Put up a garage, because there go the parking lots

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At the risk of harping, and for the benefit of the newly elected Oak Park village board, Downtown Oak Park is losing parking much faster than it is gaining spaces. The result, in quite short order, is going to be parking gridlock.

News last week that construction begins in three short weeks on the so-called Bank One lot on Marion Street should be setting off alarm bells. Add the Whiteco project at Harlem and Ontario, the RSC multi-use building eliminating a lot on Lake Street and the prospects for a parking solution are grim. Yes, we know that the Holley Court parking garage expansion is underway. That will help some.

But the solution is an entirely new parking garage on North Boulevard in the vicinity of Old Navy. Trouble is that exactly how to position such a garage is dependent on how Westgate is preserved or not and how Station Street is placed or not. Clearly, hopes of a quick decision on such essentials was pushed back when the those legitimate issues were raised after the Crandall Arambula study was adopted.

However, the village board and staff should be looking at either fast-tracking the decisions on the overall redevelopment of that area or, short of that, considering if a decision on placement of a garage can be made before the broader plan is final. Not ideal, but then neither is driving away customers frustrated by a parking crisis.

Aside from being 23 grand, that big desk a bit imposing

We're not furniture makers or architects, so perhaps it's not surprising to those more astute in these matters that Village Hall's new "welcome center" (or, as we call it, the new big desk) cost $23,000. It seems like a lot to us. But leaving the matter of government spending aside, what we do find a bit irritating about the purchase is that it's, well, more than a little imposing.

Oak Park's Village Hall, with its good points and its warts, was designed to reflect a commitment to open governance. That's why most staff members desks sit out in public view. The public was welcome to come and talk to their officials. Now the new big desk is like an oversized blockade at the very point of entry to the hall.

Oak Park's new village board was chosen by voters determined to renew open governance in Oak Park. That daunting desk does not send a message of welcome or transparency.

Farewell to Dale

We admit to having favorite public officials. River Forest's Dale Rider is one of them. Just retired from the village board after an unsuccessful, but surprisingly competitive, race for village president, Dale Rider has been serving the people of River Forest for decades. He served a stint as a trustee in the 1980s, lost a battle for village president then and took some time off. He came back on the board several years ago and has been a dissenting voice during the Frank Paris era. And while we have endorsed Paris regularly, we have appreciated Rider's willingness to speak clearly and critically.

That he is quotable and colorful never hurt either. Thanks Dale.

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