Don’t be overwhelmed or overly confused by the RFP (request for proposals) the Village of Oak Park is about to issue. It involves our downtown business district, which is hurting. We need to develop the south side of Lake Street, and a lot of businesses are suffering, and a good number have closed, because of the lack of progress.

The problem is, the village board can’t decide where to put the emphasis-economic development or historic preservation. So they’re issuing an RFP that attempts to be all things to all people. But it will probably strike you as ambiguous and confused.

The thing is, we want it all. We want an exciting, vibrant retail development that sparks a downtown renaissance. But we don’t want to sell our souls (or village character) to get it. We want some creativity, and we want to preserve as much of Westgate as possible. A couple of years ago, we paid good money for the Crandall Arambula report. Some good ideas there. You might want to read it first.

You might also want to consult with Seymour Taxman. He’s probably not feeling too friendly toward Oak Park right now and might tell you to avoid it like the plague, but take that with a grain of salt. He didn’t always get his way here, but he still made a bundle of money on what he built. Listen instead to any tips he might offer. Maybe he’ll let you take a peek at the proposal he submitted previously, which the board turned down.

Then again, maybe he’s thinking of submitting a modified proposal. Who knows?

What we do know is there isn’t much money in our TIF fund, so whatever you might want to do, don’t expect any fat subsidies from the village.

I know it probably looks like you’re walking into a mess, but there’s some real potential here for a successful development. If you can creatively blend the new and the old, and attract shops that should benefit from our upscale demographics, you’ll be a hero. And you’ll also make a profit.

The RFP doesn’t offer much in the way of direction, but don’t be put off. We suspect you’ll be dealing with a very different village board after next April’s election.

Time to send a message

Voters tend to blow off “mid-term elections,” as they’re called, but this year there are good reasons to vote and strong messages to send. The Iraq referendum (you can vote twice, once for Cook County and once for Oak Park Township) is advisory and won’t change anything, but it’s an opportunity to take a stand on something that many residents feel is at best a mistake and at worst immoral. Future generations of Americans will judge us because of this pre-emptive incursion, and more than likely, they will judge us harshly. This is an opportunity to set the record straight and show we didn’t meekly consent.

This election is also an opportunity to send a strong message about the Cook County Board’s corrupt inefficiency.

And finally, it is a chance to pave the way for the Green Party to establish itself as a viable alternative in future elections.

Disgust with the current system is a good reason for not voting, but it’s not a good excuse. Voters can still send a message.

Join the discussion on social media!