What’s the most pressing issue on the minds of Oak Park and River Forest residents these days? Beats me, and I may be in the best position to assess that. As the editor of the letters section, you could say I have my finger on the pulse of the community?#34;at least of that part of the community moved to write letters to the editor.

And that is a lot of people. Every week I await the avalanche. By Friday I feel like I’m drowning in opinion, and that doesn’t even count those who don’t get around to reacting until the weekend. Most likely they’ll have to wait a week … or more … to get their turn.

I hate that, but it’s a fact of life. Last week we managed to squeeze in 25 opinions, and that was a good week. As of Saturday when I’m writing this, I have 38 letters of varying lengths in the Viewpoints folder, so a lot of those will end up in the carryover file. I have three letters about the Samuel Alito confirmation that still haven’t seen the light of print (actually, two were written before the confirmation). I apologize, but our policy is that local issues always get priority, which tells you how many local issues there have been since the beginning of the year. Heck, we can’t even run the swipes at Genghis Bush or the rationalizations of his apoplectic apologists.

Sometimes, as I spend hours at my terminal trying to round up all these opinions and edit them, I sit back in awe at the array of deeply held convictions. There are those passionately for and against putting in lights at OPRF stadium. Homeowners’ rights vs. school spirit and potential student benefits. Gets at the heart of some core community values.

Many have strong opinions on what causes the minority student achievement gap and/or what will solve it. The focus has been on Beye Elementary, but over at Irving, people are upset that budget cuts will force class sizes up, possibly erasing the gains the school has worked so hard for over the past five years.

The Colt building and what to do with it has been an ongoing obsession with civic affairs, urban planning and development enthusiasts. I can’t wait for the news to get around that the Oak Park village board is buying the building from Seymour Taxman. Historic preservation vs. economic growth?#34;another core conflict.

The Gay Games and how much we might have to pay to host them and whether we should support that “alternative lifestyle” has been on the minds of many who, if not homophobic, are certainly homo-uneasy. The homofriendly or homodefending, meanwhile, argue economic benefits. Cultural hot-button vs. commercial interests?#34;another bedrock tension.

Madison Street redevelopment is heating up. What kind of town is Oak Park? The kind where ordinary citizens spend 5 1/2 hours attending a master planning session because they live nearby and are concerned about how the area will be redeveloped. You have to admire that kind of dedication.

Trailside Museum?#34;should it be a nature center or an animal rehab center? This one’s just getting started, though the dispute has a long history.

Lights at Keystone Park West? The upcoming District 90 referendum? Making Oak Park smoke-free? Will the VMA rise from the ashes? Will the NLP coalition fragment into a bunch of quarrelsome fussbudgets? These are just the tips of our myriad icebergs. One woman wrote in suggesting we send Mongolian yurts to help house the victims of the recent Pakistani earthquake.

Often I’m impressed by a writer’s eloquence or exasperated by the bull-headed one-sidedness of his/her polemic?#34;or both.

There are times, while reading the dizzying array, when I think some people move away from Oak Park not because of the parking or the taxes, but the sheer intensity of living here. For some it may simply be too much.

So what’s the most pressing issue? The sale of the Colt building? The achievement gap? OPRF stadium lights? District 97 budget cuts? A Dist. 90 tax increase? Trailside Museum? Warrantless (and unwarranted?) surveillance of Americans by the Bush administration?

Beats me, but you have to love communities that care so much about so many things.

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