By Gary Kopycinski
The Village of Park Forest held a neighborhood meeting in East Lincolnwood this evening. Over two hundred residents attended.
I say "the Village of Park Forest held a neighborhood meeting" because members of village board, the mayor, department heads, and several police officers and detectives were in attendance.
Over 500 addresses in the East Lincolnwood area of Park Forest — and beyond — were sent invitations. I personally spoke with a couple from West Lincolnwood who did not receive an invitation but came anyhow.
They were quite welcome, and I told them so.
The area officially includes 490 homes.
According to a report read by Mayor Ostenburg, in 2006, the time of the last neighborhood meeting in East Lincolnwood, there were 12 foreclosed homes in the area.
There are now 70.
In 2006, 9 of those homes were vacant. Now, 23 are vacant.
In 2006, 45, or 9% of the homes in East Lincolnwood, were rental properties.
In 2012, 104, a full 25%, are rental properties.
In 2006, 30 homes were subsidized, or voucher, properties (formerly known as "Section 8"). In 2012, 43 homes are subsidized.
In 2006, there was one group home in East Lincolnwood. In 2012, there is still one group home in the neighborhood.
Police Chief Cliff Butz told residents that there had been a total of thirty burglaries in East Lincolnwood this calendar year so far. When he had prepared his report for the meeting, he said, there were twenty-nine. As he spoke, however, he learned that officers were dispatched on a burglary call in the area.
Chief Butz said there have been over 130 arrests made in the current calendar year on felony burglary charges. This statement elicited applause from the large gathering.
He then told the crowd that 85% of those arrested had been juveniles.
The chief told those gathered that one hundred bicycles so far had been given to high achievers at school districts serving Park Forest. The bikes were paid for by drug seizures. Kids also received helmets and locks.
Residents were concerned about the July 22 shooting that left one man dead. Chief Butz emphasized that flyers were distributed to residents within 72 hours of the event.
According to police, one man is being held on $3,000,000.00 bond, another on at least $500,000.00.
A question finally surfaced about Park Forest taxes, at which point Trustee Dillard pointed out that roughly 30% of the average tax bill goes to the Village of Park Forest, and 60% goes to the school districts.
Mayor Ostenburg pointed out the necessity of the state of Illinois finding a more equitable means of funding education. A resident responded that Park Forest needed more businesses to bring down the taxes.
Mayor Ostenburg agreed, but responded that, when Park Forest was built, the commercial areas were not built on the busy streets, and this has hurt the village in recent years. The mayor also pointed out that the state of Illinois would help Park Forest and many other municipalities if it changed the way schools were funded.
Village Manager Tom Mick closed by pointing out, among other things, that the Orchard Drive reconstruction project, costs $10 million, but $7.5 million came from grants, $2.5 million came from CN, and only $500,000 came from Park Forest taxpayers.
The writer is a village trustee in Park Forest. This reporting is his own. This publication is privately owned and is not affiliated with the Village of Park Forest in any way.