The Forest Park Village Council deadlocked on whether to install a second flagpole in front of the village hall after commissioners Maria Maxham and Ryan Nero expressed concerns about costs.
During the June 12 meeting, the council was supposed to vote on adopting an official flag display policy and approve the installation of a second flagpole in front of the village hall, 517 Desplaines Ave..
Mayor Rory Hoskins advocated for a second flagpole so the village would be able to display more flags without risking any of them touching the ground if they need to be lowered at half-mast.
The flag policy established that any flag other than United States, Cook County, village of Forest Park or MIA-POW can’t be displayed without village council approval.
While the commissioners approved the new flag policy without much issue, Maxham expressed concern about the costs, while Nero questioned whether it was the best way to spend the money, given the financial pressures Forest Park is facing.
With Commissioner Jessica Voogd absent, the vote was split 2-2, and the motion was defeated. But her presence wouldn’t have changed the vote – Voogd told the Review that she had similar concerns and would have voted against it.
Forest Park Village Hall currently has a flagpole at the southeast corner of the parking lot. It usually flies the U.S, state and village flags, and it currently flies Juneteenth and Pride flags.
Under the newly adopted policy, which only applies to village-owned flagpoles, there are only five flags that the village can display without council permission — the three government flags that are up there now, the Cook County flag and the MIA-POW flag. The policy specifically states that they can be displayed “as space allows.”
The policy sets the procedure for displaying “commemorative flags” — which, as Hoskins clarified during the meeting, means any flag that doesn’t represent a government entity. He used Juneteenth and Pride flags as examples.
A request to fly such a flag must come from either the mayor or one of the commissioners at least 60 days in advance, and the flag can only be displayed for up to 31 calendar days.
During the June 12 meeting, Nero wondered why the village needed a flag policy at all. Hoskins responded that he wanted to make sure future councils have guidance on how to deal with “different suggestions” they may get.
He said that he wanted an extra flagpole because, “generally, the protocol is not to have five flags, it’s to have three.” He wanted to fly the county flag in addition to the current three government flags because the village is “a member of Cook County,” and he also wanted to have room to fly commemorative flags because it was important for the village to recognize minority groups and make them feel like they’re seen.
Hoskins said that he planned to bring the installation of a new flagpole to the council last year, but it got pulled from the agenda after commissioners expressed concerns about costs. But the flagpole was already ordered, and it has been stored at the Public Works building “for some months now.”
“We have the policy, but we also [need to] have the infrastructure – we can’t have five flags flying on one pole,” Hoskins said.
Commissioner Michelle Melin-Rogovin said that she supported the idea because she wanted to have room to display the flags and because, as things stand, lowering the flags half-mast would bring some of them too close to the ground.
Maxham, who serves as the Commissioner of Accounts & Finance, asked about the cost of the installation, saying that she was under the impression that it was around $2,000. Public Works Director Sal Stella responded that it was true last year – but the costs have since gone up to around $3,000 due to the general increases in labor costs.
She also said that, while “there are valid reasons” for having a second flagpole, it couldn’t be called essential. And while Maxham said that there was value in doing some things that are technically not essential – such as beautification – she wasn’t sure this was one of those instances.
“It’s hard, you know, when we’re cash-strapped and can’t fund our pensions,” she said.
Nero took a harder line, saying that, while “only $3,000 there, only $4,000” can quickly add up, and he noted that the village already spent money on Pride flag banners along Madison Street and painted a small section of the street in Pride colors, all without weighting the financial impact.
Hoskins said that while he was sympathetic to those concerns, he felt that the benefits of holding festivals and displaying banners recognizing minority groups was a worthy tradeoff. Melin-Rogovin agreed saying that when it comes to attracting new residents, something perhaps not considered essential by a village official might be essential to a prospective resident.
“If we boil it all down, there’s only one flag that suffices, it’s the one right here,” Nero responded, pointing at the American flag behind the dais. “So, you only need one pole, one flag that represents everybody in United Sates of America. Everything else is gilding a lily.”
In a follow-up interview, Voogd told the Review that she shared Maxham’s concerns, saying the village “find a balance between providing basic essential services and other investments, like village beautification and community engagement and inclusion.”
“This is why we must be critical and impartial when considering agenda items like the installation of an additional flagpole,” Voogd said. “At this time, considering the village’s current financial state, I would not have been comfortable approving the installation of the flagpole. Especially considering that the council was not provided any supporting information on the proposal.”