On development, Chicago is the city that works


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Well, now it's us. Six stories, 75 condos, stores, all on the end of our block on Madison. Mr. Schiess strikes again. Six stories? How many six story buildings are there in Oak Park? Both I can think of at least have some land around them. This won't. Nice sense of community here. Suddenly there's a temporary fence up and then a bulldozer and then big trucks are driving past the front window taking away the crumbs of the building on the corner. Rumors abound. Then there are articles in the newspaper. No quotes from people in the neighborhood, interesting enough. Just info from the developers. And suddenly, you understand what all the frustration about development is in Oak Park.

When I moved here seven years ago, I thought I would be moving to better government. I benefited from development in Chicago. I made money off it, honestly. I'm not against development. I'd like a coffee shop up on the corner. Maybe Caribou will deign to join us in our little corner of Oak Park bliss. I lived through a good period of time on the Near West Side when development was rapidly happening. You know what? It all worked better there. Not perfect. But people knew what was going to happen. Government actually stepped in and played a mediating role. Developers gave, neighbors gave in; something got accomplished. We all probably gained.

But is that what's going to happen here? What extraordinary machinations will we have to go through to make sure this development gets livable, gets appropriate for the community? Do we have to have "No 75 Condo" signs printed to stick in our window? I wish I knew. Once, we tried to get some traffic control on our street and had the at large village board member who lived on our block testify for us but didn't get it on what seemed like a whim vote of a committee, at sometime after midnight when most everyone else was gone.

My best guess at the problem is there is no real government here.

There are people who have campaign platforms that are nuances off from each other. There are always better ways to spend money, never save any money. There are lots of committees of people who make decisions but aren't voted into office. But there is never anyone whose head is on the block if they don't deliver for voters. Last I heard, that was democracy. Believe it or not, the alderpersons I lived under in Chicago were responsive. When you had a problem, someone from the alderman's office would call. They would come to meetings. They would make sure city officials came to meetings.

Now that we're heading into this, I'm feeling a little naked. Is the new Pope going to show up, or the other newly elected, who seemed to want to make development more responsive without strangling development? Or was that the other side? I'm never quite sure here. It's great that I live in a nuclear free zone. All I want, really, is to know there is someone I could call when they're going to throw six stories and 75 condos on a couple lots on Madison without much parking.

Dave Heidorn
Oak Park

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