By Dan Haley
Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:
Just another little taste: With something north of $110,000,000 of our tax dollars on deposit in its vaults, the board at Oak Park and River Forest High School is readying its annual property tax hike. A measly old 2.5 percent, a full one-half percent less than they could ding us. This is the high school's version of watching out for taxpayers.
Why though increase our taxes when the school board is already sitting on this most audacious reserve? Because most board members will tell you (and with a straight face), they were elected to be the financial stewards of the high school and it would be irresponsible not to gather up all the available resources for whatever the future brings.
Yes, they believe, it is their fiduciary responsibility to plunder the peasants for the greater good. After all, they say, there will come a day when, as spending levels gradually increase, the reserves will peak and then we will find ourselves on the downside of the mountain slowly spending down the reserves.
Now I prefer not to be caught dead defending anything the state legislature has ever approved, but the concept of property tax caps isn't all bad, and it was designed to force local elected officials to return every 7-10 years to the voters/peasants for their OK on raising more funds. The high school circumvented this elemental protection a decade ago when they passed and then supercharged a referendum. Recently the school announced it just might be able to stretch its $110 million — and climbing — reserve out yet another year.
At the risk of sounding like Ron Paul, I'd actually rather have my money in my bank account than in the high school's a quarter century in advance. But that's just me.
About that lobby: Most of us would agree that the library hit it out of the park when they built the new main library on Lake Street. Especially this time of year when the trees are bare and the library's east façade glows in the night, it is like a beacon drawing home its community.
So how then do you explain that lobby! Cold and purposeless since its opening day in 2003, the lobby is an architectural egg laid by talented people. Now though, the library board and staff are coming back around to the lobby with ambitious plans to both warm it up and give it a purpose as more than a bleak pass-through to the good parts of the library.
As Devin Rose reports on page one today, the plan calls for tightening up the space and, in the process, creating an additional lounge area that could double as a small meeting room. Improved self-checkout kiosks are also coming.
Dee Brennan, the soon-to-exit executive director, said the lobby had been a topic of debate since she arrived six years ago. Now, finally, progress is coming.
Quickly: Don't miss Lincoln at the Lake. What a great movie. … Casey Cora, past editor of the Oak Park edition of Patch.com, has surfaced as a reporter for the new DNAinfo.com. He is covering Bridgeport, Back of the Yards and Chinatown. … Redd Griffin died last week, just ahead of his 74th birthday. I didn't know Redd well but the dozens of comments at OakPark.com show a profound appreciation for his passionate interests and his gentle ways.
Answer Book 2016
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