Last Monday the Forest Park Village Council unanimously approved the contract of Michael Axelrod as the village's new lobbyist. He will work on local and state issues, as well as federal issues if any arise. His contract specifies he'll be paid $2,000 per month for his services.
Directed by Mayor Rory Hoskins and Village Administrator Tim Gillian, Axelrod brings deep relationships and experience to the village. His father is David Axelrod, former chief strategist and senior advisor to President Barack Obama. With an educational background in political science and government, and with years of experience working in global industry, Michael now leads GPG Strategies, LLC, a public affairs and government relations firm. Prior to that he worked for AKPD Message and Media, the political consulting firm responsible for advising Obama's campaigns. At AKPD Axelrod also built the organization's international practice, now one of the largest global political consulting practices in the world. He is also the founder and CEO of Grant Park Global, a firm that assists clients with international affairs, and has offices in Chicago, Mexico City and Bogota.
His unique background and experiences have given him the opportunity to form relationships with government officials and leaders in both the public and private sector.
Forest Park's former lobbyist, Matt O'Shea, worked with the village since 2011. With a previous position as chief of staff for House Minority Leader Tom Cross, his associations were definitely Republican leaning. O'Shea served as Forest Park village administrator from 2000-2004.
Hoskins, however, says a Democratic lobbyist makes more sense in a Democratic controlled government, and currently in Illinois the governor, Senate and House are all dominated by Democrats.
Hoskins identified three key projects he'll work on with Axelrod. First, he wants to secure the $750,000 necessary for tearing down derelict buildings on the village-owned property at the Altenheim. Axelrod will help by setting up meetings with the appropriate person from the governor's office.
Second, Axelrod will assist with communication between Forest Park and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). Hoskins says that the CTA's property, especially at the Forest Park stop, is not being maintained properly. Trash is a regular problem, as well as public urination and sometimes defecation. There is also an issue of insufficient oversight to stop people from trying to sell items, such as loose cigarettes, to commuters. Though Hoskins has spoken to CTA officials before, little has been done. He and Axelrod will soon meet with the chairperson of the CTA board. They will also discuss possibilities surrounding the ultimate removal of the Altenheim buildings and subsequent development of the area. The CTA owns some unused parking lots and open space, which could be turned into roads necessary if the surrounding land is developed by the village. According to Hoskins, "government units often work together to improve property," and he and Axelrod hope to secure the CTA's cooperation and collaboration.
Third, Hoskins and Axelrod plan to meet with Illinois State Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park) to discuss needed improvements to the Harlem Avenue viaduct under the Green Line train. This meeting will include the mayors of River Forest and Oak Park as well. Previous combined efforts to secure state and federal funding to overhaul the viaduct have failed.
Hoskins is excited about Axelrod's experience and connections. Commissioner Joe Byrnes agrees with Hoskins, saying Axelrod "has the ear of a lot of people in Springfield" and is "already moving forward to help us out with some projects."