If 2004 was a year of planning, process, and planning processes, we're looking forward to next year being one of action (after all, we deserve some return on our investment in consulting fees).
Here's our brief rundown of some of the areas we can expect to see less discussion, and more decision, in 2005.
? After months of board meetings replete with grandstanding (no, we don't expect any of the three board members currently running for village president to rise above the temptation), there will be a new Oak Park village president. And no matter who wins, this election will bring a dramatic change in the tone of leadership in this town. A change for the better, we hope.
? On the election front in River Forest, voters will settle on whether or not Frank Paris will take the lead for another four years. With such a strong governance style, Paris' presidential persistence?#34;or absence?#34;will make a strong impact.
? Settling on a new District 97 Superintendent, and making important new hires for other key positions, including that of curriculum director Mary Schneider. Retirements bring a loss in consistency, but also an opportunity for fresh perspective, and new initiatives. District 97 needs both.
? Barrie Park re-opening. Enough said.
? We expect to see some serious decisions made about the future of downtown: To re-open, or not to re-open, the Marion Street mall; development plans to be debated and approved in some form for the Colt building; some new parking added to downtown (not to add, we hope, is not an option); a decision on whether or not to extend the TIF district; have at least some idea of what will take the place of the finally demolished Sawyer building; and, hopefully, at least a little more sense of what's in store for the Bank One parking lot.
? Also along the lines of the future of downtown, we'll better finally know, once and for all, if there will be a 14-story apartment complex with a Trader Joe's at Harlem and Ontario.
? A vote on the park district referendum. Referendum-seekers village-wide will watch closely, as this vote will be almost as much a test of the persistent theory that Oak Park has truly reached taxing capacity, as it will be about about the future of our parks.
? A final concept for the Ike cap?#34;so we'll know exactly how much more to invest before these plans go on the shelf forever.
? A strategic plan for River Forest schools, which will chart the future of one of the state's already most successful districts.
? Taxing bodies and organizations across Oak Park and River Forest coming together to combat rising youth violence.
? The release of the Oak Park and River Forest High School's discipline audit, and, hopefully, a productive plan for fairly addressing identified problems.