A rush to build

Opinion: Editorials

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Whether it is the strong desire to move the Oak Park Police Department out of its bunker in the basement of village hall or some intricate maneuver to use funds from the Madison Street TIF to help build it, the momentum to construct the new District 97 elementary school administration building out back of village hall is gathering steam.

The village manager turned up at a school board meeting last week to announce a joint school board/village board meeting in December to presumably bring the taxpaying public into the loop on just what private discussions have been going forward between carefully framed "working groups" representing the two entities. Carefully framed, we'd suggest, to avoid tipping them open under the Open Meetings Act.

And then, Village Manager Cara Pavlicek told the D97 board, it is off to the races toward a Jan. 15 self-imposed deadline for the two bodies to decide whether to move ahead with the project.

Somewhere in here, it would be nice to let neighbors of the project speak out publicly about their opinions of building a multi-story government building and underground parking in the middle of their already bustling residential neighborhood. So far we have heard only strong concerns from neighbors.

It would be good for the two parties to explain what seems to be a complex plan to use Madison Street TIF dollars — already committed to be returned to other local taxing entities — to fund much of this building project.

And we'd like to hear the explanation for why, on a street full of empty lots and underused buildings, it is necessary to cram the school district onto the most congested property on Madison Street.

We stipulate that the current D97 headquarters at Madison and Home is a wreck not worth investing in. We agree there is value in grouping local taxing bodies together on the east end of Madison Street. We have been enthusiastic about Village President Anan Abu-Taleb's sense of urgency in making decisions.

But this process has not been transparent and despite regular protestations from participants, it has the feel of a done deal made in private.

Reader Comments

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Amy Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: November 18th, 2013 1:19 PM

There is a D97 Board Meeting tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7pm -- it would be great if as many people as possible could attend

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2013 4:25 AM

All of the folks who will be voting on this who ran last April ran totally unopposed except for one. We need to encourage diversity of choices in the future. All of the arguments against building dwarf the reasons to do so.

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: November 13th, 2013 4:25 PM

This piece captures the situation accurately. What is really concerning is this ongoing level of denial on D97's part - I live on the 600 block of south Lombard, and I've been following this situation. D97 persistently claims that "there is no plan" to build at the Village Hall, when we all know they wanted it last year, and we know that some board members want it now. Why can't they just admit this is their first choice? Shady, very shady.

poetgirl67@comcast.net from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 4:11 PM

@Bridgett and @Done - I couldn't agree more with you and am just sick about this! I live less than a block away from the village hall and my neighbors have started a FB page and an online petition that goes directly to the VOP and D97 whenever someone signs - this would be one way to make your opinion known in addition to going to all the board meetings, writing letters, etc. -- we really need to stick together and stop this -- www.facebook.com/NOD97BLDGHERE; www.tinyurl.com/NOD97BLDG

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 2:35 PM

"how about we let the boards of this town know how the voters actually feel about these projects. Is that possible?" Yes. Here is the D97 webpage with its board's contact info... http://www.op97.org/board-of-education/Board-Members.cfm And here is the Village webpage with its board's contact info... http://www.oak-park.us/your-government/elected-officials

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2013 9:16 AM

Bridgett - if the public was allowed to voice concerns, would it matter? They'll all just sit there with the smug looks on their faces, thinking "Yeah, whatever. We'll still build it if we want to." Let's make this something the village votes on. Yes for a new building, no for a new building. For once, instead of us voting for a tax hike referendum, how about we let the boards of this town know how the voters actually feel about these projects. Is that possible?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2013 11:39 PM

Will residents be able to voice their concerns and/or support at the Saturday, December 7th or 14th meeting that Terry Dean references in this story? http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-12-2013/OP,-D97-to-host-joint-meeting-on-new-admin-building/

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