Whose spot is this?

Even most of our top local officials don't get their own parking spaces

Opinion

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By DIANA OLESZCZUK

Parking is an issue for most people in Oak Park and River Forest, so it might be comforting to know that even the higher officials have to struggle with the same issue.

We checked with the superintendents, the village managers and the head of the library and found that only the village manager of Oak Park has a reserved parking space, while others compete with fellow employees in parking lots?#34;or even other pedestrians out on the street.

Carl Swenson, the village manager of Oak Park, was the only person we found with a reserved parking space. The manager has had a reserved parking space since Village Hall was built in 1974 and there's a nice little nameplate above it. "It came with the job, like the desk," said David Powers, village spokesman.

It's underneath the police station, near Village Hall and surrounded by police cars. This is where the police bring in people who have been arrested, and also where the FBI officials come if they ever stake out in Oak Park. The blue and white cars with flashing lights belong to the police chief, the three deputy chiefs, the two field supervisors, the evidence technician, detective commanders and a few other police officers. There are two spots for arrest processing.

If you happen to drive past, the labels and police cars make it clear that it isn't public parking. But if they have the guts to park there, violators get warnings.

Susan Bridge, superintendent and principal of OPRF High School, has a reserved parking space, but only if the contractors take the day off. Bridge has a spot at the north end of the school on the East Avenue mall, between the tennis courts and the school building. But this year, it has been mainly occupied by people working on the OPRF roof.

And there are no guarantees for next year, because the mall may be under construction and the future of those reserved spots is up in the air. For now, if Bridge sees another car in her spot, she parks in the staff parking lot at Scoville Avenue and Lake Street, because she has an F2 permit just like the rest of the staff.

Constance Collins, superintendent for the District 97, hasn't started work yet. But her predecessor, John Fagan, used to park a block away and walk to school. Since there are about 30 spaces in the fenced-in lot on Home Avenue and Madison Street and 50 people at the school from day to day, it's catch-as-you-can.

Parents and visitors also park in the lot, and no signs say otherwise. But generally employees can find parking on the street if there are no parking spots left in the lot, according to Judith Reed, the board secretary who is also in charge of parking. "We haven't had an issue so we haven't made it an issue," Reed said.

Marlene Kamm, the superintendent for the District 90, also parks in the faculty parking lot and on the street if it's filled. Other people don't generally park in the faculty parking lot, but there are no consequences if they do.

Chuck Biondo, the village manager of River Forest, doesn't have a reserved space, and neither do the trustees. They park in the employee lots at Village Hall, at Park Ave. and Lake St. or at 400 Park Ave.

"Typically we have sufficient parking for our employees," Biondo said. "It doesn't happen often, but violators get ticketed. We don't enforce it as much as we should but it is enforceable."

Oak Park Library Director Ed Byers competes with everyone else at the library for spaces. Although employees can get their parking passes validated at the library, they don't get special parking spaces.

"It's sort of the luck of the draw," said Byers, who estimates that he has had to search for parking six times in the two years he has worked at the library.

Byers errs on the side of "every day is an adventure" when describing parking. "[Parking in Oak Park] is one issue I'm sure we are going to have for a long time," he said. "WEDNESDAY JOURNAL could do an article on it in 20 years and get the same answers."

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