After the village council deadlocked on whether to install a second flagpole in front of village hall, Commissioner Michelle Melin-Rogovin took matters into her own hands.
During the June 12 village council meeting, commissioners Maria Maxham and Ryan Nero balked at spending $3,000 to install the pole, which has already been purchased and is currently stored at the Department of Public Works building, arguing that, at least in the near future, that money should be spent on other, more pressing priorities. With Commissioner Jessica Voogd absent and Melin-Rogovin and Mayor Rory Hoskins present, the vote was 2-2.
Melin-Rogovin told the Review that, since that meeting, she talked to Forest Parkers about the issue and got suggestions to raise the $3,000 through a GoFundMe online fundraising campaign platform. Since she launched the campaign on June 16, it has raised $1,490 (as of July 1). She said that Forest Park American Legion Post 414 pledged another $500, and she and Nero are working with the post to hold a fundraiser to get even more funding.
Hoskins proposed adding a flagpole because he wanted to regularly display more government flags than there’s currently room for, while also having more room for “commemorative flags” such as the Juneteenth flag and the Pride flag. He said he was concerned that, if too many flags are up on the one flag pole, lowering them half-mast would put the lower flags too close to the ground.
Under the flag display policy the village council unanimously adopted on June 12, the village can display the U.S. flag, state flag, county flag, village flag and the POW-MIA flag by right. Anything else must be approved by the village council and may only be displayed for up to five calendar days.
Melin-Rogovin told the Review she shared Hoskins’ concerns. She also noted that the Illinois Flag Code requires that, when a Forest Parker servicing in any branch of the armed forces is killed in action, the village must display the flag of whatever branch they served at half-staff. While the provision hasn’t been strictly enforced, and she doesn’t believe the village has the relevant flags on hand, it was all the more reason to get a second flagpole.
“After [the June 12 meeting] I had informal conversations with residents who casually mentioned that they would contribute to the cost,” she said. “And if that was the case, I should start a GoFundMe and that’s what I did, because if the residents felt the same way I did, that we had a flagpole that was purchased with public funds that was going to be otherwise unused, and we had a compelling case to use it, [we should do it].”
According to the fundraiser page, Melin-Rogovin herself donated $1,000 while most of the other donations were much smaller. Some notable donors included businessman Marty Sorice, School District 91 Board of Education members Kyra Tyler and Shannon Wood, former D91 board member Rafael Rosa, former Recreation Board member Jordan Kuehn, and Michelle Woehrle, one of the leaders of the now-disbanded Proviso Together activist group.
Melin-Rogovin said that Nero got involved in the fundraiser after they both reached out to the American Legion and “Commissioner Nero has a very deep relationship with the American Legion.”
She added, “I really appreciate that we’re working on this because I think it benefits Forest Park to have us working together, and this is something that really honors the entire community.”
Melin-Rogovin said that Hoskins is “very supportive” of the fundraiser. And while she isn’t sure the American Legion fundraiser would bring in enough funding to cover the rest of the cost, she said she intends to see it through.
“We need to have enough room to properly honor and respect [our service members and veterans] and display flags in our village hall and throughout our community,” she said. “We need to do it right, and I think it’s a good idea. We started the process, and we need to finish it.”
To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/village-of-forest-park-needs-two-flagpoles.