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What Do You Think About the State of Oak Forest?

Resident provided city and other local officials with a laundry list of strengths, opportunities for improvements and threats Oak Forest is facing. Tell us in the comments which ones you agree with or offer your own.

Residents offering the following issues, topics and concerns Tuesday night during the 's first Strategic Planning Initiative meeting. The ones in bold represent most of the ones re-emphasized by those in attendance after the meeting. Attendees were given stickers to place by the ones they were the most concerned about.

Tell us what concerns you the most and what you like best about Oak Forest. 

Strengths

  • Bike trail
  • Schools
  • Park district
  • Family-oriented
  • Shopping
  • Religious representation
  • Sense of security
  • Low crime
  • Close to forest preserves
  • Sense of neighborhood
  • Location from Chicago
  • Transportation
  • Great access to expressways
  • Concerned mayor and city council

Opportunities

  • Businesses
  • Sidewalks
  • Lighting
  • Street Repair
  • Security at the Metra lot (access, not handicap friendly)
  • Traffic safety at 159th and Cicero
  • Traffic pattern review needed on 159th and Cicero
  • Traffic study needed (multiple lanes, make light longer for turn lane)
  • Timing and Signals
  • Enforcement of the laws in Oak Forest and police presence
  • Speed limits
  • Vacant retail operations—Need more businesses
  • Articulation/intervention for businesses
  • Need consistency with planning (across administrations)
  • Recognize the economy
  • Leadership in recognizing resource/economy
  • Want an actionable plan
  • Borrow good ideas from other cities
  • Flooding
  • Burial of power lines
  • Growth
  • Consistent 5 and 20 year economic development plan (Long range plan for growth, revenues, expenditures)
  • Guidelines for businesses
  • Status of train station/property
  • Housing/retail (specifically around Metra station) transit-orientated development
  • Oak Forest Hospital, status of
  • Senior residence?
  • Retail development (theater, roller rink, pool, coffee shop)
  • Need more youth programs
  • Industrial park opportunity
  • Articulate with community development coordinator
  • Intergovernmental cooperation & agreement 

Threats

  • Vacant homes
  • Litigation against the city
  • Employment contracts
  • Minimize government intervention/regulation
  • Fear of raising taxes
  • Taxes for services that support development & Human services
  • 1 percent retail tax, add-on tax, won’t attract new business
  • City to City tax differences
  • Foreclosed house
  • Residents not supporting businesses (if not here, because of foreclosed homes)
  • Failure to attract new business
  • Number of banks
  • Limit on liquor licenses
  • Higher crime rate from bordering communities
  • Safety of our children
  • Number of calls for OFPD/OFFD to apartment buildings (stats on this)
  • Services being targeted areas where the transient population lives
  • Purchasing power
  • Concerned about smart meters coming to Oak Forest
GS June 06, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Pretty sad to see Papa's leave the marketplace. We only go to Midvilla and Papas, and Midvilla is having a hard time keeping the doors open due to the taxes over there too.
GS June 06, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Disagree! I think it has everything to do with the political arena in the Southside Suburbs. Passing a right to carry bill will improve every city out there. Not only making the walking public safer, but improve the lifestyle. And as far as keeping taxes high to pay for water, police, fire- there needs to be LESS spending. So cutting pensions, health benefits, and making people foot the bill for those items instead of relying on the taxes we pay would help. Passing a home rule 1% tax certainly doesn't make me want to frequent the business' in Oak Forest. You can't continue to follow the Chicago Democratic machine and just tax people more when the money runs out. Take WI for example. This is the kind of leadership we need in Illinois.
Nick Swedberg (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 02:55 PM
@GS—I'm hoping to try Papa's when they reopen. The new pizza restaurant moving into the Papa's building should be worth a go, too.
Laura Clemons June 06, 2012 at 03:42 PM
The results do not need to be quantified scientifically - the data will be collected from the returned questionnaires, along with the input received at the public open meetings to identify trends of strengths, opportunities and threats - and will be beneficial when making decisions for the near term as well as for the long term future of the City. As for distribution, the surveys were available via the City website, the link was attached to the weekly eBriefs for almost two months, hard copies were available at the City Clerk's office. Hard copies were delivered to schools,churches, etc. and surveys were mailed to every household in the City. Surveys will also be available at every open meeting scheduled. A public service announcement was filmed and has been playing on local cable tv - and lastly, I personally sent out an email blast with the meeting dates, times and details, and I know that several of my colleagues did the same. I'm not sure what more could have been done to get the surveys circulating.
Laura Clemons June 06, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I forgot to add that the city also provided the survey in the Southtown newspaper - Sunday edition wraparound.
Richard DeVries June 06, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Why papas close?
chuck toland June 06, 2012 at 04:39 PM
The method of distribution could not have been better. We have almost 10% returns if you count the houses, and over 6% if you add in the apartments. I have never seen a survey get more than 3% return/participation, and the numers are still going up. I was initially against sending the survey to every household because I know the percentages of people who usually return them, but I am pleasantly surprised to say I was wrong. I even bet my committee dinner that we would not get 5%, and the CAC will be happy to be going out to dinner. Maybe we will try the new pizza place where Papa's used to be.
GS June 06, 2012 at 04:44 PM
"The name Papa's will still be around," said owner Sam Tuhaimer, who took over the business four years ago. "But we're not generating enough business to stay here. And the taxes are way too high. So we'll probably take a break and come back later."
Laura Clemons June 06, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I also forgot to add that we utilized the services of Reverse 911 telephone messaging to announce the dates, times and locations of the open meetings.
Nick Swedberg (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Thank you, Laura, for providing all that info on the surveys!
W. T. June 06, 2012 at 06:06 PM
The Key issue Spending - Revue salaries in this town in an economy that is failing! When you pay a collector $147,000 salary/benefits that is too much! When you appoint a person to take over as City Administrator that was not needed with a raise question the Mayor & Council. When one family is receiving more than $ 120,000 in salary & benefits there should be questions asked to this administration - & their spending habits! I would say question the Council & rubber stamps on items! These Strategic Planning session will be a bust unless there are enough decenting opinions accepted about the needs of this community! The Main issue is spending! Too much spending without enough revenue coming in - They bonded a buy of the church, with no plan of use to come through - Typical of this government! Not enough revenue for the city so increase the Sales tax - bad plan will only send more folks to the east or west to buy necessities! When water consumption figures for revenues don't meet the Director of Finances' projections - the cost will go to the taxpayers on top of the increases Chicago will lay out! Manhard contract has been a bust and will continue to show limited success - one busines in - two close or let's move a financially questionable business down the street with the City's money (Taxpayers). When revenues are short it is best to make hard decisions - like cutting salaries, letting the top folks go, not putting the lower cost workers on furlough!
Nick Swedberg (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 06:14 PM
@W.T.—Mayor Kuspa said yesterday that a developer is looking at the church property. I'll work on getting more details on this for Patch.
Nick Swedberg (Editor) June 06, 2012 at 06:23 PM
@W.T.—The email address we have for you does not seem to be working. Could you please reach out to me at nicks@patch.com. Thanks!
Mary Attreau June 06, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Ruth, I totally agree, most of the questions didn't apply to our city, and some didn't even make sense. Was 1 or 5 high???? Wasn't thought out too well. The public concerns should have been found from a couple of the meetings, and a questionaire made from those thoughts.
b June 06, 2012 at 06:40 PM
That's one of O.F. biggest problems, developers always look but never act. Makes you wonder why.
phxdr June 06, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Matt Aggen- The citizens do not need to work with the administration, rather elected officials or the management team. They are all shown to be totally incompetent at running this town. What they want at these meetings is what they are getting, which are residents who clearly are living in a delusion and will help stroke the egos of this council. I don't think they will hear from most residents. Not to compare an apple to a orange (a small suburb to a global city) but I am moving to PHX AZ and have family there. Oak Forest is trying with this survey to do what Phoenix has been doing for years but here is the big difference. Phoenix hires a independent company to do the work and report back to the city. Oak Forest is handing these out at random, and then the city itself is reviewing them...big difference. If anyone thinks Oak Forest is going to listen to the average resident they are badly mistaken.
phxdr June 06, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Chuck- Yea! Its amazing when you don't ask for the address or name on the survey how many you get back right? One person could turn in 300. Really thought this one out.
chuck toland June 06, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Yes Ronald, you are correct that there are duplicates, but the mojority of the responses have the names and contact information on them along with email addresses. The rest of them are divided by the location they marked, and if duplicates are found when matching comments or hand writing, they are eliminated. If some get through, and there are duplicates, that is OK. Receiving almost 800 responses is still great no matter how you want to spin it. People who have legitimate concerns for the community they live in tend to take it seriously. Those who are just taking shots at the idea that the city truly cares about what the residents are saying are easily identified, but counted as well.
Julia June 06, 2012 at 08:39 PM
What developer would want to do anything to that church property? Look across the street at the dilapidated ghetto apartments and abandoned store fronts or just at the property itself...it looks terrible.
phxdr June 07, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Chuck Toland- First, I have stated to you in 2 emails, 1 phone call and 2 times on patch that my name is not Ronald. But I can play the game Mr. "Greg" Toland. Greg- How many residents have contacted you in your ward about the tax issue? I know of several of my neighbors who have stated that they contacted you when the sales tax went into effect and the property tax rate increases (3 years in a row). But you want me to believe that it will take a survey to show what the residents want? You are critical of me for pointing out that the council (including yourself) do not listen. The reality is that you do not though and that leads me to believe this is more of a show, with this survey then anything else.
NANCY GRACE June 07, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Polekatz II.
Baba Wawa June 07, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Hit the nail on the head, Julia, and b.
Colleen McAbee June 07, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Very funny.
GS June 07, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Well they got their 3$ Poll tax, so why not! It would bring in a new business to Oak Forest like everyone wants.
chuck toland June 07, 2012 at 04:06 PM
OK "Doug" I forgot that is the name you use. Once again, I'm not going to argue on this site. I will anwer your question. After passing a 1% sales tax, I had 3-emails & 1 call from local businesses. After talking to them for a while, they were satisfied with the way I voted and the reasons I gave them. I had 2 residents contact me, and one of them was just asking me why I had not mentioned the sales tax as an option when I had sent out the numerous emails about the public budget meetings we were having (which you got those emails as well), and my reply to him was that I had mentioned that the levy that was passed did not cover all the expenses, and that if additional cuts were not made, that we would have to seek alternate revenues. He agreed that my email stated that, but hadn't realized a sales tax was an option for the additional revenue source. I also, received 6-8 calls and emails saying that they thought the sales tax would be a good way to create additional revenue withour placing all the burden on the residents, home owners and businesses. Outside sources use our stores, and we would generate additional revenue from that. As I had told you in a good portion of our emails, I would be happy to sit down with you anytime to go through the budget line by line, and any savings you could find, I would be happy to bring to the council. I have probably invited you to do this 15 times at a minimum. You say I don't care, so why do I answer every one of your questions?
Nick Swedberg (Editor) June 07, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Just wanted to thank everyone for keeping civil. I appreciate everyone's opinions on this matter.
phxdr June 07, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Chuck- Well clearly most of the taxpayers of OF are ok with higher taxes. I will have to stand down then. Clearly they are ok with OF saying it is trying to attract new business while also increasing the sales tax, which really will have a impact on attracting new businesses. The residents are clearly ok with the city spending 165K for a property that the city is gambling on with taxpayer money. One can only hope that this property will equal the success of the gateway project and all the money invested in that (and even money wasted on the building of a 200K sign and torn down). As I stated before, the property is not worth 700K or whatever number was thrown out there. If it was worth that the seller (the bank) would have been asking the said amount. I really offer my apologies. This whole time I have been blaming the council for what you all have been doing when in reality it rests with the people for not demanding better government. I can only hope that the same residents who remain silent, give the council pat on the backs are happy when they open their property tax bills. I hope they are happy with the businesses that have moved out of OF (such as capital nutrition), or gone under. I hope they are happy with the vacant buildings and the promise that city investment in the gateway project would turn things around. "In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve." Alexis de Tocqueville
Tired of the B.S. June 12, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I think it is sad that there are over 200 comments on the gay marriage story and less than 40 comments on the state of Oak Forest. I wish more people were more concerned with the city going down the drain than who marries who.
Brian June 12, 2012 at 05:41 PM
BINGO. I agree 100% on this. Engagement on fluff stories, sports stories, caption the comic, and national social issues, are huge here. Engagement on Local News with the exception of a tragic/feelgood story is usually small in comparison. I think many issues of the city are the officials doing, but blame should be cast on citizens of Oak Forest for not asking in depth hard questions of their leaders. COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION .... this is truly the biggest issue I see. This day in age, there is no reason why the city can't provide near-realtime information on things like water-main breaks, traffic blockages, major fires, activity of public works crews, mosquito/gypsy moth spraying, etc.
chuck toland June 12, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Brian, I think a lot of people do ask these hard questions, but they do it by calling their aldermen or the Mayor. I am always willing to answer questions on this site, and I am happy to answer questions in person. I get 5-10 questions a week on email or the phone. I meet with residents at their houses. I fully beleive in giving the residents as much information as possible. We get weekly reports on the topics you mention, but we cannot just publish the weekly reports because there is sometimes confidential issues. That is why we use the weekly newsletter to get a lot of the information you talk about out to the public. You can sign up for the weekly newsletter or you can be added to your alderman's email list by requesting it. If you want to be added to either or both, send me an email at ctoland@oak-forest.org.

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