Wednesday, December 13, 2017 || By Michael Romain || OPINION || @maywoodnews
Featured image: A screenshot of a page from a typical Maywood budget document. Compare Maywood’s budget presentation to nearby towns like Oak Park and River Forest.
The Dec. 5 public hearing on Maywood’s 2017 tax levy, where village officials heard just a fraction of the collective heartache felt by residents, just reinforces the need for the village to inject long-term strategy, values, goals and expectations into the budget-making process.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015 || By Dan Haley, Publisher of Wednesday Journal
Terry Dean, our editor at the Austin Weekly News since September 2005, has left the post as of the first of the year. He’s contemplating his next steps which will certainly include some rest and relaxation they may also include taking on freelance reporting.
All the while he has edited the Weekly, Terry has doubled as the education reporter for Wednesday Journal, our publication in Oak Park and River Forest. So he has been a very busy man. And that effort has shown in the respect he has earned in each community he has served and in the awards both the Weekly and the Journal have earned from our peers during his tenure.
Stepping in to fill Terry’s role on the West Side and in Oak Park and River Forest is Michael Romain. Michael has been a freelance reporter for both the Weekly and our paper in Forest Park, the Review. We got to know Michael over the past couple of years as admirers of his Village Free Press, a news site covering Maywood, with great thoroughness, fairness and a real sense of place.
During this positive transition, we renew our promise to cover Austin and the West Side with energy and determination, with grit and a clear feel for both the challenges and the successes we find in our community.
Along with Dawn Ferencak, associate publisher of the Weekly, we are looking forward to 2015, to growing our networking and outreach, deepening our partnerships, broadening our efforts to listen better and, always, to publishing – both in print and digitally – news, features and opinions which reflect our pride in these neighborhoods.
The Work Will Continue
By Michael Romain
I’m proud to join the Wednesday Journal family — a strong network of highly regarded community newspapers in Forest Park, Oak Park, Riverside Brookfield and Chicago’s Austin neighborhood. This will be a great learning experience and an enormous opportunity to merge my ambitions for the Village Free Press with an entity that will help me realize them.
It’s going to be a challenge juggling coverage of Austin, Oak Park and Maywood simultaneously, but I think all three communities will be better served in the process. Now, though, more than at any time since I’ve embarked on this project of spreading democracy through providing solid information, I’ll need help.
If you or anyone you know has a skill and is talented in areas such as photography, writing, reporting, editing, video production, sales, marketing, business and intellectual property law, and accounting that you’re willing to share with VFP–send your resume and a cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 708.316.8147 for inquiries.
But we can’t fund talent on passion and interest alone, it takes money. If you like what you read, and/or believe that more talent and resources will make this a better source of information, please consider giving — at any pace and at any level you’re most comfortable with. If you click on the ‘About‘ page, you’ll find the way to donate by scrolling down the page to the Pay-Pal button.
We want you to feel like this is a resource you own and that you have the power to influence. You’re a stakeholder, which entails having a stake in this — whatever form that may take. I welcome your skills, talent and support. VFP
Rev. Jacques Conway has been the pastor of Neighborhood Methodist Church in Maywood since 2003. When asked to describe the relationship between Forest Park and Maywood, he replied, “There is none.”
Indeed, when fifteen Forest Park Chamber of Commerce members were asked to recall the last time they had spent money in Maywood, six said that couldn’t remember, and one replied, “1985.” Since New Year’s Day, only one had spent even a dollar in our neighboring village to the west, and that was two months ago.
Maywood is the next door neighbor we don’t know.
In terms of shopping, dining or drinking, there is almost nothing in Maywood to attract Forest Parkers. Rev. Conway, who lives in River Forest, underscored that point by saying that the biggest source of tax revenue from businesses in Maywood is at the corner of Lake St. and First Ave., a business district containing a Walgreens, a gas station, and two fast food restaurants. Even the race track bearing the town’s name is really located outside of Maywood.
Michael Romain, who was born and raised in Maywood and now publishes the Village Free Press there, knows his hometown as well as anybody. He agreed with Rev. Conway that the relationship between the two towns is “not very substantial,” and that in terms of business, Madison is a one-way street heading east.
The absence of Forest Park residents in Maywood is especially striking when compared to the involvement of Oak Parkers in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago. Oak Park residents are doing everything from tutoring to urban gardening to manning food pantries with their neighbors to the east. Forest Park residents complain about Proviso East High School but don’t seem to be doing anything in an organized way to mitigate the problems there.
Although Romain will be the first to acknowledge Maywood’s issues, he also believes there are opportunities for mutuality. One place is the high school. On the one hand, he was a student at Proviso East for two years before moving to River Forest, and he thinks that many criticisms of the school are valid. On the other hand, he said that the reality there, “is not nearly as bad as the perception.”
But more importantly, the young publisher had this to say about the problems at Proviso East: “Ironically Forest Parkers and Maywoodians are probably united in a common disdain for the school. That may be one area where they have a common bond, because everyone is angry at the school.”
The mistake people in Forest Park make, Romain continued, is to blame the culture in the school on the culture in Maywood.
“This is where the prejudice comes in,” he said. “From a Forest Park perspective, the school is that way because of the people in Maywood are that way. It’s easy for someone living outside of Maywood to blame the culture at Proviso East on Maywood. I don’t think that’s fair.”
“Some areas of Maywood, like north of Washington Boulevard, which is integrated, have higher household incomes than some areas in Forest Park. The blocks between 9th and 14th and between Madison and Roosevelt Rd., sometimes referred to as the Seminary District, is a pretty decent middle class community,” Romain added.
There is a contingent of black folk in Maywood who trace their roots in the town back to before World War I.
“Maywood had one of the richest African American communities in the western suburbs,” said Romain. “Blacks have been in Maywood a long, long time. The West Town Museum at the corner of 5th and St. Charles has archives showing that around the turn of the century Maywood had a large community of black domestics and was a stop on the Underground Railroad.”
Another opportunity west of the Desplaines River is housing at what Romain calls “bargain basement prices.” Patrick Jacknow at Jacknow Reality here Forest Park lists a brick bungalow in Maywood with an asking price of $159,000. When asked what a comparable house would cost in Forest Park, Jacknow estimated it selling for around $260,000.
And it’s not just the cost of housing that is attractive. On the north side of Maywood are homes which would fit right in any part of River Forest. Maywood, in fact, has16 homes and properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Romain suggested that Maywood’s historical housing might be the occasion for Forest Parkers to get to know their neighbors to the west.
“There are some things already going on,” he said,” that actually do attract people to Maywood. The Historic Homes House Walk is a pretty big hit in the summer.
“For $15 you get a guided tour on a trolley of the historic homes of Maywood. Some of the unknown history of Maywood will blow your mind,” Romain said.
Another opportunity to get to know Maywood is the annual Bataan Day celebration. “Last year,” he recalled, “about 300 people sat under a big white tent while a military band played and people made speeches. Maywood has a strong base of veterans who fought in the Bataan Peninsula of the Philippines during World War II. Many have moved on, but they come back every year.”
Conway noted that business opportunities would abound for Forest Park merchants if a stronger relationship could be fostered between the two communities. He said that Maywood doesn’t have a bakery, flower shop or a full service super market. To shop for groceries, he said, many drive north to Meijer’s in Melrose Park. Romain added that he will soon be selling advertising in his Village Free Press publication.
Romain also looked at the big picture and into the future.
“What people don’t realize,” he pointed out, “is that Maywood is centrally located — Forest Park, River Forest and Oak Park to the east, LaGrange to the southwest, Riverside to the south — you have all these suburban hot spots, some of the nicest suburbs in the state in this very region, and Maywood is centrally located.”
Rev. Conway went to another place to motivate Forest Parkers to reach out and get to know Maywood. “I think it boils down to being good neighbors,” he said. “Neighbors at least talk over the fence. Ask the elected officials when was the last time they talked seriously to people in Maywood.”
“There hasn’t even been a time of conversation in the same place at that the same time to talk about mutuality and challenges, just a conversation between people of these communities of positives and negatives [would help],” he said.
“It has to start with an initial time of coming together. That will be a huge opportunity.” VFP