Children’s literature presents an appropriate analogy to the village board’s latest move, or lack thereof, in the prolonged saga surrounding the Colt building.
In Hans Christian Andersen’s classic “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” it took an honest child to innocently state what should have been obvious to all: “But the Emperor has nothing at all on!” cried a little child.
The public’s reaction?
“The people whispered among each other and repeated what the child had said. ‘He doesn’t have anything on. There’s a little child who says that he has nothing on.’ Finally everyone was saying, ‘He has nothing on!'”
And the Emperor?
“The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, ‘This procession has got to go on.'”
Meanwhile, in our own “empire,” tax-bill sticker-shock abounds, and more than a few people ponder the unthinkable-moving away, perhaps to what some trustees would superciliously dub a “less unique” suburb. Blame the feds, blame the State of Illinois for underfunding education. Blame those of us who, with the best intentions, voted “yes” on the various referenda of the past few years. One can usually find some shared truth in all the shared blame.
Yet amazingly, there are still a few of our trustees who continue to disregard cost figures by continuing to devote more and more time and money to the Colt idea. They suggest that increasing the tax base is really not relevant to Oak Park’s fiscal predicament. They refuse to acknowledge their dilution of a cohesive DTOP master plan. They refuse to realize that preservation and development do not have to be diametrically opposed-that a balance can and should be struck. Moreover, they refuse to accept that time is money, and that money, more than ever, indeed matters around here.
They simply refuse to move on-as did Andersen’s Emperor, who, at the end of his story “walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the mantle that wasn’t there at all.”
Fortunately for us, our empire is a democracy. The trustees’ privilege to continue to wear the “mantle”-real or imagined-must be earned every four years. Remember that next spring.