West Suburban Hospital CEO Jay Kreuzer addressed a group of concerned neighbors last week, the first step in a community outreach effort related to the hospital's plan to build a new Emergency Department. No one seems to question the need for an expanded emergency room. Certainly no one who has used the facility in the last few years is questioning it.
The current ER is stretched well past its capacity of 40,000 cases per year, the physical plant is obsolete, and the technology needs upgrading. We're glad to see that West Sub's new owner, Resurrection Health, is ready to spend the $10 million needed for a new facility.
Some neighbors though are wondering whether the sketchy discussion to date masks a fait accompli or if West Sub is sincere about listening to the neighbors' concerns and working with them. Some of those concerns are valid. If, as expected, West Sub proposes building a new ER on land it has long owned on the west side of Humphrey Avenue, it will back a highly intense hospital use up against a residential neighborhood. Noise, the traffic flow of emergency vehicles, and positioning of the entrance are all issues the neighbors deserve a voice in.
We trust the hospital is open to working with them to create a situation that benefits quality of life issues. More than a decade back, during the hospital's last notable expansion, it flubbed its connection to the neighborhood and it paid in ill will and delays.
We hope neighbors are willing to work with the hospital in order to influence the final outcome in a positive way. West Suburban is a vital part of Oak Park and Austin and the new ER is a necessary improvement.
The windy village?
A local homeowner is ready to take the progressive step of harnessing wind to lower utility costs. Already though the home-owner has expressed a concern that Oak Park's recent focus on historic preservation might conflict with the physical appearance of their new technology.
To us, there are two progressive issues here. Preserving our housing is essential. Changing the way we consume fossil fuels is essential. Oak Park needs to actively balance those positive inclinations.
With rapidly rising fuel costs, especially in the wake of the two Gulf Coast hurricanes, we have had a pointed reminder that our reliance on fossil fuels makes us vulnerable. Our earth warming ways may be sparking more intense weather. Clearly, as a nation we are overdue for a concerted effort to develop alternative fuel sources.
Oak Park prides itself on its progressive sensibilities. Meshing preservation and the environment is a critical next step. A preservation ethos shouldn't trump ecological innovation.
More than just a banner
A banner was hung Saturday morning at the main library. It is an invitation to consider the breadth of the resource Oak Park has in early childhood education. The banner has been signed by some 200 people who spend their lives working with our kids. Some are on the public payroll at a local school. Far more though are early childhood pros working in church basements, storefront day cares, and home-based programs.
Until the Early Childhood Collaborative came along a couple of years back, these people worked in some isolation, and with not enough appreciation and recognition. The Collaborative is working to change that as it unites the shared mission and respects the unique differences in how early childhood care is provided in our town. We all know how important early education is in our families and in our community. The banner makes visible the many strands which collectively help us raise our kids up.
The Collaborative is a true Oak Park initiative and, now, it is a state model for raising the quality and the respect owed our early childhood professionals.