South Oak Park gets short shrift

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I would like to know why South Oak Park is treated like "an ugly stepchild." I have lived in Oak Park my whole life and I have watched how much attention South Oak Park gets as our streets go from bad to worst. Our streets are not plowed until three days after a snowstorm, the trees are not trimmed on a regular basis, and our streets are not repaired when needed. Take a drive down any side street in Oak Park, south of the Lake Street el tracks, and you will see that the streets are crumbling and the potholes are horrendous this time of year.

The park down from our home, (Longfellow) has streets far worse than any I have seen in Chicago. Small children run across that street tripping on the asphalt that is decaying, cars are hitting potholes that damage their tires. Do we have to wait until someone is hurt before we pay attention to these problems?

Isn't this why we pay property taxes? The taxes on our home in Oak Park have steadily increased over 100% in the 15 years since my husband and I bought my parents' house. We have not expanded, our children are now grown and in a 1,500-square-foot home, we are paying $10,000 a year in property taxes, comparable to those in North Oak Park.

So what am I getting from Oak Park for all those taxes? I am beginning to wonder. It certainly isn't service, that I can guarantee you. After all, the "ugly stepchild" never gets attention.

Anne Thinnes

Oak Park

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OP Dude  

Posted: May 13th, 2013 2:18 AM

4 Freedom, good question. I think it's more about the number of wig stores, pawn shops etc... I'd rather have 1 wig shop and 1 pawn shop, with a few empty store fronts decently decorated (empty store front behind Walgreens on Madison), than 3 wig shops and 5 pawn stores etc... Perception matters! And a large number of wig stores and pawn shops creates more of a negative perception than a few quite empty store fronts. Quality over quantity!

4 Freedom  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 3:32 PM

What's worse wig shops or empty store fronts? I seriously wonder. With only 50 some odd thousand paying relatively high taxes, Oak Park doesn't really set it self up well to support the number of businesses needed to fill the abundance of store fronts it has.


Posted: May 11th, 2013 12:24 PM

As someone whose mother has remarried and who does not fall into what is generally considered "conventionally attractive," I object to your use of the term "ugly stepchild." Just because I happen to be unattractive and a step child doesn't make me any less of a person. I can't even deal with the content of the article since I'm so offended by the offensive and, frankly, prejudiced nature of the language this author uses.

Conrad from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 9:37 AM

Gee, I wish my home would "quintuple" in value. They could raise my taxes all they wanted if that was the case!

Warren Stewart from Saint Joseph, MI  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 9:25 AM

I'm not saying I have any answers, but in the 25 year period my home on south Grove Avenue quintupled in value, the taxes increased to more than 10 times their original amount. I loved my home, but the constant tax increases combined with never-ending development and over densification of the neighborhood combined to destroy my quality of life, so I moved. To this day I marvel at how many people even have the ability to pay $10,000-$30,000 in property taxes to live in a dense pack of housing.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 6:58 AM

"OK" explains that about 13% of your tax bill goes to the Village, which is responsible for the streets (among other things). There are six different taxing bodies in Oak Park, so you can't look at your total tax bill and think it's all going to the Village. Like "OK" says, 60% goes to the two school districts.

Joe Coffey  

Posted: May 11th, 2013 6:45 AM

$10k is a lot in property taxes, compared to Schaumburg, let's say, but not as much as others here in OP pay. If I got a sweetheart deal to buy my parents' home, I would pay my taxes and be glad I got a break on the purchase price. I bet the letter writer is paying far less on combined mortgage and taxes than most in OP, north or south. I'd rather pay $500-1000 less a month and deal with a bumpy alley. I certainly wouldn't complain in a newspaper.

Frank Antoinette Furillo  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 11:01 PM

Let them eat cake, right Frank? I'll bet your parents are mighty proud of your smug attitude. Take your "market price" and tax dollars and move to Kenilworth already, or is the family rate still too much for you there?


Posted: May 10th, 2013 9:50 PM

Frank, Puulleeaassee! I too payed "market price", and I'm willing to bet that the majority of homes on the northwest side are larger than my tiny bungalow... so the taxes are proportionate and no less of a burden than they are for you. "ONLY 10K"? I'm sure you'd be ecstatic to pay "ONLY 10K" for a tiny house, right? So get off you condescending high horse... you, and other north west siders not the "ONLY" person to work for their home.

Frank Furillo  

Posted: May 10th, 2013 4:39 PM

You get short shrift because you ONLY pay $10k in property taxes. Up northwest, we pay far more. Also, I had to pay market price, not the family rate. So, blame your parents I guess. Life ain't fair.


Posted: May 9th, 2013 4:10 PM

A very small portion of your property tax bill goes to the Village. For instance, in 2009 only 12.9% (per ended up at the Village. That would be $1,300 of your $10,000 tax bill. That payment covers police, fire, water, sewer, roads, diversity initiatives, and so on. Most of your tax bill goes to the school districts. $1,300 is not a lot to pay for Village services in my opinion, the schools get 60% which is a lot.


Posted: May 9th, 2013 10:34 AM

What about the alleys! The alleys! For all the taxes that OP'ers pay, almost without exception, every alley in OP is the abomination of desolation.


Posted: May 9th, 2013 9:42 AM

I wouldn't mind the wig shops if they had more clever names like "Gettin' Wiggy WIth It" or "Wiggin' Out". Perhaps combine "Wigging 4 Gold" where you receive fake hair in exchange for gold chains. Can you pawn a wig and, if so, what's the copper-gutter-to-wig exchange rate these days?

OP Resident #642  

Posted: May 9th, 2013 7:32 AM

Now you've hit a raw nerve. Why in the world do we allow an open air market on heroin in south Oak Park? I understand, but do not agree with, the argument that it's safer for the addicts than buying it to the east in Austin. Is it safer for my family? It's a hazard to everyone in our community and It needs to be driven out of Oak Park. The law does not provide an editorial right on when to enforce it. Please enforce the law, ESPECIALLY 50 feet from the police station.


Posted: May 9th, 2013 12:03 AM

The irony of the police station being on the east side of Madison is that there are still Heroin deals going on in the parking lot of the McDonalds just east of the police station. It's funny how the perception of safety is built up by having a police station in a certain place, vs reality. Being the Madison is a large artery going east/west, you see a pattern of people driving west from Chicago, robbing someone, then escaping quickly. The wig shops don't help the perception either.

Nor'easter from Oak Park  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 4:05 PM

JBM: I'll happily trade our North Avenue pawn shops for your Madison Street wig shops. Deal?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 12:48 PM

I forgot reading about the village hall decision, It was an inspiring story. Considering that the DPW, Parks and Rec, D97 were also on Madison, was it a grand plan to locate all government buildings there? That sounds like a sound idea.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 12:35 PM

John, not a fan of all the wig shops. But Village Hall (and the police department) were very consciously moved to the east end of Madison Street (from Lake and Euclid) in the 1970s as an absolute declaration of the village's determination to avoid disinvestment there at a moment of fear over resegregation of the east side of Oak Park. It was a very bold move.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 12:27 PM

My sense of the north/south comparison is a perception based on driving through the neighborhoods. My perceptions include Madison Ave, a disgrace, particularly the old DPW building, the DPW storage area, and the string of wig shops that would not be accepted in the north end. I find it odd that all village locations wind up on the south side - village hall, the new DPW, Madison Housing, etc., I may be wrong about all this. The north/south comparison is impossible for a layman to make. The problem with perceptions is that they don't go away, until someone proves them wrong.

It's bad everywhere  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 11:26 AM

I was confused last year about why some of the paving was done so poorly and had to have it clarified about "microsurfacing" not meant to really be perfect. It's still pretty bumpy when they do that.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 10:55 AM

When the curbs on our block of South Cuyler were done, the asphalt put on the street was never done all the way to the curb so there are extra deep potholes for about three feet from the curb into the street, not to mention the crappy patching job that has been done since.

It's bad everywhere  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 10:27 AM

Great letter topic! Though as a South OPer I agree with the comments that North OP is just as bad. Both halves have a mix of bad and good roads. The rest of Jackson is being paved at the end of this summer. Home south of 290 was paved last summer, etc. That said, our roads are more terrible than not everywhere. Let's not make this a North-South rivalry & let's just get to work fixing ALL the roads.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 2:02 AM

I realize all the streets in south OP have not been repaved. However, I live in se section of OP and I know Cuyler, Highland, and Harvard have been repaved. An alley has been redone. Curbing, and driveways have been redone. The village needs to get to more streets as there are many that need work.


Posted: May 7th, 2013 11:50 PM

Because that is where the majority of the affluent Oak Parkers live. It's around the FLW home and studio, there are tourists, outsiders around, and the village needs to cater to outsides and it's rich residents. I never thought I could pay 10K in taxes and still feel like I'm living in the "poor" part of town, LOL. So it's NOT just the southsiders getting the shaft.


Posted: May 7th, 2013 11:46 PM

Please don't generalize. I live in the north east section of Oak Park (east of Ridgeland), and we don't receive nearly the same amount of attention in comparison to the streets west of Ridgeland. Many of the main streets on the NE side don't even compare to the alleys west of Ridgeland. It's not about north vs south, it's about rich vs everyone else. And there are plenty of people in my hood paying 10K in taxes. Fact is, west of Ridgeland on the north side get special treatment cont...

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 7th, 2013 11:03 PM

Anne - As a south sider, I totally agree with your comments.

joe from South Oak Park  

Posted: May 7th, 2013 10:51 PM

The village has it's nose so far in the air much like our northern cousins that they simply can't see the potholes. It's not their fault!

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