Following are some observations about the campaign preceding the election on April 4:

Voter engagement

It seems to me that Forest Park residents are more engaged than usual in the run-up to next week’s election. Over 200 people attended the candidate forum held at Grant White School on Feb. 28, and I counted a total of 125 candidate yard signs on Circle Avenue between the Green Line station and 16th St.

That’s good news. One caveat is that the average age of those attending the candidate forum, as far as I could see, was 70 or more and attendees were all white except for two people of color in the audience and two people of color among the candidates.

Those numbers do not represent the demographics of Forest Park. Residents over 65 comprise just 17% of the population of around 14,000 and Black folks make up 28%.

A few plausible reasons for the aberrant percentages. One might be that Blacks in Forest Park tend to be younger than the average, are working and have lots to do when they get home from work, and are therefore not available on a Tuesday evening when the forum was held.

I don’t have proof of this but I suspect a big percentage of the Black cohort are renters (half of the 696 households in town are renters). What that might mean is that they’re not as invested in the village as are long-term homeowners. But that’s only one explanation.

Candidates for village offices

Dan Haley, publisher of the Forest Park Review, which co-sponsored the forum, noted in his opening remarks that the election was competitive. From what I heard at the forum, all of the candidates had laudable motivations for running, cared about the village, and had something positive to contribute if elected.

The closest thing I could find to an opinion poll regarding who might win is the number of yard signs blooming around town for each candidate. To get a sample, I drove the entire length of Circle Avenue from the Green Line to 16th Street and counted every sign. Here are the totals:

  • Hoskins 40
  • Doss 24
  • Nero 12
  • Russ 11
  • Maxham 11
  • Voogd   7
  • Landgrebe   1
  • Melin-Rogovin   0

At the forum, Hoskins, Nero, Maxham and Voogd had an advantage, in my opinion, because they could list all of the things that they have actually accomplished as commissioners. For me, the only choice I have to make is between Russ, Landgrebe and Melin-Rogovin. Regarding the mayor’s race, John Doss is a good man and has a good track record as a board member at The Park and as director of Public Works. That said, I’m going to vote for Hoskins thinking, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I never have figured out why Doss threw his hat in the ring.

Candidates for D209 high school board

Regarding the race for three seats on the Proviso District 209 school board, voters will be presented with lots of choices: incumbents Theresa Kelly and Claudia Medina, joined by first-time candidates Jenny Barbahen, Sandra Hixson, David Ocampo, Maribel Aguirre, Jayda James and Jon Kubricht.

If the number of yard signs in town are an indicator of interest in and/or knowledge of who is running, what is revealed is that almost no one knows much about what goes on in D209 and, worse, very few care, even though Provsio East and the Proviso Mathematics and Science Academy are Forest Park’s public high schools.

I counted only six yard signs promoting D209 school board candidates and all of them were for Medina and Kubricht.

As far as I can tell, the big issue, the issue creating polarization on the D209 board, is the superintendent, James Henderson.

Medina doesn’t mince words regarding her opinion of Henderson. She accuses him and the five member majority who support him as running a “dictatorial regime.” 

Jon Kubricht, who is running with Medina on what they call the Proviso Excels slate, is also a vocal critic of the current superintendent and his supporters on the board. According to an article in the Review (3/22/23), Kubricht contends that Henderson and his allies have “created a situation of chaos with cuts in staff, programs, and the mismanagement of finances and spending. 

Also on the ballot will be a trio of candidates who seem to want to take the baton from the Forest Park-based Proviso Together group and move forward with what they were trying to do. Sandra Hixson, Jenny Barbahen and David Ocampo, who refer to themselves as the Proviso 209 United slate, said in a letter to the editor that they are running as a slate because Henderson and his supporters “have dismantled much of the recent progress made.” 

At this point in the race, I still don’t know whom I will vote for. What I have decided is that Henderson is the prime impediment to moving forward with the progress made in our high schools before he took over at the helm.