Whimsy? I'm all in favor of it

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

Odds and end with some a bit odder than others:

About those crosswalks: The Arts District down on Harrison Street now has fun and, OK, maybe a little gaudy, crosswalks to go along with its collapsed building. The crosswalks are geometric, multicolored, and made out of some sort of plastic bonhomie.

I like them. And even more, I like that Village Manager Tom Barwin seems to be solely responsible for them. I even like that the village paid $11,000 to install them.

Lighten up, folks. Times are tough but these are not the end days. We can still have some fun. Do some different things that are really just a whim and whimsy.

As I understand this, Barwin was traveling somewhere, saw crosswalks kind of like our new ones, and brought the idea back. You can bet your bippy he wasn't in a foreign city saying, "I can't wait to take this crosswalk proposal back to Oak Park. Let's see, I can run it by the Public Arts Commission to see if they like the colors. And then I get to see if the Transportation Commission prefers triangles or circles in the design. Oh, and then I'll bring it to the village board and they can send it over to the Plan Commission."

I want a village manager with a small discretionary budget that he can use to seed intriguing projects he thinks are important or that capture his fancy. We need a village manager who is engaged and not just pushing levers all day long.

So now we have "Tom Barwin's Crosswalks." I wonder what he is thinking of next?

About that building: The village board, with stunning alacrity, plunked down a million bucks Monday night to buy another piece of the Monopoly board in Downtown Oak Park. I'll hold my thoughts until I understand this better. However, it does give me pause when the village board buys a piece of land and each trustee nods and says the purchase was for "key strategic reasons." Then the trustees say that, starting next week, they will publicly review the Downtown Master Plan, with some suggesting tweaks and some seemingly ready for a wholesale review. How do they know what is strategic if they don't have full confidence in the underlying plan?

The mother of all plans: Village President David Pope's eyes actually twinkled and sparked — at least that is how it looked on my flat-screen — Monday evening when he leapt from the review of the 2005 Downtown Master Plan to that Nirvana place of actually tackling a wholesale review of the 1990 Comprehensive Plan. It would take years of lengthy meetings, tens of thousands of dollars, traffic consultants galore, visioning and bickering, and David Pope, would be as happy as a pig in slop. "Ah, a Comprehensive Plan."

Strictly personal: I want the Gymnastics Center for my neighborhood. The park district is about to close on the old Aldi's at Humphrey and Lake. The park board is about to decide if they'll use the grocery store with the enviable parking lot for the new and expanded and wildly popular gymnastics program or if they will relocate their vehicle storage and maintenance facility there and expand gymnastics on Madison Street.

Since my neighborhood already has a gigantic public works building on South Boulevard, I vote for cute kids tumbling and cavorting.

OPRFAYPNCLBGWB: Once again OPRF failed to make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) under NCLB (No Child Left Behind) created by George W. Bush. Anybody left who cares? I'm all in favor of accountability for all of us in education. This train wreck of a program is not accountability.

Email: dhaley@wjinc.com Twitter: @OPEditor

Reader Comments

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Dan in Oak Park  

Posted: September 21st, 2011 5:36 PM

"I want a village manager with a small discretionary budget"- I think his limit is $25,000 and we all saw how well that worked with the software consultant. He never went over the limit!

art lover  

Posted: September 18th, 2011 1:01 PM

Look around! The sidewalks suck the life out of the buildings and the storefronts.The day-glow red fire hydrants grab the eye away from even the best FLW home& if the endless, random "wall art" project doesn't STOP what's the point of worrying about granite sidewalks, elegant storefronts & restoring vintage properties as a backdrop to kiddie art splattered everywhere & overpowering everything. There is public art and there is inappropriate, thoughtless marking of public space. STOP THE MADNESS!


Posted: September 18th, 2011 9:12 AM

I would like to see these crosswalks at all the schools also.

All In Favor With Dan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 17th, 2011 10:30 PM

No one should care of Barwin to take taxpayer money and have fun with it. It only cost each and every person in Oak Park, .82 cents. Sure, the crosswalk isn't as functional as a solid white one, and although the price paid was more than it should have cost, at least our village manager was able to have fun on a bunch of others nickels and dimes. Maybe he can even get a terrific deal on his current home so he can purchase it.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 17th, 2011 8:10 PM

Dan - off subject. The D97 story comments were all pulled this weekend. It was a rowdy brawl on that wall, so I think closing it made sense. What raises a question in my mind is the fact that the last post before hitting the erase button was "From the Triblocal: "The..." Probably a fluke of timing and a coincidence, but it is odd that a quote from a competitor was dashed off to the recycle bin. (The abridged quote was in the Latest Article Comments).

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: September 17th, 2011 8:01 PM

My point on the Art District crosswalk not going through a commission might be in space, but the Westlake not going through a commission is not. Seems to me that we have seen little commission (w/exception of the Plan Commission) activity before the board of late. If nothing else, a commission would probably have studied more designs.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: September 16th, 2011 11:30 AM

I think the crosswalks are a whimsical waste of money, but I'm boring and practical that way. :) I understand that many need more whimsy in the world and that difference makes it go around. I do agree with you that it's good that the idea didn't have to go through a bunch of commissions!

I voted for Hilllary  

Posted: September 16th, 2011 10:21 AM

I care. Also, interesting choice of phrase describing NCLB as "created by George Bush" given that it was co-authored by CA Dem George Miller. The phrase is also interesting given the bipartisan support for the bill: supported by every Dem Senator (including Durbin and Kennedy-remember him?) except Feingold, Hollings and Inouye (who did not vote) and 197 Dem House members with 10 Dem no votes and 3 not voting. Don't let these little facts get in the way of a good dogmatic rant!

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