The day Oak Park went brown

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I never thought I would see the headline in last week's paper: "Oak Park scraps green energy program." It was like seeing: "Oak Park dials back diversity" or "Gays made to feel unwelcome in Oak Park."

The board's decision to change the village's electric aggregation provider from a "green" source that used renewably sourced power to a "brown" source at a slightly lower rate was disappointing on a number of levels. I have several questions. First, if Oak Park doesn't lead on this issue, what community will? Schaumburg? Naperville? Hinsdale? I don't think so. I appreciate that "staying green" would cost the average consumer an extra $5 a month, but surely the majority of our citizens would be willing to pay for it. 

Supporting the environment is one of the reasons I live in Oak Park. I am proud to tell people that I'm an Oak Parker. We are different. We understand that burning fossil fuels is radically changing our environment and will eventually lead to … how to put this? … the end of our species. We are willing to pay more for electricity. We value the long run over the short. Whatever happened to "it takes a village"?

Second, how come the trustees found their Tea Party mojo, proclaiming that citizens were tired of paying what it costs to live in the village, on this of all issues? Now I must admit that heated sidewalks, fancy streetscaping and expensive signage have sometimes seemed a bit excessive, but why draw the line on the most important issue facing the entire planet? This decision seems like a no-brainer, but in the totally opposite direction. I sure hope that soft coal, peat or trees aren't cheaper than renewable energy, lest our leaders decide to save me even more money. 

Please don't.

Third, I thought our leaders were men and women of leadership and courage. Going brown, but leaving individuals to opt into green was particularly weasel-like. It reminded me of employers who require employees to opt into matching IRA pensions rather than out. How about the program staying green and letting global warming deniers and short-sided misers opt for brown? The nudge here is in the wrong direction. 

Better yet, step up to the stage and lead like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. C'mon, boys and girls, get it together. I think it's great that you're making the village "business friendly," how about "environmental friendly," too? I appreciate that going green is not exactly cutting-edge, but then neither is breathing.

There was one good thing that came out of this ass-backwards decision. My little granddaughters moved recently from Oak Park to Glen Ellyn. I was kind of sad because I thought Oak Park was a great place to raise kids. At least now I won't have to explain to them why their hometown went brown.

Reader Comments

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Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2014 10:23 PM

These green options are clearly a scam. All they do is allow you to "claim" your energy was generated by a renewable source. Does anybody really understand the economics behind the green plans? Seems OP would be better off installing some solar panels to actually generate renewable energy instead of stroking their vanity with these so called Green options.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2014 9:38 PM

David, if you're interested, a review of the consultant's contract is on Monday's Village Board meeting agenda. Regular Agenda item (E).

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: May 2nd, 2014 12:51 PM

Good speaking with you David. If I may, who did you go green with? I may be interested.


Posted: May 1st, 2014 3:44 PM

No, I've not made any comments about short-sided misers, or warming deniers. I understand there are legit reasons _not_ to go green--and that's fine. I can afford to go green, and did--but NOT on the Village plan. And seriously, the Village *isn't* saving any of us money with either of these plans. There are *much* cheaper options out there, even when you read the fine print...

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2014 2:26 PM

We agree the consultant erred. However, and I assume you're the author, your comment about short-sided misers, warming deniers, etc, as well as leaders of courage was harsh. I thought the Trustees were leaders of courage for standing up to the the green haters. Their interests should be protecting the taxpayer money entrusted to them. A departure from the warm sidewalks and unused charging stations of past boards. It is not your money, nor their money. It is OUR money - every one of us.


Posted: May 1st, 2014 1:44 PM

If you care about how the Village spends our money, you *should* be concerned about the consultant's work. Go read Trustee Salzman's explanation of why there was a last minute vote on the issue... the whole process was bungled. And as a result, even the default brown plan is as much as a few cents more expensive than some of the options out there. That *should* be concerning to OPers who care about saving money.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2014 1:32 PM

The issue is not whether the consultant's work was comprehensive. For whatever reason, there may be more reasonable options. The issue is whether the default must be less economical. I think that those who supported the green energy program likely do their homework and are technologically proficient. In other words, most likely to have the ability to choose to spend more money on an issue. As opposed to being forced to do so because of circumstances (education, etc.). That is liberty.


Posted: May 1st, 2014 12:52 PM

Actually, Brian, as a "greenie" I'm not upset about the Village giving a "brown" option so those on fixed incomes, or who want to save even more money can. In fact, I think that's great. But there's no reason brown should have been the default not vice versa. More upsetting is that it's a *bad deal* brown OR green. You think the board did the right thing? Visit and see how many *cheaper* options there are--brown *or* green!! They're *wasting* money.

Joel A. Schoenmeyer from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2014 12:51 PM

"surely the majority of our citizens would be willing to pay for it" That's the great thing about choice, isn't it? We'll actually be able to SEE if the majority of our citizens would be willing to pay for it (instead of having it imposed upon them from on high, by The Oak Parkers Who Know Best?). As I side benefit, we may also learn that just because certain people have loud voices and an abundance of free time does not mean that they speak for a majority of Oak Parkers.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2014 12:40 PM

For those who support the Board's decision, have you thought about dropping them a quick email letting them know? One email to board @ goes to all board members. I was the only one at the meeting on 4/21, of the 20+ people who spoke, who publicly supported the Board's decision. The Board has received over 450 emails against their decision. Is that a fair representation of this town? I don't know. Bottom line: those who are the most vocal are the ones who will be heard.


Posted: May 1st, 2014 12:20 PM

Well stated, Brian! I am thankful the Board voted correctly for "diversity" of thought and income levels on this subject.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2014 12:01 PM

To answer your questions: 1) You really do not appreciate that not all residents want to pay an extra $60 per year or so, particularly those in fixed incomes; 2) The mojo came to town when the Board that gave us the wholly unused charging station were voted out of office; and 3) the vocal minority of Greenies were less represented than the majority of pocketbook voters on this issue - its called democracy. It is what the current Board was elected to do, and that is to rationalize spending.

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