When Jacques Conway talks about tolerance vs. diversity, we should pay attention. He is the first African-American police officer in Oak Park to retire with a pension. Think about that a moment. There have been many black officers. Conway is the first to get to the finish line without departing either voluntarily or involuntarily. Conway personifies how far this village has come and, at the same, how far we still have to go.

Among the first minority officers hired here back in the 1980s, he persevered in an evolving department that wasn’t always accepting and supportive. As our front-page story today chronicles, Conway saw his share of intolerance. But he also watched as the department grew and changed. Within a few years, Conway will no longer be the only black officer to reach pension and retire.

Because of his exemplary record of public service-which includes serving on first the park board and now the District 200 school board-he has a unique perspective on our village, and when he says Oak Park still has a ways to go on the diversity front, he’s earned our attention. Too many Oak Parkers regard the integration struggle as over, but that’s not true. It’s the difference, says this ordained minister, who pastors a church in Maywood, between “tolerance” and true “diversity.”

Jacques Conway is both a figure of hope and a marker on the road that stretches ahead. Either way, we owe him a debt.

Take West Nile seriously

West Nile disease hit close to home here at Wednesday Journal when one of our own, reporter Bill Dwyer, contracted the illness the week before last. Like many people, we had pretty much blown off our concerns about the virus even though local testing turned up the presence of disease-carrying mosquitos. Now three local residents have come down with it, and judging by Dwyer’s experience, which you can read about, also starting on page one, it’s no picnic and not something to be lightly dismissed.

We don’t necessarily think this justifies massive insecticide spraying because the effectiveness doesn’t clearly outweigh the dangers, but it does mean warnings to use bug spray and cover up, especially at dusk, are worth attending to.

A Levell playing field

Who’d have guessed area football fans would have something to cheer about this fall? No, we’re not talking about the Bears, though we’re grateful for the distraction from the disappointing second-half performance of the White Sox. We’re talking about the OPRF Huskies, who knocked off Lyons Township and highly ranked Hinsdale Central in succeeding weeks, which hasn’t happened since the days of Talmadge Hill in 1998.

And everyone’s talking about the emergence of running back Levell Coppage, who is giving fans a reason to pack the stands. We can’t help wondering what it might have been like if the high school hadn’t dragged its feet on lighting the stadium. This week’s game against Morton, for instance, might have been under the lights and local residents would have had two good reasons to turn out for the game.

Well, there is a silver lining … Coppage is only a junior.

Congratulations to Jim Nudera and his crew on last week’s victory.

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