Good news? Not. A house under $200K

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

Houses under $200K: Got a postcard from a Realtor last week that got my attention. Did you know you could buy a house in Oak Park – a small house, a house that needs some updating, but not a bad house – for $186,000?

You can these days.

Cissy Binkley, a real estate agent for 22 years, said the home on the 700 block of N. Humphrey Avenue "is the only house in Oak Park under $200,000 that is not a short sale."

The owners just knocked $10,000 off the price having listed it in September at just under $200K. "We've had no offers. And that surprises me a little," said Binkley. "It is a very cute little house."

I asked her what this house might have sold for before the market turned south in 2007. "The high-$200s," she said. That is a lot of lost value.

Return to Sleepy Hollow: The first sign that River Forest might enter the modern age came about 20 years ago when a cadre of young homeowners with families wrested control of the local park board from a backward batch of stick-in-the-muds who felt that mowing the grass was the main function of a park district.

What followed was two decades of park expansion, wondrous playgrounds, new lighting and all sorts of activities that brought the village to life and knocked about 20 years off the average age of homeowners.

What then to make of Monday night's performance by the park board in which they again looked backwards in again objecting to paying a pittance ($4,100) toward support of the Oak Park and River Forest Township Youth Interventionist program. Saying the program was outside the scope of the park board's mission, board President Dale Jones said, "We have passive spaces we provide for recreation." Why I could almost hear old Joe Organ explaining that playgrounds were nothing but insurance liabilities.

Claiming they have no teen issues, no gang issues, the park board inserted its head back into the sand so they could discuss the details of platform tennis courts.

This, friends, is your grandfather's park district.

Unnoticed, Oak Park goes post-racial (and post-gender, too): While River Forest returns to the 1950s, Oak Park has remarkably made the leap to Utopia. At least according to the slate of pretty white looking guys running as the VMA slate for the village board come April.

Responding to an editorial in the Journal last week suggesting that a contested election would be good for the village, the slate –Ray Johnson, Adam Salzman and Bob Tucker – took exception to our noting that if they are elected the Oak Park village board will become 6/7ths white and 6/7th male.

They write, "Our first question is: Unacceptable to whom? The Oak Parkers we know do not judge people by the color of their skin, or any other characteristic which too often divides us, but by the content of their character – or in the case of elections, by the quality of their candidates."

The trio then goes on to note that Johnson is openly gay, that Salzman is a Latino Jew and that Tucker is married to an African-American. Not that any of that should matter because Oak Park, in their view, is presumably post-gay, post-Latino-Jew, and, post-bi-racial marriage.

Come on. The ideal would be for the Oak Park village board to be a mix of races, genders and other descriptors. When we fall short of that ideal it is worth noting. That's it. But let's not get all defensive and land in fantasyland.

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