I read about two incidents that occurred in Oak Park:
A Chicago man was robbed of $35K in jewelry which he was wearing to a meeting to discuss scouting for a new rap artist. The whole meeting was set up, and he was robbed at gunpoint. That sounded like a bad movie.
The other was more disturbing-a youth being attacked by three teens for his iPod in the 300 block of Ridgeland before dark. The poor kid was punched and kicked, and only the intervention of a passerby ended the assault. Every single week in our police blotter, there are armed robberies listed. It seems that crime is spiraling up while the leadership and fiscal climate of our community is going down.
It is time for Oak Park citizens/taxpayers to start demanding changes in the way our village leaders "lead." No more over-the-top expenses like "artistic" signage in the Arts District (which was produced by someone outside our community and was very expensive and look like giant razors), no more paying developers to construct buildings without enough parking, no more bilking citizens for ridiculous parking fees (pity the poor retailers, and thank goodness the village is reevaluating the fees). It is time to cut expenses of fringe and non-essential services like street-sweeping and yard waste pickup. We can handle that.
Also, the condition of our streets is shameful. We live on the street that tourists from all over the world come to see. The surface of the street is so pot-holed and bumpy and was voted the worst-condition street in the village awhile back. We have been promised resurfacing this year, and have been told by the village manager: "I expect it will be completed by November, but won't guarantee that as so often things come up with contractors. Although the street will not be brick this year, it will be much nicer for awhile."
The village attempted to have the homeowners on Forest pay for the bricking of our street, but the majority turned down the offer because of the exorbitant price. The village owns the street and the upfront costs would have been huge, but the savings would have also been huge over the 100-year lifespan of the material. Why would we pay for a public-owned street?
With property taxes out of sight, the citizens of Oak Park better start demanding fiscal intelligence and better judgment from our leadership. This is a belt-tightening period, so we should expect cutbacks that make sense.
Oak Park has been a wonderful community to raise our kids in the 21 years we have lived here. But I am very relieved that my kids are gone now and not riding their bikes or walking around the village, to be prey to thugs. Walk in Austin Gardens at dusk and you will see it isn't a place for youth to play alone. I now carry a cellphone and pepper spray with me at all times, "just in case."
Oak Park's diversity and politically correct identity are honorable. But we seem to have lost basic focus of the importance of public safety and an intact infrastructure, without which a community is very much at risk. The location of Oak Park with public transportation to the Loop is what will keep Oak Park from going too downhill.
What we should not tolerate are shortages in our police and fire personnel. We are sitting ducks for the thugs who prey on our trusting lifestyle.