Park Forest Is Unique; Welcomes All, And Always Has

Gary Kopycinski

By Gary Kopycinski

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– Patronage is an ugly thing. We don’t do patronage in Park Forest. Our Village employees in Park Forest have their jobs because they are good at what they do. Elected officials in Park Forest can hire no one except the Village Manager, can fire no one except the Village Manager.

That’s it.

During the last election cycle, we had a candidate for mayor running around threatening staff, telling them once he was elected they would lose their jobs. It was silly then, as silly as those running around now promising to give people jobs. Elected officials in Park Forest can’t do that, and that’s how we like it.

Likewise, our Village employees are not burdened with a responsibility that other municipal workers endure: they do not, cannot campaign for anyone running for the Park Forest Village Board. They are not forced by any elected officials of this Village to go door-to-door, gather signatures for petitions, pass out campaign literature, stand at Metra stations — none of that noise at all.

When I was gathering signatures for my current campaign, I spoke with a young Park Forester who is employed by a local municipality. He told me he "knows all about politics." When election season starts in his town, he gets a call from his union, and its out the door to his second (or third ) job: campaigning for those in office.

Not in Park Forest. Not now, not ever.

My son was unemployed 6 months. As much as I yelled at him to go find work, pleaded, implored, there was no work to be found. It tore me up inside to see him like that. He finally moved to Florida and is living with family there.

I wonder, if Park Forest was different, if Park Forest was Chicago’s patronage playground, would I have been able to resist the temptation to give my son a job, and make the taxpayers pay even more? Would I have been tempted to play the patronage game? Make up a position on staff in Park Forest for him, trade favors with other elected officials so they go along.

I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

But I hear Patronage, ugly as it is, is pounding on the door this election, and we MUST keep it locked out.

We are NOT the 51st Ward of the City of Chicago, but there are those who would make it so. They would cut salaries of current Village employees, and then hire more, hire their friends, hire their family members, grow our government for their ends and make our taxpayers pay the bill.

I have heard it said that some candidates passing through Park Forest tell People of Color, "This is our time." Or words to that effect.

Long-time residents reject that rhetoric, and always have, in Park Forest.

Those new to Park Forest may think otherwise. Some have been steeped in "Chicago," where everyone fights for their own.

But Park Forest is not Chicago.

To People of Color, newly-arrived from Chicago, you should know that you are welcome. You are 100% welcome, and you have been welcome here from the late 1950s, actually, when Park Foresters decided they would be different, and welcome People of Color, no matter what anyone else in the United States thought.

Park Forest is not about "our time." The current election, and every election, is about "our town." Park Forest, Illinois.

If you have brown skin, black skin, white, yellow or red skin, you are welcome in Park Forest, and always have been.

If you have brown hair, black hair, gold, red, white hair or no hair, you are welcome in Park Forest, Illinois, and always have been.

Let’s lock the door on Patronage and send it packing back to Chicago.

This is Park Forest, Illinois. Our town.

Always has been.

No matter the color of your skin.

No matter anything at all.

The writer is a member of the Park Forest Village Board. He is running unopposed for the same seat in the April 5, 2011 Consolidated Election.