Dan, I concur with much of your column entitled "All kinds of housing" [Dan Haley, April 20]. Indeed, Oak Park has made room for all sorts of people who are in need. One home here, several apartments there. It has been an organic system that has offered people the dignity and ability to plug into a neighborhood one person or family at a time. Because of our success, we have far more subsidized units than all our neighboring suburbs combined. For that we should very proud.
And when you say you "can't even pick out which house it is," you are right. That allows everyone to feel like they are "home."
I have proudly called Oak Park home for 18 years. My wife and I chose to raise our children in Oak Park because of its remarkable values including assured diversity, mutual respect and your notion that people-of-need be "scattered across the village" as you say and folded into the fabric of this community as full members of their neighborhoods. That has made it feel like home. Thus far, people have not been boxed into tiny units on a busy street, told they should not own cars and relegated to a large, crowded building like the public housing being torn down all over the country. That would not be "home."
As for "the process," a home is also where people should listen to each other — a place where respect is afforded to everyone, and there is no name-calling. One's home should not be like the school playground where a handful of "cool kids" push their agenda onto the others by bullying them into silence, relegating one group of needy kids to the sandbox to "live" while refusing to listen to the majority who have been playing peacefully with everyone for years.
Home is also not a place where neighbors are shamed, labeled and censored for having different perspectives on how best to help those who need affordable housing. Our hometown embraces diversity, but how much diversity of thought do we really allow when only three people are allowed to speak in opposition to the Interfaith project at the village board? How much diversity of thought is there when we are rushing forward with the first idea for this site? How much diversity of thought is there when our board is made up of only one party? How many low-income people, minorities or Republicans are on our board? And how many people have really looked at the facts about this plan and how it attempts to give huge tax credits to multinational companies like BP or Exxon for 40 years. Or that each unit will cost in excess of $300,000 while numerous houses and apartments remain empty that could house entire families who need subsidies, rather than squeezing individuals into tiny dorm-sized units?
Yes, I'm with you, Dan. We need to make sure Oak Park remains "home" for all kinds of people. Let's make sure we don't limit their access to quality jobs by limiting their transportation options. And rather than segregating our future Oak Parkers, let's make sure we surround each one with established neighbors who can successfully integrate them into neighborhoods all over the community. Then it will continue to feel like home.
Demetrios Pappageorge is an Oak Park resident, former resident manager of one of Oak Park Resident Corporation's Oak Park apartment buildings and neighbor of the vacant Comcast building at 820 W. Madison.
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