By John Hubbuch
I must admit that I haven't been to, nor plan to attend, any of the Oak Park Plan Commission's hearings on the proposal to convert the abandoned Comcast building to low-income housing. I go to bed around 8 p.m., so evening meetings don't work for me. In addition, I don't live in the neighborhood, and I don't feel that strongly one way or another about low-income housing. But I am interested in how people, and in particular the enlightened citizens of Oak Park, resolve their differences when there are strong feelings on both sides of an issue.
Now I get it that democracy requires an opportunity for all sides to blow off steam in the hopes that their voice will be heard. So, the plan commission holds a bunch of meetings and everybody's blood pressure spikes for a couple of hours. Partisans are seldom very objective, and their evidence is often slanted and biased.
I previously noted that I don't have a dog in this fight, so my heart and mind are pure. With that in mind, may I suggest that the plan commission gather this information if not for itself, then for everyone who would like to be a little more informed on the issue?
First, get a commercial real estate man like Anthony Shaker or David King to advise what the likely future of this property might be if it isn't converted to low-income housing. Will it sit empty for 10 years? What other buyers might find it attractive? Hooters? Sorry. Just kidding.
Then let's get Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar over to tell about projected real estate values and taxes and all the other stuff assessors talk about. And then maybe the directors of a couple of low-income projects in the Chicago area who can tell us about their experiences on eligibility, stability, crime, whatever. A site visit could perhaps be arranged.
Finally, I'm sure we could get some expert professor, from one of the many universities in the third largest city in America, to opine. He could tell us what he has learned after spending his whole lifetime studying the subject. The more independent information and expert opinion we get, the better. I suspect the commission is probably doing this anyway, but I just wanted to be sure.
One final thing. I was surprised last week that Regis Philbin retired. I thought he was dead.
John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one. Go to OakPark.com/community/blogs to read more from his blog.
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