It is a good thing that Forest Park’s village government contracts with a lobbyist who represents its interests in both Springfield and Washington. At a moment when there is considerable money flowing out from those capitals and into small towns, Forest Park needs to aggressively make its case for its share.
Especially in a village without home rule authority, and therefore with limits on how it can raise taxes and fees, working the levers for grant funding with the help of a lobbyist is imperative.
We also get the logic that, since he took office, Mayor Rory Hoskins, a Democrat, has hired a lobbyist in Michael Axelrod and his GPS Strategies with genuine Democratic bona fides — his dad is David Axelrod, the longtime associate of Barack Obama. Rounding out the logic is that the executive purse strings in both D.C. and Springfield are exclusively in the hands of Democrats at this moment.
So all good. Except, why has it proven so hard to pry any sort of ongoing report of activity on Forest Park’s behalf out of Axelrod and into the hands of the village council and the public? Sort of routine for an elected body to get a report from a contractor before approving a monthly $2,000 payout.
Commissioner Jessica Voogd has rightly been on top of this issue for several months. Through our reporting, we now know that Hoskins was giving Axelrod advice on what information to report to the council back in August. It wasn’t anything super-secret. We could have provided much the same list just from our reporting. The only item that was news to us is that Axelrod “facilitated a short introductory for Mayor Hoskins to greet White House Infrastructure Czar (Mitch) Landrieu.” That’s good, we suppose.
The village council stopped paying Axelrod a bit ago, pending a report. And that report, closely mirroring Hoskins’ talking points to Axelrod, according to Voogd, was finally delivered. We should know this week if the council will now begin paying Axelrod again.
The bigger picture to us is why Hoskins continues to play things so close to the vest. He regularly excludes his fellow elected officials from early input on key topics. And that logically extends to excluding the public from having a voice.
It is not a positive trait in a mayor who wants to be seen as transparent but is actively not.
Coffee and pot
Forest Park has been actively working to reduce the number of straight-up bars on Madison Street and across the village. It has been a years-long process.
The strategy is based on the idea that taverns — a lot of alcohol, minimal food — are becoming obsolete, are the source of late-night nuisance for police and residential neighbors, and don’t do much to support other commercial tenants.
So we watch as the former Forest Park Tap Room is about to be reborn as Robert’s Westside, a music venue with food and drink. And we have watched with curiosity as the venerable, and sometimes troublesome, Doc Ryan’s closed its expansive spot on the street.
A second cannabis dispensary was announced for the location but it seemed too big for such a use. Now comes word that the one-level portion of Doc Ryan’s has been sold to an Oak Park couple who will open a coffee shop and roastery next spring.
A good outcome.