Oak Park and River Forest have rich histories. We have a poor way of showing it off though.

For decades the Historical Society has been invisible and cramped on the second floor of the lovely Pleasant Home mansion, a park district-owned property. While the resources and artifacts are extensive and the volunteer and professional staff on the rise, the physical quarters are a perpetual blockade to the flowering of the society.

That is why for years we have lobbied for a new home for our local history museum. With past efforts blocked by too much politics and too little vision, we’re ready to lobby anew for a permanent and stellar home for the museum. That site is the village’s current water pumping station at Lake Street and Lombard Avenue. Soon to be abandoned as the village’s new public works mahal comes on line this summer, the pumping station has the historical credentials since it is the village’s longest operating public building extant. Constructed in 1898 as Cicero Fire House #2, the handsome structure has history, open space, adequate parking and a visible location going for it as an ideal site for the museum.

The idea first turned up during a village-funded study of commercial prospects in the Lake Street and Austin Boulevard area. We see that area as underutilized but recognize that to get it back on the radar of most Oak Parkers it must become a destination. Right now, besides being home to the adventurous Danza Viva dance studio, the area is an uninspired tumble of beauty supplies, dry cleaners and tax services. Just as moving village hall to the east side in the early 1970s made a statement, so could investing in our history at the pumping station.

Money, of course, is tight and retrofitting a pumping station into a history museum won’t be cheap. The Village of Oak Park ought to stand ready to make an investment. It’s River Forest’s history, too, so the arm must be put on that village, as well. Ultimately, though, the Historical Society is going to have to find and tap its angels, its grant-writing ability and the wallets of ordinary locals who value the remarkable history of these towns.

RF library’s ‘big mo’

If ever you doubted that leadership counts, reflect on the before and after of Dawn Bussey’s arrival as the head librarian in River Forest. Same building. Same constituents. Different results. Bussey arrived 2 1/2 years ago to inherit a library with a poor reputation, obsolete technology, a dispirited staff and a level of politics and intrigue not normally found in a suburban library.

As she prepares to depart for the more ambitious prospects of running the Glen Ellyn library, Bussey leaves a library with an enthused customer base, an engaged staff and technology that reflects an upscale town in the right century.

The challenge now? Find a replacement able to further the progress. It is not time for a caretaker. This library needs a new leader with Bussey’s energy and smarts.

Trustee Bob on a skewer

When Trustee Bob Milstein announced his sniveling, vote-pandering decision to flip flop on his week-old vote to take out the Marion Street mall, he wrote “when the Journal skewers me for changing my view … feel free to write the paper.” So folks, write away.

Milstein continues his disintegration as a legitimate elected official when he so obviously plays for votes from yet another disaffected special interest. Suggesting such an integral part of resuscitating the Downtown ought go to citizen referendum is an abdication by a trustee who ought to feel the heat to finally make decisions, not to further slog down progress.

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