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.
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