Before Rudy Giuliani became famous for running around Ground Zero with a hard hat, he cleaned up New York City with the “fixing broken windows” theory. The idea here is that by paying attention to little things like graffiti, trash and loud radio playing, a city can significantly improve the quality of life and reduce crime.
I believe we need a big dose of “fixing broken windows” here in Oak Park. Let me elaborate. Marsha won’t let me give specific addresses, believing that I might get beat up, but suffice it to say there are some serious decrepit hillbilly property situations within a one-mile radius of my home, and for the life of me I don’t understand why the village doesn’t do something about it. (An explanatory note: A “hillbilly” can be defined as a poor, uneducated white person who is not particularly industrious and doesn’t take very good care of his home. For the record, I was born and raised in southern Indiana. I am not now nor have ever been a hillbilly, but arguably have certain “hillbilly tendencies.”)
Now understand I’m not talking about painting your house purple, front-yard hippie vegetable gardens or wine-drinking moms who forget to bring in the kid’s big wheels and slip-and-slides. The last thing we want is Hinsdale-like Stepford neighborhoods. A man’s home is his castle. I get that.
I’m talking about a great big pile of boards, cardboard boxes, tree limbs and assorted debris spilling out into an alley for more than six months. Day after day, week after week, the garbage man, the cops, and the traffic ticket dudes go up and down my alley, but as far as I could tell, nothing happened – until I took matters into my own hands.
I e-mailed the village about this mess, but just like in the Beatles’ song: No Reply. Then each Friday in May and June when the trash gets collected on our block, I sneaked down the alley at 4 a.m., armed with resolution and pink stickers. It took me six weeks and 20 bucks of stickers, but at last the mess was gone.
One small step for Oak Park. One giant step for the alley.
The second home could be where Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel lives. In the backyard of this home there are whole dead trees, and the flora and fauna is at least four feet tall. As far as I know, Jimmy Hoffa’s corpse could be in there. Or Sasquatch. Once again, day after day, week after week, month after month, village and quasi-village types go past this wonderful example of Historic Preservation of Vegetation. Nothing happens.
Now if I park my car at 5:45 a.m. in front of my house, before the 6 a.m. overnight parking ban expires, you can bet I will get a ticket from those swarming little village trucks. Or if my son wants to add 10 feet of deck to his new home, he’ll get turned down by the village because the ratio of deck to lot is too high.
Meanwhile the weird markings on the sidewalk next to the village lot at Euclid and the Eisenhower remain. You don’t think they could be gang signs? Personally, I prefer to think that it’s Druid graffiti. If the village doesn’t clear this up by the end of July, then that’s my next project. Does anyone know a good solvent for spray paint on concrete?
I just don’t get it. Really.