Menu

What three views of Berwyn reveal about Forest Park

Opinion: Editorials

January 23rd, 2018 5:16 PM

By Tom Holmes

Mark Hosty is a smart guy. I've known him for at least twenty years. I voted for him because, in my opinion, he knows as much about village government and doing business in town as anyone else. That's why when he says something, I pay attention.

He was right when he said in an opinion piece a few weeks ago that video gambling has not proven to be a "horrible destroyer of our community fabric. . . The sky has not fallen and revenues are starting to flow into the Village coffers." He's also correct that he played the game according to the rules. His point is that he played the game better than those who oppose video gambling.  

His word to the wise opponents of video gambling seems to be what I heard ex-governor Pat Quinn say a couple weeks ago at a Proviso Township Ministerial Alliance Network meeting, "Early to bed. Early to rise. Fight like hell and organize." 

I think a key to understanding where Mark is coming from is his view of our neighbor to the south east, which is that the businesses in Forest Park are in direct competition with those in Berwyn. The competitive edge is often very thin, which implies that if bars in Berwyn have video gambling and the ones in Forest Park don't, it will mean the loss of patrons and a decline in revenue for businesses in our town which might put some of those business owners out of business.

He wrote, "With the constant attacks on the business community, how much outside investment do you think people will make in this town? Not only will we not attract new investment, but it also devalues the investments made by businesses that are already here." He went on to point out that people who invest don't like uncertainty.

Now you may note that lots of businesses which are not bars and don't have video gambling are investing in Forest Park. My point is that in his view, the reality is that for businesses it is survival of the fittest. Maintaining a competitive edge with Berwyn is important if you want to stay in business.

I also want to point out that most business owners on Madison Street are not residents of Forest Park. They have invested thousands if not hundreds of thousands in their businesses and have taken great risks in starting a business in town.  

In contrast, the opponents of video gambling tend to be residents of our village who have invested thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in their homes, and they tend to be ambivalent about Berwyn. For them the bungalow village is neither friend nor foe.  

Neither do they consider themselves to be anti-business. They love the shops on Madison Street, brag about them to their friends in other towns, and shop in town whenever they can. They tend to shop or dine in Berwyn or Oak Park only when they can't find what they want here.

They may be anti-liquor lobby but they're not anti-business. What they are is pro-housing value. That's why so many homeowners worked so hard to get Ned Wagner and Claudia Medina elected to the Proviso High School District 209 school board—because people's perception of Proviso East affects the investment they've made in their homes. That's why they voted to help pay for the new Roos Rec Center being built—to enhance the quality of life in the community. And that's why they voted against video gambling—because of their perception, right or wrong, that it would erode the quality of life in this village with small town charm.

Now there's a third group that has a view of Berwyn. When I interviewed Fire Chief Bob McDermott a few months ago, I learned that our fire fighters think of Berwyn in terms of being an ally. The chief told me that the FPFD has a great relationship with the BFD. Whenever the fire fighters in Forest Park need help fighting a blaze, Berwyn sends their people over without hesitation. No contracts signed. No reimbursement for service rendered. And the relationship is reciprocal.  

It's based on trust. Somehow there is a relationship based on trust rather than on a sense of competition or legal obligation.

Here's the thing. I've been around this town for 35 years and have gotten to know and like many folks from each of the three groups. When you walk a mile or two in their shoes or boots or sneakers, you get to know where they are coming from. You discover that they all have valid concerns as well as blind spots.

One question we might ask is, "Which tribe to you belong to?" Through which lens do you view reality—from the perspective of business owners or residents or folks like our fire fighters who depend on inter-village cooperation to make things work.

My concern is that I can't think of one group, one organization or one arena in which all the stakeholders get together for the purpose of seeing what's happening in this community from the viewpoint of others who at least initially seem to be on another page.