Oak Park is filled with green intentions.

And we have our standout moments. One is the new public works center on South Boulevard which is rising as an innovative, expensive and certifiably green building. But beyond the highlights reel, Oak Park is kind of a middling green town. We talk green. We drive big. We talk green. We build without regard for the planet. We talk green. But we walk like its 1970 and Earth Day is an excuse to impress each other with our earnestness.

Why should we do better? And why should small towns like Oak Park and River Forest bother when the president of the United States still doesn’t believe global warming exists?

Village President David Pope makes the compelling argument in an essay on page 27 that it is in our small towns and cities where the real frontline work of improving the environment can best take place. Building codes and land-use planning can have a more direct impact on the environment than federal changes in tax incentives might. Besides, it is where we live and work where we can have impact.

Oak Park is a village with the inclination to embrace big ideas and broad visions. We’ve done it with diversity. It is time to do it with sustainability. For nearly three decades, and to the annoyance of some, this newspaper has said that every decision in Oak Park needs to be filtered through the prism of race and class. Why not that same mandate for the environment? 

How does this building, this road, this budget choice impact on the village’s environmental goals? How can individuals and households become genuinely green?

As would be expected, David Pope’s first impulse is to create a baseline that measures how we are doing right now on environmental issues. It is a necessary start for holding ourselves accountable for future progress. This Green Issue of Wednesday Journal is our effort to focus attention on these towns at this moment.

A remarkable and exciting opportunity is just in front of us. Do we choose to make things better or to just crab and blame?

Cop shop issues are real

It wasn’t a “personnel issue” several years back when three River Forest cops filed federal lawsuits against the village. It was a policy issue that needed thorough public airing. So now that members of the police department have taken their second “no-confidence” vote in a half-decade over their leadership, it is well past time for River Forest’s elected officials to stop pretending they have a “personnel issue” they can drag back into the bunker behind them.

Something(s) is not right. Recent efforts to dismiss the widespread upset in the department as a contract negotiation ploy are insulting to both the cops and the public they serve.

There are legitimate questions about the administrative structure of the police department and the people who fill those chairs. There are issues of conflict of interest involving some top-ranked officials. They need to be answered in public. Enough denial.

Pay attention

Work at Field Center has begun. A few adjustments to a well-developed plan were made. A face-saving compromise could be declared by all but the most hysterical objectors a success.

We suppose we’re glad the park district made small concessions in order to move the project quickly ahead. On the other hand, giving any ground to those who choose not to participate in the open planning process potentially encourages further bad behavior.

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