'Perfect parks for the price of a ???'

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By Dan Haley

Previously, to Oak Park voters being implored to pay for a new middle school, or maybe it was the new library, the pitch was known as the "for-the-price-of-a-large-pizza-once-a-month" gambit. For WBEZ listeners it has taken the form of the "for-the-price-of-the-Trib-you-could-be-paying-for-All-Things-Considered-you-cheap-old-skank."

Now, Cook County Board President John Stroger, of all people, has moved the pocket-picking rationalization motif into the hip new realm of 2004 and Starbucks. Making the case for why taxes must rise to pay for all the fabulous things going on in our River Forest-headquartered Forest Preserve District, Stroger's PR flack came up with this line: "The test for these additional taxes is a simple one. We must ask ourselves, 'Is it worth paying an additional amount in taxes that is less than what some pay for a large cup of gourmet coffee to preserve our lands?' I think so."

Forget the fact that the sentence badly needs editing if it is going to carry the punch the over-priced java quip deserves?#34;"Wouldn't you pay the price of a large, frothy gourmet coffee to ensure open space for your grandchildren?" That would be pithier.

Forget the fact that the Forest Preserve District, though somewhat improved over the past two years from its decrepit and corrupt state, is still larded with waste that reflects contempt for voters.

Yes, even forget that John Stroger is a hideous hack who hasn't even gotten around to announcing how much he wants to raise taxes for 2005 to fuel the rest of the bloated county government.

Let's just focus on the "large cup of gourmet coffee." That's not bad. Au courant. Makes the pizza comparison seem dated and carb-loaded. And who reads the Trib every day anymore?

Now the Park District of Oak Park announced last week that it is going for a spring referendum. They want a quarter on every $100 of your house's EAV. Forever. Now that, you see, is a tough sell. Because who, except Oak Park Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar, knows what the heck $.25 of every $100 of anybody's EAV would compute to? Nobody. Hence the pizza. The Trib. And now the gourmet coffee.

Let's put this in simple everyday terms even the most lame-brained Oak Park homeowner might understand. The park district is broke. The pools leak. The rec center directors don't make minimum wage. The village president is mean to them. They've got to get a tax increase! But, voters, not to worry. This is the little old unthreatening park district. They just want a quarter. Why they've even done the multiplication for you. If you live in an average Oak Park home you won't hardly feel this tax increase. Let's see, for the price of a tank of gas. No, don't mention gasoline prices. How about, for the price of a soccer ball? A co-payment at the ER caused by a concussion caused by a soccer ball?

Closing in now. "For the price of a Lake Theatre movie ticket." Not bad. Very local. Everyone likes the Lake, likes the movies.

OK, we've got it. "For the price of a Lake Theatre movie ticket (once a month, popcorn extra) you can have perfect parks." That's the pitch.

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