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.
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.