2011 comes into focus

Opinion: Editorials

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Here's a speed read of the Oak Park and River Forest stories we will be avidly watching in the new year. And, of course, we offer our opinions on how they ought to turn out.

Schools: Come April, Oak Parkers will be voting on the District 97 tax hike referendum. Passing a tax hike in this environment is all uphill. The elementary schools have, to their credit, done a strong cost-cutting job in past years. A pre-election staff pay freeze deal would help. ...The most contested election is going to be at OPRF where seven people will compete for the seats of three incumbents. This is a curious situation in towns where contested elections are not always the norm. Yes, we're curious as to the motivations of the new candidates. The current board has frustrated us with its absurd lawsuit against Dist. 97 and the Village of Oak Park. The mountain of money the high school is sitting on is a frustration as the elementary schools go bust. The extended and expensive teacher contract signed by the previous board still rankles. That said, the incumbents have been aggressive in tackling tough, insider issues of hiring and accountability that have been ignored for decades. Not sexy but essential to moving this school ahead. ... Both OPRF and Dist. 97 have new superintendents who are just coming into their own. Dist. 97's Al Roberts plans to appoint a task force to look at the achievement gap. This ought to be his signature effort and we have high hopes of action. His tenure will turn, in part, on the outcome of the referendum. OPRF's Steven Isoye has more time to make assessments but the choices he makes will be impacted by who wins the school board election.

River Forest: The attention will turn to the coming election and the end of the bickering on the village board as the Steves — Hoke and Dudek — depart. But the real story is inside village hall where Eric Palm, the new village administrator, is now in place. The choices he makes to rebuild hollowed management will be critical. More important will be the relationship and the role he plays with the village president and board. The administrator has been squashed in River Forest for nearly two decades. That's a bad model for everybody. River Forest needs Palm to be an active leader and for the village board to focus on policy. ... With an economy that we believe will slowly improve, slow steps ought to come at Lake and Lathrop, too.

Oak Park: The affordable apartment complex on Madison Street will garner headlines through the summer. This project may or may not ever be built. Having a discussion that involves race and class issues that doesn't cause ruptures in the village is a primary goal. The discussion is fair and essential. The tone is in our control. ... Economic development investments continue on Roosevelt, Madison, South Marion and South (100 block) Oak Park Avenue. Retail sales continue to rebound. Forest and Lake? No construction in 2011 but the fate of the project will be settled. We are enthusiastic supporters.

Out and about: The local theater scene is shifting in collaborative ways. Open Door will open on Harrison Street. We like the direction of the old Village Players space on Madison and hope Circle Theatre becomes a permanent addition. ... Stevenson Park on Lake Street will be the final space to receive the park district's masterful master planning process.

Drugs, alcohol and community: 2010 has seen a sustained community conversation about alcohol and drug excess among our teens. We like the grassroots effort and the prolonged energy. In 2011, we will need decisions on an open campus at OPRF and other intervention efforts. Stay strong.

Beyond the borders: These villages can seem like islands but they are decidedly not. The resolve of state officials to begin addressing the implosion of the state's finances and its direct impact on schools, social service agencies and municipalities is critical. And any fix of state finances also requires more ambitious pension reform. History tells us abject failure is ahead. Go ahead, Don Harmon and Kimberly Lightford. Make us eat our words. ... We are, on balance, big fans of Mayor Richard Daley. Oak Park without Mayor Daley is a changed place. We need a Chicago mayor who thinks regionally on transit, sustainability, crime fighting and planning, and we need a mayor who will invest in Austin's strengths.

That ought to hold us.

Reader Comments

7 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Albert from RF  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 7:06 PM

Eric Palm - Inside RF Village hall. If there is a new Village Manager in Town, who wrote and approved the Contract that GIVEs him $400 per month Car Allowance. Please inform us.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: December 30th, 2010 1:38 AM

QUOTE The affordable apartment complex on Madison Street will garner headlines through the summer. UNQUOTE. 1ST, It is not an Affordable Apartment Complex. It is Supportive Housing. A definition of Supportive Housing is easy to find on the HUD website. 2nd,the OP Plan Commission says it work will be over by early March -- prior to the local elections. Whom is promoting the delay? the villag

Achievement Gap  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 5:11 PM

Leroy, now you are talking. All these things you mention here as being in bad shape, they are squarely the job of the Principal.

Leroy Johnston  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 4:54 PM

The bigger problem here is what have the high school adminstrators done in the last 3 years. Get rid of this principal that has done nothing. We have a drug problem, lunch problems, tardy problems, the gap is bigger. :ets start holding people accountable in 2011!

Achievement Gap  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 10:26 AM

Sorry Sally. Ah - should have been more clear. Not in monetary sense but in the contribution of their ideas & Time as an Institution of Higher Ed. They do have a learning track on early childhood behavior - so if the community works together (Rather than separately) much progress can be made. Money alone will not solve the problems. Why spend TP funds on outside consultants when we have such gifted programs locally? So yes reaching out is good- as sometimes others see things differently.

Sally Forth from Oak Park  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 10:06 AM

To Ach Gap: Are you serious? You ask a private entity to funnel private donations to a public body? Clearly you know little about DU's impact in the community (see St Edmund's, FLW Race sponsorship & much, much more). Plus, D97 & D200 already have the millions needed to solve the gap. It just needs to be allocated more effectively. The focus of this issue should be within the homes of those affected, and in D97 & 200 themselves.

Achievement Gap  

Posted: December 29th, 2010 8:49 AM

Now that Dominican was given millions in Donations - Perhaps as Education Experts, they can help D200 and D97 with the Learning and Gap issue - and give back to the Community in which they reside.

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