The November election is now seven weeks away. In Forest Park, Illinois this election is not a referendum on Donald Trump. With Rep. Danny Davis essentially running sans GOP opponent, it isn't even about one party taking back or keeping the House of Representatives.
Nope, here in Forest Park the focal point on Nov. 6 is the referendum on video gaming. Some voters, and perhaps this editorial page, will ultimately choose a side not exclusively based on the pros and cons of gaming and its local impact but as a statement against the anti-democratic tactics of the last two years by leading bar owners in treading on basic rights in a small-town democracy.
It's been ugly and there will be a legitimate urge by some to just pay all the incivility back.
We'll sort that out in the weeks remaining before Election Day.
But with a bar owner-backed public forum on the topic set for next week — Tuesday, Sept. 18. 7 p.m. at McGaffers, 7737 Roosevelt Road — let's put the focus on the actual issues surrounding the continuation of video gaming in the village. We're glad to see this forum take place because, as we have said for months, bar owners have a case to make in favor of the machines. Until they finally lost in court and the matter hit the ballot for November, they simply chose other, typically despicable, tactics.
Now the onus is on them to make their arguments.
Here are questions we have, both for the business owners and for the village:
Once the village council caved and allowed gaming to proceed, bar owners argued for a one-year test. Would there be negative impact on Madison Street in terms of perception of the street, would nuisance crime and general bad behavior increase? So what's the answer to that?
Bar owners now seem to say the first year wasn't a fair test as machines only slowly expanded in local bars and restaurants. But as the "test" goes longer, is gaming producing the financial results for local business owners and for the cash-strapped village government that warrant continuation? What are the numbers, what are the trends?
The village government suggests that its gaming ordinance addressed serious concerns of opponents by severely limiting the sort of tacky neon signage that litters Roosevelt Road in Berwyn. Further, the claim is that Forest Park has effectively banned the stand-alone gaming cafes that have proliferated elsewhere. Are these protections real? Or could they be overturned in court?
There's been noise by gaming proponents that somehow adding video gambling is part and parcel of some broad economic development plan in the village. Where is that plan? We haven't seen it.
There's a vote coming. It will finally decide this issue. All involved should make their best cases. That way, when it is finally over, this wonderful village can finally move on.
At least until the April municipal elections.