in all its forms, (not just racial equity), as should the fourth estate. This should be a priority in all aspects of the Forest Park village government (purchasing, policy, communications, engagement, HR) and would increase residents’ engagement in the work of the village.
I have proposed, as have other commissioner candidates, to engage residents in the community to listen and answer questions about village life and provide information regularly where they are; to discuss topics of interest in real time.
As elected officials we are responsible, for creating an open welcoming environment so that any person considering running for office or sitting on a board is an active participant within the government. Forest Park and its electors have done a respectable job of keeping our elected leadership and committees diverse. Our committees consist of unpaid volunteers who by way of wanting to make a difference, seek out involvement. I encourage everyone who has the time and love for Forest Park to reach out to the elected officials and be part of the decision-making body of the community. I also advocate for anyone willing to circulate petitions and pursue public office. The council is decided by the residents and made possible by our right to vote. I encourage everyone to exercise that right and vote for leaders that have proven they can put in the time, do the work, and get measurable results.
Cambridge Dictionary Defines racial equality as a noun:
(A situation in which people of all races are treated fairly and in the same way. )
Treating all people fairly should always be a priority, that’s just me. In a community that is forever evolving such as ours. It is important that our elected officials represent all people.
Racial equity in government is the consistent, fair, and impartial treatment of all individuals. It is the intentional practice of creating or adjusting policies and processes to eliminate disparities and encourage inclusive engagement and representation.
The Village should create a strategic plan that includes a racial equity action plan. It would create a guiding statement for Forest Park and set annual performance measures that track objectives, actions, and achievements. An equity lens should be applied to all policy decisions. Ways to do so include paying attention to who is affected and how they are affected by a policy, who is deciding goals and setting parameters, and what are the historical and social norms driving policy decisions. To further that effort, we need to increase visibility of the job openings within the Village to encourage diverse representation of the community. This can be achieved by posting job opportunities publicly and across multiple outlets. It is important that our elected officials and village staff reflect the community they serve.
6. How should Forest Park balance public safety concerns with making policing more equitable and community-engaged?
As an enrollee in the Citizens Police Academy, I am learning about the balance of public safety concerns, while also making policing more equitable and community-engaged in Forest Park. I believe in fostering a community that has meaningful and trusting relationships with the citizens and the police force. Our community has specific challenges we need address. We must prioritize mental health, drug abuse and homelessness in our community. Our police officers are acutely aware of these needs. I want to find innovative and productive ways to support them. Forest Park currently has a mental health professional on staff for two days a week. I propose we increase that to 5 days to relieve some of their duties, and to provide targeted solutions. We also need to encourage relevant training to perform their job effectively. Let’s ensure our citizens are heard by developing a community oversight committee.
A police department’s work within the community speaks volumes about its desire to engage with residents and create trust rather than friction, and Forest Park’s police department puts a big focus on that. While COVID and a short-staffed department put some programs on rest, they are coming back, including a regular and active Neighborhood Watch group and Citizen’s Police Academy (which I am attending, and which is amazing). Our police department regularly participates in the Casket Races, the police chief or deputy chief attend every village council meeting, and officers are a visible and active part of our community.
Retirements, two devastating deaths, and a serious injury have left our department short-staffed for some time, but the department is actively recruiting, and there are currently three recruits in field training and four in the academy. While everyone from the police chief down has been out on the streets to fill in for vacancies, it’s not hard to see that the focus has been on public safety over anything else. But even so, the focus on community involvement in Forest Park’s police department is an important way to create trust between residents and law enforcement.
We’re in a time where our first responders are still recovering their staffing levels from before the pandemic. This is true for both our police and fire department in Forest Park, as well as our ambulance services which have just been brought in-house for the first time in a long time. These folks are handling a lot across the village and helping other villages. It’s an important context to keep in mind.
The community policing academy has been very well received. I’ve heard great things about this program and how the participants have appreciated gaining insight into our police officers’ roles in the community. I want to ensure that our community has opportunities to engage with the Forest Park police and fire when they can interact with the public and answer questions – but that means we need to fill vacant spots.
My experience with our first responders has been exceptional. I contacted the Forest Park police when a young man was wandering on my street who was delusional, unsure where he was. He had heatstroke and had not showered. He was going to people’s doors to determine if he lived there. I gave him a sandwich and water (with a friend) and walked with him until the police came, and I was so impressed with the officer’s gentle and caring response.
Programs such as the Citizens Police Academy, Neighborhood Watch and the Police training group that meets monthly are great ways for the Police Department to interact with the Public. These programs help to engage our residents and celebrate our Police department for the tremendous job they do. Strengthening the bond between our police department and our community will help improve communication, identify opportunities for improvement, and make Forest Park a happy, healthy, and SAFE place to live, work, play.
Public Saftey should always be the #1priority. Being equitable and engaged in the community should also take some priority. I truly believe our Police Department does a stellar job at both.
The Forest Park Police Department has been doing a great job, especially over the past few years given the challenges facing not only Forest Park, but communities all over the country. Because of those challenges, it has become more evident that public safety is not just the responsibility of the police. It requires collaboration with the community, policy makers, and our officers. To that end, I propose a holistic approach that will:
- Encourage the continued good work of our police dept., recognizing their professionalism and respectful engagement with the community
- Create a Police-Community Engagement board to share feedback with our department and serve as a conduit for resident engagement
- Strengthen our civic infrastructure. We must acknowledge that mental health, youth services, education, housing, economic opportunity, and community investment all contribute to the community’s well-being and safety
- Embrace new technology and resources, while keeping the rights and privacy of the community a top priority
- Ensure the department has the appropriate tools they need to do their jobs
- Continue to support community outreach programs, such as the Neighborhood Watch and Citizens’ Police Academy
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?
I have researched the pros and cons of home rule. Home rule can lead to increased autonomy, and localized decision making that leads to tailored solutions. For example, zoning changes. As mentioned in my previous responses, I believe effective zoning is the key to a successfully managed village. Furthermore, Forest Park will have more say in the law making and decision-making process. This will create opportunities for financial engineering such as issuing bonds. Also, there is an option to privatize certain services like garbage collection or water, making it more cost effective.
Home Rule can lead to inconsistency in policies with broader state and federal laws. This may lead to a lack of cohesion and result in conflicting policies. The extra power given to local actors can create abuses of power and corruption. I believe our greatest concern, is that Home Rule gives the village the ability to raise taxes. Higher real estate transfer fees and taxes have a chilling effect on home values and tend to drive the market down. As a homeowner with an already high tax bill, I am not a proponent of raising property taxes. Can we agree to a tax cap to avoid raising property taxes?
Not having home rule certainly is an impediment to Forest Park because we are limited in our ability to finance the day-to-day operations of the village. Home rule would open up new revenue sources. The central issue when it comes to home rule, however, is always trust; opponents of it often worry about, and there is a potential threat of, over taxation and an undue burden placed on residents. But home rule also affords the opportunity to shift the tax burden away from residents, because other avenues of taxation are opened, including special use taxes and transfer taxes. (In Oak Park, for example, the village makes $8 per $1,000 on all properties sold.) A home rule referendum failed in Forest Park in 2001. But according to the Forest Park Review, only a small number of voters participated in the process (just over 2,000). As with changing our form of government, I think it is time to take a hard look at the pros and cons and hold community learning sessions and discussion to determine if this is the best way forward for Forest Park.
No and No. Being a non-home rule entity fosters Forest Park’s inclusive and welcoming community. Becoming a home rule authority would make it more expensive to live in Forest Park for people with marginal incomes.
Home Rule authority often gets bad press because it is associated with raising taxes. Pursuing Home Rule in Forest Park affords us the opportunity to streamline our operations and be more efficient, while at the same time opening doors to new revenue streams. Communities with fewer than 25,001 residents can become home rule by passing a local referendum. This was attempted in Forest Park once before and failed. Presenting the opportunities Home Rule would provide the Village of Forest Park in a clear and transparent fashion would help to educate the residents of the benefits. It is important to know all the facts so a decision can be made for the greater good of the Village.
No, I don’t think it impedes Forest park. I don’t think we should seek home rule. The form we use seems to work well in our history.
Home Rule is granted to municipalities with populations over 25,000. Otherwise, a community would adopt home rule by referendum. Much like the different forms of government, I support open, honest discussions about the pros and cons. If it is determined that a change is beneficial to the people of Forest Park, I would support the community’s right to vote on the issue.
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 believe our commissioner style of government has served us well throughout our history. Forest Park is a community of neighbors that sets us apart from those with city manager form. This allows us to have a more democratic approach and greater public involvement in decision making. As a candidate, I do believe this is the best form of government for our community. I am open to listening to the public and moving forward towards the future together.
No. The commission form of government inappropriately gives commissioners administrative authority over a department, regardless of their experience in that area. Traditionally, the top vote-getter in a commissioner election is offered the position of Commissioner of Accounts and Finance, even if that person has never taken a finance class or looked at a spreadsheet. The same holds true for other departments; someone with zero background in building and zoning, for example, can become the boss of Public Health and Safety, with the authority to make day-to-day decisions on how the department director and employees perform their jobs.
Having a commissioner in charge of a department even if they know nothing about the field can create a toxic environment in which a seasoned and experienced department head is being told what to do by an elected official with potentially no experience in the field. Department heads and staff are hired and retained based on their ability to perform their jobs, and our department heads are exceptional. They should not have to worry about getting a new boss every four years. Rather, commissioners (or trustees, as we would most likely have if we changed to a different form of government) should set policy but not be awarded administrative control over “their” departments.
To say that traditionally commissioners have respected boundaries ignores the fact that the potential for abuse and mismanagement is inherent within this form of government. And the truth is that there are commissioners whose active attempts to manage their departments, though technically allowed, has at times created toxic situations for department heads, staff, and even residents.
Our commission form of government is mandated by Illinois statute, given the size of our village. It cannot be changed until 2027. I’m more concerned about the village’s finances and pension debt, which affects our ability to operate.
We have an overwhelming pension debt, which I am running to address, and our structural finances. We have been fortunate to have Mayor Hoskins for the past four years, who has led on finance and addressing pensions, and I intend to join him and help attack this problem head-on. Our village staff is doing a fabulous job managing our expenses and pensions, and I want to roll up my sleeves to increase revenues to help pay down our obligations. It’s estimated that we have 15 years to make a huge dent in our pension debt, and we can’t take our eyes off the ball.
To me, the form of government we have five years later depends on the taxpayers’ cost. It’s math.
In the late 90’s the elected officials recognized the potential problems with the Commission form of government and created an ordinance and the current position of Village Administrator. The authority of this position is clearly spelled out. The Village Administrator runs the day-to-day operations. Technically, the Commissioners have statutory authority over their departments, but this has not been an issue since the inception of the Village Administrator position. I have found it extremely rewarding working with Sal Stella (Director of Public Works) we communicate and collaborate, on issues and he does a terrific job! The department heads are all professional and extremely knowledgeable in their field. I respect their opinions and have always felt comfortable expressing my questions and concerns openly and honesty with all of them.
In our history it has served us well as a community. As with anything ,,if people don’t work together nothing will work.I think for us this system works.
Twenty years ago, the Village adopted the manager form of government by ordinance when they created the position of Village Administrator. This has allowed for some of the basic tenets of the managerial form to overlay the existing commissioner form of government. To put it simply, it shifted the administrative duties of the council to the village administrator, while the mayor still retains the status of chief executive officer. Gone are the days of the traditional commissioner form, where each commissioner runs their respective departments. Now we rely on department heads and a village administrator to manage day-to-day operations. Commissioners provide oversight, make policy decisions, they approve contracts, large purchases, and annual budgets. A Forest Park commissioner does not run the daily operation of their department.
That said, it is important to listen to residents. If they want to change our form of government, it should be put to a vote. It would be incredibly helpful for residents to have an organization, like the Review, do a deep dive into the five forms of government in Illinois. A change would be warranted if it allows the Village to provide residents with better service, provide more access or transparency, or limits corruption. Much like the discussion about home rule, I completely support the community’s right to petition and vote on the issue. These decisions are made by the community, not the council.
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 commissioners play an important role in the operations of our current government as an advisory role in decision making. A few examples include, forming policy and budgets, managing personnel, and approving or denying applications for permits and contracts. Simply said, they support the departments to which they are assigned.
It is ultimately the village manager and department heads who lead the day to day operations. The individuals in these roles have made a lifelong career commitment to the village and have a wealth of institutional knowledge that complement commissioners’ involvement.
I’m going to push back a little on this question, because it’s very similar to the above question, but, if answered exactly as asked, will provide a response that doesn’t address the nuances needed for a full discussion of the issue. By definition, village commissioners and the mayor do have active authority in the operations of the departments to which they are assigned. The current mayor and commissioners, again by definition, already do have that authority. If we are embracing and using our current form of government, that’s the way it works, and the question of whether the elected officials “should” have that power is moot. That is why, as a village, we should actively investigate other forms of government, because as mentioned in a previous answer, it doesn’t make sense for elected officials, with potentially no experience in a field, to have administrative authority over a department. It would be to the village’s benefit to move entirely away from the commission form of government so there would be no assignation to a particular department and no administrative control over such. Instead, trustees should be in place to set policy but not be involved in day-to-day operations.
My understanding of the Illinois statute, which I’ve read that establishes the form of government for villages, towns, etc., specifies the job description for each commissioner; it doesn’t specify how they are to be carried out. In other words, each elected official has discretion regarding how they work with the staff in their department. Said another way, there are many ways to be a colleague. One can micromanage, or one can collaborate. Given that Forest Park is a village where the department heads have so much experience, often decades, I would incline to approach the work in a highly collaborative manner with a growth mindset.
Elected officials are policy makers and the voice of the residents. The elected officials should be actively engaged with the department heads. This is necessary to gain insight into the diverse topics brought before the council members. The elected officials must be informed on the issues so decisions can be made to move the Village forward. Having open and honest dialogue with each department head Provides the framework for good decision making.
I am not convinced this is necessary, however in my experience it seems to work fine. The department heads are fulltime employees and are considered the experts in their craft. It is my opinion that over the last 4 years we have been working together for the greater good of Forest Park.
A commissioners job is to be invested in the community at large while focusing on the department that they oversee. Listening to staff’s knowledge of their trades and the insights they bring to the village. Being thoroughly informed is key too. I believe it works if you work it.😉when things are done with the right intent it all makes sense.
Elected officials should provide oversight. They should work with department heads and the village administrator to stay informed about processes, issues, and the needs of their department. I have made a point of checking in with department heads when I have questions or ideas. They are my first stop. Though commissioners do not run the day-to-day operations, they are accountable to the public for what happens in their departments. Therefore, I have been committed to staying informed, discussing ideas, and moving forward on the ones that are collectively agreed upon. For instance, by working with the director of public works, I learned about the troubling state of our village fleet of vehicles. I shared my ideas with department heads, and we worked together to create a fleet management plan and establish an equipment fund. This is managed by Village department heads, and is a promise to the future, guaranteeing resources are allocated for the proper care and life cycle planning of village equipment and vehicles. Commissioners should provide oversight and support for their departments. Working collaboratively produces outcomes that are greater than the sum of results achieved separately.