Counterpoint: Business in Park Forest at What Cost?

By Rosemary Piser
Associate Editor

As was the case with many of my neighbors, I was shocked to learn that professional con-man and former manager of the Holiday Star Theater, Kenny Arron (aka Yochelson) had been arrested.  Like many in Park Forest, I had a series of very unpleasant dealings with Mr. Arron and my first thought was good riddance. However, after reading the account of the matter in Friday’s Southtown Star, and yesterday’s commentary by Gary Kopycinski (Statement from the Holiday Star Theater) stating that because Mr. Arron has been arrested, charged and banished from the community, we should all go see a movie and save a business, I really began to question if there is a clear understanding of what the real problem is here.

If Kenny Arron were the sole issue here, I would be rounding up the neighbors to head to DownTown Park Forest where we could all skip around the Village Green while singing “Ding Dong The Witch (or in this case, Warlock) is Dead.” But from my perspective, the Kenny Arron matter is a mere symptom of a much larger problem, i.e., at what risk is the Village willing to take to attract more commercial businesses into the community?

I have nothing but the utmost respect and admiration for Mayor Ostenburg, our Trustees and Village Staff. They have had the integrity and wisdom to make many difficult decisions to help maintain the level of services Park Forest residents desire during these very difficult economic times. No one can argue that if there were more commercial businesses in Park Forest, the additional tax revenue would be extremely beneficial to the community at large.

But the facts of this matter are very troubling. Matanky Realty apparently failed to do a basic background check on Mr. Arron. Had they done so, several things would have likely been discovered, i.e., his past criminal record and more than likely that his alias name did not match his social security number. According to yesterday’s Southtown, Matanky Realty broker associate Terri Cox was ‘shocked’ to learn of Aaron’s criminal history. “I wish he would have told us. Perhaps there would have been a different way we could have done this.” And the Village of Park Forest in order to help maintain a ‘positive atmosphere for businesses in Park Forest’ appears to have made some kind of accommodation that allowed Mr. Arron to manage the Theater – resulting in the unleashing of an apparent sociopath in our community.

Personally, I can appreciate the Village’s position as many years ago when I opened up a craft store in Oak Lawn, if it weren’t for the special consideration afforded me by both the Village and the realtor, I would have never been given the chance to open my business. However, I was never even able to reach the point where the issue of my store being licensed was even considered, until a full background check was done on me and all of my employees.

So now it’s a new day. The proverbial bad guy has been locked up, new management is in place at the Theater so let’s all go see a movie! Sorry, you won’t find me there.

My father always taught me that there was nothing wrong with making mistakes as long as you learned something from them. And as he was quick to point out, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, you’ll keep making the same ones over and over until you learn the lesson. During my 60 years on this earth, I’ve put Dad’s theory to test on many occasions and I can say with certainty that the man certainly knew what he was talking about.

Serious mistakes were made with the manner in which this situation was handled by both the Village and Matanky Realty. But until safeguards are put in place to ensure that the same mistakes will not be made in the future, it appears that no lessons have been learned. I would urge Mayor Ostenburg to convene a Town Hall Meeting where Park Forest residents can learn what specifics have taken place to help ensure that this never happens in the future. Frankly, sending the ‘all is well, let’s go see a movie’ message doesn’t really say that anything has been learned from this big mistake. Failing to learn that lesson only sends a message to the ‘bad guys’ that Park Forest is ripe for the picking. Unfortunately, Kenny Arron is not the only alleged con-man out there looking for easy prey to take advantage of.