We called some of the newsmakers in both villages to ask, "What was the most noteworthy event of the past year?"
David Pope, Oak Park village president
"What's been the most important event in the village this year? I guess I would nominate two events. First, the reopening of Barrie Park. The delighted sounds of children (and a few adults) riding down the reconstructed sled hill these past few weeks have been a truly heartwarming coda to the extended and difficult remediation process. Second, the continuing disproportionate rise in property taxes. Our increase in spending is significantly outpacing similar communities and is changing the nature of Oak Park. This is our key challenge?#34;as governing bodies, as residents, and as a community."
Frank Lipo, executive director, Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest
"For the Historical Society, it was the 125th anniversary of River Forest." The Historical Society also unveiled its traveling Wall of Fame of famous Oak Park and River Forest residents, which they hope to turn into a permanent "Hall of Fame" someday.
Caroline Newberry Schwartz, District 97 board president
"The most significant event was the change of leadership of District 97 at its two highest levels, with new superintendent, Dr. Connie Collins, and new assistant superintendent, Dr. Kevin Anderson. The second most significant event was the intergovernmental agreement that was signed between Dist. 97 and Oak Park for $3.9 million over a three-year period for transportation and our multicultural center."
Marty Noll, president, Community Bank Oak Park River Forest
"I think the most significant thing to happen this year was the sweeping election of the New Leadership Party as a group and David Pope as an independent because it changed so many other things, including the defeat of the VMA across the board and the changing stance on village developmental issues."
Ali ElSaffar, Oak Park Township assessor
"I would agree with the election being significant. The NLP won, and the VMA lost after winning every election for almost 50 years. But from my personal perspective, the 2005 assessment where all Oak Park properties were reassessed, and I reached new levels of exhaustion dealing with all the tax appeals that came out of that assessment. That assessment reflects the level of concern about property tax in the community and where our taxes are going."
Sandra Sokol, Oak Park village clerk
"Although global, it does relate to Oak Park and River Forest: the outpouring of human response, both personal and financial, despite the lack of governmental coordination, to natural disasters over this past year, such as Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami."
Susan Bridge, superintendent, District 200
"Our roof project came in $2 million under budget and was completed months early. And Newsweek ranked us among the top 1,000 high schools in the country." Dr. Bridge also listed the many other accomplishments of Dist. 200 this year, including a new and updated website, plans for the mall restoration for the summer of 2006, fair reports on their discipline from state and federal reviews, a very strong academic and co-curricular showing, first in the state in softball, and a very early morning television appearance.
Frank Paris, River Forest village president
"Most years you could pick out one major event that has occurred, but this year ... the major event was to see the village [having] fun, the homes have been significantly and successfully very well renovated, and everything generally was running very well." But River Forest did have several noteworthy events that Paris mentioned, including its 125th anniversary celebration, a new program called Friendly Streets where concerned citizens worked with village staff to gather information about and then correct various traffic problems, a major zoning review, and the introduction of home rule. "
Marlene Kamm, superintendent, District 90
"I think the most significant event was that parents, students, and staff all raised over $35,000 for Hurricane Katrina victims, and also that the school board had to vote to ask voters for a referendum."