We find it hard to distinguish exactly what gives us this tingle. Is it the blue stone sidewalks proposed for Marion Street? Or is it simply the near forgotten sensation of forward movement anywhere in Downtown Oak Park?
Doesn’t matter. We are enthusiastic about the village’s plan to transform the tired and underwhelming pedestrian mall on Marion Street into a lovely and, yes, commercially purposeful street. Notice our use of the verb “transform.” That is as opposed to the formulation and misinformation of last-minute opponents of the change who insist the mall is being “ripped out.” They’d have you believe it is being replaced by a four-lane drag strip.
Take a minute, acknowledge there are pre-election games being played here, and look at the actual proposal. Look at the drawings on our website, or soon in store windows across the downtown. We believe that when Oak Parkers stop and look, that their reaction will be astonishment that something so handsome and well-crafted is about to land in the midst of our cracked-cement and empty-storefront-pocked downtown.
Monday night’s village board meeting, after this section went to press, promised to be another in a series of loopy confrontations, generating heat not light. We’d make one note and express one hope.
The observation is that as opposed to past such sessions where Oak Park’s radical do-nothings simply wigged out and hoped the effect intimidated board and staff to fold, this time there is a gathering opposition determined to see progress made. Yes, it is true, some of those people leading the opposition to stasis are business people. And despite every effort by the do-nothings to prove otherwise, business people sometimes know what they are talking about. Not always. But not never.
The hope is that the current, undermanned and soon-to-be reconstituted village board will, at last, grasp hold of its spine and stiffen it by whatever means necessary so that it can see through one, notable forward action in the downtown during its two-year tenure. A decision Monday night to move the process ahead to allow engineering and design work to proceed would have been the first sign that the board was clear-headed and determined even in the face of the American Idol-like voting frenzy reflected in this electronic petition.
Participatory democracy is great. That’s what the 29 public meetings leading up to this decision were all about. Not all of those opposing the restreeting of Marion are do-nothings, but what we are looking at now is largely obstructionism. This village board must step around the frantic arm-wavers and represent the interests of the broader community.
Just asking, OPRF board