By Dan Haley
Here in Oak Park we perceive that we have an overnight parking ban. No parking on the street between 2:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. "That's the law, always has been." "You have a garage, don't you?!" "Good for plowing snow." "Good for leaf pick-up." "Keeps us safe from West Side hooligans who like nothing better than to spend their nights hiding between parked cars." "Makes us a suburb, not like a city neighborhood."
That's what we say when we aren't kvetching about the $30 tickets when you fall asleep on the couch and forget to put the car away, when your not-favorite aunt visits and you have to find that damned number and hang on the line for 10 minutes to get an operator, when your daughter visits for the sixth night of the calendar year and her license plate sets off alarms and a terse permit decline.
Or when we homeowners notice that we're putting our cars away but there are still cars parking in front of our places with night parking permits that spill over from the nearby courtyard building. Or when our neighbors in those nearby apartments really hit low and say, "For a bunch of purported progressives, you sure get off on discriminating against people who can only afford an apartment."
That would lead to the more truthful statement that Oak Park has a partial ban on overnight parking — or, as one of the many, many commenters over at OakPark.com put it, we have an "overprocessed nighttime parking system."
That's about right. There are way too many cars clogging up the busy streets every night to still claim we ban parking in the dark hours. But till now, village government has had this queer fear about calling it anything other than an outright ban. Make too many exceptions, went the party line, and some boogeyman was going to take the town to court and eradicate the whole thing.
Have never understood what entity would care enough to bring down a partial overnight parking ban. Who is coming for us? The ACLU?
This all comes up right now for the same reason most things are coming up in Oak Park. The new village president, Anan Abu-Taleb, wants to shake out the cobwebs and he keeps hearing from the disgruntled, and not the gruntled, about all the annoyances created by the permanently porous overnight parking ban.
And this being Oak Park, where we live to refer issues to commissions for holistic study, there is this inclination to ask the Parking and Traffic Commission to undertake a thoroughgoing review.
But here's a better idea:
Read the comments on our website. You'll have a pretty good idea of what people like about our not-really-a-ban and what ticks them off. Make a list and hand it to Cara Pavlicek, the current village manager and former parking department chieftain, and ask her to come back in 30 days with appropriate fixes and a budget necessary to accomplish same. Proceed.
Here's the list: No one wants to call the parking hotline every time they need an overnight pass. Even though the lady who answers the phone is an absolute peach, no one wants to wait 10 minutes to talk to her. Buy, borrow or create an online and mobile solution stat. Who the hell ever said five permits a year or you're a criminal? Make it 10, make it 20, make it 30. My sister, the nun, visits about two nights a month from Naperville. Make it 24. I'll buy a packet of passes at Jewel when I buy yard waste stickers.
Go that far. Do it fast. Everyone will cheer.