forest park mayor (1 open seat)

Chris Harris | Rory Hoskins




1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to being Mayor, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of Forest Park?

I’m running for mayor because several neighbors asked me to run, and because I have the experience and relationships to be successful. My background include working in economic development in both the public and private sectors.  I began my career as a social worker. I hold an MSW from Loyola University of Chicago. Later I returned to Loyola for law school. I now work as an insurance regulatory attorney. My economic development background gave me access to government and political figures in Illinois and the Chicago area.  I believe that my relationships at federal, state, and county levels of government could be helpful to Forest Park. Last spring, some neighbors asked me to run for mayor.

My family has lived in Forest Park since 1999.  My wife and I have raised our kids in town. We have made great friends over the years.  By the time we were ready to file the petitions, I saw more than 20 people had circulated my nominating petitions. I have broad support.  In a recent forum, my opponent described the role of mayor as “leader of the town”. I see the role as a public servant as opposed to “leader” of the town.  

2. What are Forest Park’s greatest strengths? What are its greatest challenges? What is your vision for Forest Park?

Forest Park’s strengths are many and include: D. 91 schools (the “hidden gem”), our diverse population, the reputation as a nice place for millennials and families to live, services for senior citizens, Madison St., Living Word, proximity to both airports, proximity to CTA blue and green lines, and the public works department’s reputation for snow removal.  The town also has great traditions including Juneteenth, Rib Fest, and St. Pat’s Parade.

Challenges include blending some diverse sets of traditions and the lingering divisions resulting from the vote to ban video gambling.  Another challenge will be to change the course of the village government. My vision is to see Forest Park become a community of laws and not personalities.  For too long, the mayor has operated as a political boss. I would like to see a village where people can conduct business without being subject to influence from whoever occupies to role of mayor.  In a recent forum, my opponent described the mayor’s role as “leader of the town”. I see the role as a public servant as opposed to “leader” of the town.

3. What does transparency in government mean to you? Give one example of an action you would take as Mayor reflecting your views on this topic. How would you evaluate the Village’s record on transparency?

The village has a poor record with respect to transparency.  

Example #1: The village is required to hold an annual hearing on the tax levy.  While most village council meetings are held at 7pm. This hearing is regularly scheduled for 6:45pm.  Each year, the meeting is convened at 6:45. If no one is there to comment, the meeting is quickly adjourned.  Residents often arrive at 7:00 wishing to offer comment. They are told that the hearing had adjourned.

Example #2:  The municipal election date is not on the village calendar.

As mayor, I would hold all meetings at 7:00pm or later on weekdays, and the calendar would provide election dates.

4. What steps will you take to enhance community engagement with the Village and the Mayor’s office? What is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents?

As mayor I will be as accessible as I am as a private citizen.  My 8 yr. old son attends Forest Park public schools. I attend nearly all school functions such as spelling bees, choir concerts, sporting events etc.  Additionally, I have coached youth soccer at the park district in recent years. As mayor I will continue to attend school events and will continue to coach.  Accordingly, people will have access to the mayor.

Additionally, if I serve as mayor the village website will be revised so that it clearly delineates the tasks of village employees, consultants, and elected officials.  Further, I will involve commissioners in the “sausage making” process of crafting the agenda for village meetings. At present, the commissioners are not involved in many aspects to the village’s functioning with respect to vendor contracts and personnel actions.  My belief is that better informed elected officials will be better positioned to engage the public and to explain village policies.

5. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the experiences, concerns, and needs of residents outside your demographic group?

I am the first person of color to ever serve on the village council and the only African-American to have ever been elected to the council.  Most of my experiences in Forest Park have been spent engaging with persons outside of my demographic group.

I have enjoyed learning about the German traditions that were once predominant in our town.  I enjoy the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and the July 4 traditions. I learned about German traditions and Irish Catholic traditions in Forest Park by spending time with neighbors and listening to them describe their family experiences.

I have tried to educate the community about the African American experience, in part, by hosting the annual Juneteenth celebration for the last ten years. Additionally, I was the first village official to suggest creating the Diversity Commission in Forest Park (DC).  It is my expectation that through the DC, Forest Park residents will find opportunities to learn about the experiences of their neighbors who may come from different demographic groups.

6. What do you believe is the biggest challenge to the Village's financial situation? What specific steps would you take as Mayor with regard to the Village’s budget shortfall?

The biggest challenge to the village’s financial situation is closing the gap between expenditures and revenue. For the last several years, the village has run at a deficit.  If I am elected to serve as mayor, I will urge the council to direct the department heads to competitively bid some of the large service contracts. I will also work to expand our economic base so that more property tax and sales tax revenue is generated for village operations.

7. What should the Mayor's role be with respect to economic development and attracting new business to Forest Park?

I believe that promoting Forest Park is part of the mayor’s role.  I have extensive contacts with economic development professionals in counties throughout Illinois and in neighboring states. As mayor, I will contact many of my former colleagues to let them know about Forest Park.  I will emphasize our town’s attributes such as proximity to major airports, the availability of public transportation, efficient snow removal, public safety, and our diverse population.

Our chamber of commerce is reconstituting its economic development committee, and it is my understanding that the owners of the Forest Park Mall are focused on maintaining that 33 acre property and evaluating growth opportunities.  As mayor, I will leverage my relationships to support businesses in Forest Park and the Chamber so they can generally achieve their goals.

Finally, I will look for opportunities to expose the members of the next village council to the various economic development entities and to their more influential employees.  I want my colleagues to be positioned to promote Forest Park and to help in our shared economic development goals.

8. The Altenheim property and future development alternatives are topics of much discussion in Forest Park. What should the next step in this process be?

The mayor and council should make it a priority to demolish the hazardous vacant buildings sitting on the village owned Altenheim land.  

While maintaining green space is reasonable, there may be opportunities to develop portions of the 11 acres owned by the village that are not inconsistent with maintaining some green space. The sale contract provides that no more than eight acres of the land owned by the village can be developed.  I would like to see stakeholders engage in a discussion that considers alternative development plans that take into account opportunities to generate revenue. Stakeholders include the Altenheim board, village staff and elected officials, representatives of the nearby residents, the CTA, and the proponents of the “Cultural Park”.

9. The debate over video gambling dominated the recent midterm election in the Village, and while the issue has been resolved through binding referendum, there are still significant rifts dividing Forest Park. Do you think those rifts can be healed? If so, how? If not, why not?

I know that some people have had their livelihoods impacted by the referendum’s outcome.  I have talked with stakeholders who hold differing viewpoints. Many of these folks are now ready to move forward for the good of Forest Park.  The village is healing and it will continue to do so. These differences and lingering resentments will eventually fade as the village addresses new challenges and celebrates future victories as a common community.  I expect that the legislature will authorize capital spending and that Forest Park will make improvements that all of its residents will celebrate together.

10. Do you believe Forest Park’s Mayor has a role to play in relation to District 91 and District 209? Why or why not?

As the parent of 4 kids who attended D. 91 schools, I am always inclined to support the local schools including D. 209.  Also, many of the kids that I have coached, and watched grow up, are attending D. 209. I believe that Forest Park should support Districts 91 and 209 to the extent that doing so is not contrary to the village’s interests.  

There may be formal or informal ways to support the teachers and students in the local schools.  The mayor and council should be open to any such opportunity. One example of such an opportunity is welcoming D. 209 to stage a homecoming parade in our community and participating in the parade.  Another way to support the schools is to offer experiential learning opportunities at various grade levels.

If I am elected to serve as mayor, I plan to maintain my personal relationships with all of the members of the D. 91 & 209 boards and their superintendents so that there is open communication for the benefit of the students and our community.  

11. What do you see as the best role for Forest Park’s Diversity Commission? What challenges do you anticipate with regard to equity and inclusion in the Village, and how will you approach them?

The Diversity Commission should chart its own course based on its own deliberations and community feedback.  I believe that the residents who applied to serve on the Diversity Council and submitted to interviews as part of the appointment process likely had reasons for seeking their appointment.  Although I began discreetly advocating for the village to establish a diversity commission as far back as 2010, I do not believe that the mayor should decide which particular issues it addresses.  Instead, the Diversity Commission should operate within the parameters of its mission statement.

I have encouraged members of the Forest Park Diversity Commission to research what similar bodies have done and are doing in neighboring suburbs.  Several years ago, I was part of a Forest Park delegation that participated in establishing a “sister city” relationship with Cork, Ireland. Resuming and developing the relationship could be an opportunity for the village through its Diversity Commission, to partner with our local schools.

12. What impact can a municipality such as Forest Park have on climate change, and how will you prioritize that work among other issues? Do you think Forest Park should implement a Climate Action Plan, and if so, what specific elements should it include?

Mitigating climate change involves a focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, impacting the cause of climate change in the long term through measures such as energy conservation and renewable energy. Climate change adaptation involves undertaking activities designed to reduce and minimize the harmful consequences of changing climate.  I would like to see Forest Park adopt a plan for becoming a zero waste community. The plan should include an educational curriculum that can involve collaboration with the park district and D. 91. Future village owned and other buildings in forest Park should be LEED certified, and the village should purchase more fuel efficient vehicles.

13. The Forest Park Review recently described the Commissioner form of government as “fully obsolete for an urban suburb of our size.” Do you agree? If so, what steps would you take to improve the governing structures of Forest Park?

The success of Forest Park is not solely based on the form of government.  Although some believe that the commissioner form of government is not ideal for this community, people are still moving to Forest Park.  I believe that electing good people to serve in village government, combined with a competent and professional workforce, yields positive outcomes.  That said, it would not be unreasonable to determine whether village residents want to change to a village manager form. There may be merits to having more elected members serving on the village board and to staggering elections.

14. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.

$1000 from a retiree living in Forest Park.  
$500 from Infrastructure engineering, Inc.  
$500 from an Oak Park resident.

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[The above answers were supplied on 2/20/19. It may be possible to find more current financial information at the Illinois Sunshine website. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]

Candidate website

Hoskins for Mayor (candidate Facebook page)

Why I'm voting for Rory (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)

He will not be a team player (Forest Park Review 3/26/19)

Forest Park Review endorsement (Forest Park Review 3/19/19)

Congressman Davis endorses Hoskins for mayor (Forest Park Review 3/19/19)

Chicago Federation of Labor endorsement (PDF 3/10/19)

Survey Responses: Rory Hoskins (Forest Park Review 3/1/19)

Not easy to fill the shoes (Forest Park Review 2/5/19)

Commissioner hopefuls form slate around Hoskins (Forest Park Review 11/6/18)

Former village commissioner announces mayoral run (Forest Park Review 10/9/18)

Hoskins for Mayor financials (Illinois Sunshine)

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About Forest Park’s Government

Debate heated as Harris, Hoskins spar at mayoral forum (Forest Park Review 3/22/19)

Harris, Hoskins talk diversity, development at forum (Forest Park Review 3/19/19)

Economic development talk of mayoral forum (Forest Park Review 2/21/19)

No candidates' petitions challenged (Forest Park Review 1/1/19)

A Brief Who's Who in the Commissioner, Mayoral Races (Forest Park Review 12/18/18)