Scoville was worth the cost

Opinion: Editorials

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By John Hubbuch

In defending the expenditure of the $2 million Scoville Park renovation, I feel a little bit like the lawyers who defended the Nazis at Nuremberg or John Wayne Gacy's defense counsel. But somebody has to do it. The cacophony of criticism comprises two charges — the $2 million price tag was much too high and a waste of taxpayers' money, and the park looks the same after the renovation as before.

At the outset, I would note that almost every expenditure of public money in this village elicits complaint from skinflints, misers and assorted cheapskates. I must remind them that while such carping is permitted under the First Amendment, it is pointless, and, even worse, boring. Oak Park is a liberal community. Liberal communities spend lots of money on worthy projects — laptops for school children, programs for the disadvantaged, pretty streetscapes and renovation of public grounds and buildings.

Regrettably, these projects cost lots of money and taxes are quite high to pay for them. Yet the voting majorities approved the referenda that increased those taxes. Thus it was. Thus it is. Thus it will be — until affluent young people stop moving to Oak Park and buying our homes.

The charge that the "new" Scoville looks like the "old" Scoville and therefore the makeover was aesthetically and structurally wasteful misses the mark. Think of a vintage Mustang or a piece of fancy furniture. Art museums are always spending lots of dough to spruce up great works of art like the Mona Lisa. Restoring the old and beautiful costs money, and Scoville Park is beautiful. Now the renovation could have included a pickleball court, a miniature golf course, a homeless shelter or a restaurant to increase revenue, but instead Scoville stayed the same.

Good. For Scoville Park and its adjacency to the library is the living breathing heart of Oak Park. It is Oak Park's front yard. It is the most diverse, inclusive space in a community that is defined by those values. The idea of Scoville Park is as important as the park itself. Young mothers groups meet on its lawns. Seniors sit on its benches. Adults play tennis. Toddlers play on the swings and in the sandbox. The community gathers for music and lawn games and to remember its veterans who paid the ultimate price for their country. The great sloping hill is peopled by citizens of every shape, color, gender and age.

The WWI monument renovation is spectacular. It could and should be a place, like London's Hyde Park Corner, where we meet to debate the public issues of the day. Just walking by Scoville Park is a reminder of why I live in Oak Park and will continue to do so despite the high property taxes. The descendants of Silas Marner who criticize the cost of the renovation forget the importance of this space to our community.

The money spent on the renovation and preservation of Scoville Park was a good thing for this community now and in the future.

Go take a look.

Reader Comments

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Bill from Oak Park  

Posted: September 19th, 2013 10:21 AM

John - Speakers Corner, not Hyde Park corner. The new park looks great. I like how the redesign draws you in when you are on Lake street going east at the corner of Oak Park Blvd. Disagree that Liberalism is the reason we spend money on parks. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the River Walk in Naperville. Finally, state money is not free. I wonder if the state should be subsidizing wealthy Oak Park or any municipality given the current fiscal crisis.

Chris from OP  

Posted: September 12th, 2013 7:37 PM

And Mr Bracco should mention his longtime affiliation with the Park District.

Chris from OP  

Posted: September 12th, 2013 7:33 PM

Your definition of "worthy projects" is off. Brick streets. Narrower streets. iPads/robbery magnets. None of those are "worthy" of our tax dollars. Its not a liberal/conservative thing, it is a common sense thing. One can see OP wastes enormous sums of money without being a miser. As far as the state vs local money are concerned, some of us pay state tax too. And the state is *broke*, remember?

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 12th, 2013 12:11 PM

Well said, JIm, though I'll echo the fact that most of the construction costs came from state grants. And in truth, knee-jerk negative comments from the 2 or 3 usual suspects doesn't constitute a "cacophony of criticism". The overwhelming majority of residents & visitors love the restoration of Scoville, and will for decades to come.

Jim E.  

Posted: September 11th, 2013 1:46 PM

Thank you. Well said........ now let the naysayer comments begin!

beating a dead horse  

Posted: September 11th, 2013 1:40 PM

Again, 1 more time, $1.6 mil came from the state.

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