Fearing teen violence, a call to determined action

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Fearing teen violence, a call to determined action

A week ago Saturday, a street rumble involving some five or six Oak Park teenagers ended when one young man pulled a .9mm handgun from his belt and fired it in the air. It had the desired affect of scattering the assailants. Unintentionally it has also launched a preemptive action by a panoply of Oak Park and River Forest cops, educators and social service leaders convinced the incident is indicative of a rising sweep of youth violence in our towns.

Getting a dozen community leaders?#34;every school superintendent, multiple police officials, social service leaders?#34;in one room to preemptively announce their concern about violent teens is enough to convince us that the problem is real and needs forceful attention.

Whether it was school officials openly discussing a marked hike in physical and verbal assaults starting in the middle school and then on to the high school or a deputy police chief  describing some five recent BB gun shootings as "practicing for a drive-by shooting" it is clear that a direct response is necessary. 

The effort, said John Williams, the head of Township Youth Services and the spur for this intense reaction, is to mobilize ahead of tragedy. He recalled the wake-up call of a 1995  drive-by shooting outside Percy Julian Middle School and the subsequent pitched fight near village hall which left another teen seriously injured. It was, he said correctly, the impetus for every single Oak Park and River Forest government body to unite in funding a range of innovative youth programs and the township's remarkably in-your-face interventionist initiative.

"There were a number of things which were a precursor to that bad summer. Now we are seeing some of those same things again. We need to activate the citizenry," he said.

We know, though, the power of these towns when attention is focused, when resources are focused, when accountability of these young people and their families is expected. So, while the message is disturbing, the hope in this united front is strong.

Let Whiteco's second coming be its last

A few people around town?#34;mostly opposition groups and our village board?#34;are obsessed with the Whiteco project. The rest of you are probably absolutely sick of it. In our incredibly unscientific Reader's Choice survey, the saga surrounding our now 14-story friend ranks second in the category of "stories you never want to read about again."

So in the interest of not boring you any further, we'll sum up our position in just a few comments.

Is it the best project that could ever be? We'll probably never know. Is it better than it was (in no small part due to the opposition)? Yes. Even if we dragged 20 financial analysts in a room, each armed with a 200-page report, could we be positive that this project is worth the village's subsidy? Nope.

One thing we are pretty sure of, however, is that this proposal is going to run through marathon Plan Commission hearings and land on the village board's agenda before the April election.

At this point what we are looking forward to is the commission giving the project a fair hearing, and reaching a conclusion, and the village board approving the commission's recommendation, or rejecting it. But either way, we want this debate to come to an end, see this project built, or not built, so we can move on before the words Whiteco and Stankus have more in common than number of syllables.

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