Congratulations to the Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association for their work in bringing the Gay Games to Oak Park. The Olympic-style athletic competition should be a boon for local business and allow Oak Park to showcase its many attractions to visitors from around the country and the world.

And kudos to Oak Park and River Forest High School and the Park District of Oak Park for their cooperation in making facilities available.

If all goes well, this could well serve as a model for more high-profile hosting of events in the future. The timing is right (mid-July, when many people are on vacation), and it takes advantage of one of Oak Park’s primary assets?#34;access to the city via public transportation.

This is precisely the kind of thing envisioned by village visionaries when they took the first tentative steps toward a tourism industry back in the 1970s, based on our Frank Lloyd Wright holdings and Ernest Hemingway heritage.

And the Gay Games follows close on the heels of the successful Harry Potter book release event this past July, brokered by Magic Tree Bookstore and sponsored by the Visitors Bureau. There’s no reason why Oak Park shouldn’t become an occasional host on the metro area’s events circuit.

We applaud the high school’s involvement because taxpayers have been extraordinarily generous to that institution over the past 10 years. The school’s athletic facilities in particular have been considerably upgraded with the addition of the south field across Lake Street and the parking garage, both paid for by taxpayers. OPRF’s central location makes it a natural for this event, and it’s only fair that the high school should repay the voters’ investment by making facilities available not only to the community, but outside guests as well.

The park district, too, has reason to show its gratitude following last April’s successful referendum. This is precisely the kind of synergy that helps taxpayers see a tangible payoff for their generosity.

We hope the Gay Games and the Harry Potter event represent the beginning of a trend that benefits our entire community.

Temper the NIMBY impulse

The only thing that obstructs progress on the aforementioned front is the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) syndrome. There has always been a fine, if not blurred, line between reasonable public input and obstructionism. Citizens in Oak Park have never been shy about speaking up, and citizen groups have fought developers and wrung some beneficial concessions from them over the past six years. But occasionally the line is crossed into obstructionism.

The NIMBY impulse reared its ugly head recently when neighbors of the high school wrote a letter to the editor accusing the OPRF Huskie Booster Club (which is in favor of installing lights at OPRF stadium) of all manner of devious, underhanded, Machiavellian maneuvers. The letter also demanded an absurd array of “studies,” including how lights would affect migrating birds.

This kind of over-the-top obstructionism gives citizen opposition a bad name and undermines credibility.

Not all developments are nefarious, and the “throw-everything-at-the-wall-to-see-what-sticks” approach is counter-productive. We have been, and remain, supportive of lighting the OPRF stadium. Neighbors have a right to bring valid concerns to the school’s attention and a right to expect those concerns will be addressed. But claims of lowered property values and thugs urinating on lawns just aren’t credible. Lights are an annoyance, not a violation of civil rights. If unreasonable concerns are thrown in with reasonable concerns, it gives officials less incentive to address any of them.

Let’s make 2006 the year of fighting fair.

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