What do you know?

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

Denis Diderot was the co-founder and chief editor of the French Encyclopedie published between 1751 and 1772. He wanted to incorporate all of the world's knowledge into a single reference and make it accessible to the public and future generations. Today we citizens of the Information Age smile at the quaint idea that all knowledge could be contained in a set of books.

On Jan. 8, 1815, the United States defeated Great Britain at the Battle of New Orleans. It was the greatest American land victory of the War of 1812. Yet the Treaty of Ghent had been signed in Belgium ending the war on Christmas Eve, 1814. News traveled slowly in those days. Too bad for the 49 Brits and 55 Americans killed in the battle. Today we get our news and information much faster

We moderns think we know everything. The computer gives most everyone immediate access to an exponential explosion of data and information that Monsieur Diderot couldn't begin to fathom.

Why is it, then, that we don't seem to know very much about a lot of important matters. Although our ignorance is certainly not confined to local issues, Oak Park will provide some examples. Also, it may be that my ignorance is confined to me. I'm sure someone knows, but they ain't talkin'.

How did things work out with the installation of lights at the high school stadium? At one time this was the issue in town. What happened? Was there an increase in public urination? Was traffic a nightmare? Did night game attendance increase?

Then there was the high school parent organization's war on booze and dope. The group had a lot of energy and good ideas. They even won this paper's Villager of the Year Award. Did substance abuse diminish? What are the organization's plans for the future?

What are the property tax and sales tax projections for the big parcels of vacant commercial property in town? I'm talking about Lake and Forest (Jimmy's Certified spot) and the old Colt Building. In doing long-range budget planning, someone has an informed opinion about when these parcels will return to the tax rolls. 2018? 2020?

There's a bunch of other information I'd like to know.

What are the crime rates over time on Roosevelt Road, Austin Boulevard and North Avenue? I'd like to see disaggregated school test score data by race, gender, and time in the school system over the last 10 years. Somebody must have projected scenarios regarding property tax increases in the coming years. I'd like to see them. What are the demographic profiles of people moving in and out of Oak Park? Somebody knows something about this very important issue Give it up. I'm sure you dear readers have other things you would like to know.

Calling Denis Diderot.

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