The candidates for village government in Oak Park have two competing theories about the sorry state of the business climate in Oak Park: one side says it's all due to the bad economy while the other side says the practices and policies of the government in Oak Park also play a role.
So let's try an experiment (I'm fond of experiments). Take a few minutes on any given day and drive each way along Madison Street from Austin Boulevard west to Thatcher. The stretch in Oak Park and Forest Park are similar in many ways, and they certainly share the same economy; for instance, in Forest Park there is a cemetery along Madison, and in Oak Park there is the dead weight of village hall.
A little more than half the length is in Oak Park, so you shouldn't feel too threatened by the little time you spend in Forest Park. As you go, compare the vibrant feel in Forest Park to the more sedate atmosphere in Oak Park. Contrast the refugees from Oak Park on the Forest Park side (such as the Original Pancake House, Centuries and Sleuths, and Thyme and Honey) to the refugee from Forest Park on the Oak Park side (Circle Theater, now wandering in Chicago rather than stay here).
When you compare the vacancies on either side of Harlem, you might object that one of the big vacancies on the Oak Park side is a former car dealer. Who could be expected to replace a car dealer with something comparable? Yet somehow Forest Park has replaced a car dealer with a car dealer (the grand opening is going on now). And that former Forest Park dealership had its roots in Oak Park, where I once bought a car. Having performed your experiment, I suspect you will reach the same conclusion I have: that the business climate in Oak Park is good — for Forest Park.
Meanwhile, at least Anan Abu-Taleb is able to admit that there is a problem with Oak Park's village government beyond the state of the economy, the first step toward a solution. I hope you'll join me in supporting his astonishing effort and vote for him on April 9.