‘All I wanted was a roof and a loan,” said hardluck homeowner Frank Johnson. What he and his family got was a six-year nightmare that still hasn’t completely ended. The Johnsons now understand all too well the old adage, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

The saga of the Johnson house on Austin Boulevard, if not proof of the above, is certainly a cautionary tale.

A leaky roof led to lead abatement, which led to moving out of the house, which led to spiraling costs, which led to problems with contractors, which led to problems with HUD?#34;all the result of a poorly administered village rehab program.

In the end, if the work ever ends, the Johnsons will have a new house and a hefty loan to pay off, while the village spent way too much in Community Development Block Grants?#34;somewhere between a quarter and a third of a million dollars.

The saga also revealed that the village’s well-intentioned housing programs need to keep up with the times and require much better oversight.

Lead abatement is an important issue and a serious concern in a village with housing stock as old as ours. It can’t be ignored, but common sense must prevail where funds are limited. We can’t be spending $300,000 in CDBG funds every time lead is discovered. Those funds could have been used to fix streets or benefit social service agencies, which are used by many more villagers.

The village has hired a consultant to advise them on how to improve the administration of these programs, and that’s a good start. In the best-case scenerio, this will turn out to be a valuable lesson that forces needed change at village hall. But it was a very expensive lesson indeed, and the verdict isn’t in yet.

Housing programs should not be buried and ignored because they’ve proven bothersome in the past. Neither should they cost the equivalent of a new house every time they’re implemented.

Something in between those two extremes would be nice.


An opportunity at OPRF

Whether or not Donna Stevens was the issue, her departure after six years as assistant superintendent of pupil services opens an opportunity that District 200 cannot afford to fumble. Oak Park and River Forest High School’s two most identifiable “problem” areas?#34;discipline and special education?#34;fall under the auspices of Pupil Services. Each has created an adversarial relationship between administrators and parents. In both cases, critics charge that African-American students are disproportionately represented. Charges of unfairness have been leveled by both sides.

Obviously, Stevens’ replacement will have his or her plate full, so this choice is important. The new assistant superintendent must be someone who can work with special education parents who are extremely passionate advocates while still supporting staff who face an extremely difficult classroom challenge. And the new administrator needs to be accountable to the community on discipline issues while still maintaining control in hallways and classrooms.

That’s not an easy task, which is why this may be Susan Bridge’s last and most significant hire in her tenure as OPRF superintendent/principal.


We misidentified two people in the photo of the champagne toast at Dominican University in last week’s edition. The photo caption identified retiring provost Norm Carroll as Mr. Brennan and former Dominican President Sister Jean Murray as Mrs. Brennan. Wednesday Journal regrets the error.

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