The sky is falling

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By Nona Tepper

September 18 marked the first day candidates could start circulating political nomination papers (ie. petitions) and the new Let Forest Park Grow-Vote No group celebrated the occasion by distributing the first political flier of the season. A helpful reader sent it in for the Forest Park Review to fact-check. If you haven't heard, the Review is fact-checking every campaign flier this election season, in an effort to inform voters. Keep in touch: ntepper@wjinc.com or jill@oakpark.com

Flier Name: "THE SKY IS FALLING"

Specs: 8 ½ x 11, glossy, two-sided

Submitted to Forest Park Review: Sept. 18

The flier features a pensive chicken and offers a few claims:   

1)        "Forest Park has enjoyed video gaming since 2016…." TRUE

The Village Council voted on Oct. 24, 2016 to legalize video gaming in Forest Park.

2)        "Video gaming hasn't changed Forest Park and has not increased crime." MOSTLY TRUE

There was a 1 percent increase in crime in 2017 compared to 2016, according to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reporting program. In 2017, the total number of criminal complaints filed to the Forest Park Police Department was 2,270, up from 2,243 in 2016. Numbers from this year are not available yet. The report does not specify cause for crime.

3)    "In 2017, the first full year of video gaming, Forest Park home resale prices jumped 10.4%--a higher increase than neighboring Oak Park, River Forest, and Riverside who do not have video gaming machines." The flier cites an article by Crain's Chicago Business. TRUE, BUT…

The Crain's article does state that Forest Park's home sales price increased 10.4 percent year over year. This is more than the home resale price in Oak Park (-2.3 percent), River Forest (9.3 percent) and Riverside (-5.6 percent).

John Lawrence, founder of the Oak Park-based Weichert Realtors Nickel Group and president of the Oak Park Area Association of Realtors, credits new construction and high property taxes in neighboring towns with driving up the local sales price. Weichert sells homes in Forest Park and other western suburbs of Chicago.

"There's people who like what the housing options are over there," Lawrence said. "There's a lot of investment going on in Forest Park, there's been some really nice, new construction homes built. There are people who are choosing to go to Forest Park to avoid some of the tax burdens in Oak Park, so you can get a really nice, new construction home for less and the taxes are going to be less."

3)        "In the short time Forest Park has had video gaming it has added nearly $300,000 to the Forest Park budget that pays for vital services and helps save taxpayer dollars." TRUE, BUT...

The total amount earned through video gaming was $165,141 in fiscal year 2018 and $17,921 in fiscal year 2017, according to data provided by the village of Forest Park, which includes all license fees, permits, and the village's share of the terminal income. As of Sept. 17, the village had so far received $104,035 in revenue from video gaming in fiscal year 2019. The village's fiscal year runs from May 1 to April 30. The total the village has made so far from video gaming is $287,097.

As for how the village uses the money, video gaming revenue is added to the village's General Fund, the primary fund in the village that funds "basic services," according to the 2017 auditors' report.

SENT BY: Let Forest Park Grow-Vote No is a ballot initiative committee established Aug. 22 with the aim of supporting licensed video gaming in the village. James Watts, owner of O'Sullivan's Public House and the bar owner who brought the local battle over video gaming to the state Supreme Court, is listed as its chairperson. Let Forest Park Grow's headquarters is listed as 545 Beloit Ave., a residential property Watts owns, according to property records. As of the most recent committee earnings report filed on June 21, Let Forest Park Grow had $35,200 in its bank account.

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