The bump out and the smush

Opinion: Columns

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

Name in the news: Had not thought about Monsignor John Fitzgerald in a good long time. Like many active or deactivated Catholics, I suppose I live with the dull dread that the next time I hear a name from the past it will not be in connection with a blessing but with a sin. 

And so it was on Sunday with the news that Fitzgerald, the long-dead pastor of Ascension Church, has now been accused of sexual abuse by a woman, then a teen, who says that the priest sexually attacked her while she sought counseling from him back in 1964. While reports are still sketchy, some of the details we have were rightly provided in the parish bulletin by Larry McNally, the current pastor.   

As usual, there are questions about how the archdiocese has handled this information.

More will be learned. That's the usual pattern. But until we know more, here are a few recollections of Fitzgerald that neither endorse him nor convict him but just offer some context for a person who was a major force in south Oak Park — well beyond his church — in the 1950s, 1960s and into the early 1970s:

He is credited with using his clout in the 1950s to stop the building of an additional entry and exit to the under-construction Congress Expressway (now the Ike) just a block south of his East Avenue church. In the 1960s he was visible in Oak Park's early open-housing efforts, lending his name to petitions and, as the Journal has reported, working to help an African-American family purchase a home in the parish in part because he wanted his school integrated.

It is possible I was on my way to lapsing earlier than most because I was a champion sermon-napper, but once a year Fitzgerald would take to the pulpit to lay out the parish's finances — usually dire but curable — in some specificity. I loved this sermon. It was practical and it related to something I could understand: "The boiler's shot." Made me proud when the next week I put my Pop's dime into my collection envelope.

Pedal, pedal, swerve, pedal: Sometimes it is hard to get your public policy trends in the right order and then, dang, trying to blend them in the same location is a beast. Take the concept of traffic calming. Deep breaths, slower cars, life is simpler. What's not to like? So Oak Park applied the magic of traffic calming to Jackson Boulevard a few years back, using the technique of the "bump out." Push the curbs out into traffic at every intersection and, voila, no more hit-the-gas, pass-on-the-right shenanigans.

But what of bike-ability? We love our bikes (yeah, I know, most of you actively hate those of us on our bikes). We need safe, protected, connected routes so we may glide across town with nary a smidge of carbon use. 

So now Oak Park is about to stripe out bike lanes on Jackson from Ridgeland to Harlem. Guess that means they're going to yank the dozens of expensive bump outs. Doesn't it?

Nope. The bump outs stay.

Says David Powers, the village spokesman sometimes seen tooling about town on a motorized scooter, "In those areas [where the bump outs exist] it can't be a dedicated bike lane; it becomes a shared road."

Oh, I see, a shared road, a prescription for smash and smush.

CONTACT:  dhaley@wjinc.com

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