Go ahead, smirk. You’ve paid enough parking tickets to earn the right. Yes, you read it correctly on page one. Three of Oak Park’s diligent, obsessive, crazed parking enforcement officers have been fired for driving with revoked driver’s licenses.
That came as the head of parking enforcement for the village announced his “resignation” to go into the “private sector.” That came as the new village manager dismantled the distinct fiefdom of “parking enforcement” and reunited it with the police department. Now it would be easy to say, “Aha, obvious solution. That’s where it belonged all along. That will solve the tone deafness, the petty corruption, the don’t-mess-with-our-serious-ka-ching attitude.” Except old-timers will recall that inside the police department is where parking enforcement used to be until tone deafness and petty corruption led to its removal years back.
So while we’re happy to see the shifting that Manager Tom Barwin is implementing, we also know that it is not really structural changes in the organization chart that will be key here. We need notable attitude changes around parking enforcement. It is time Oak Park residents and business people can finally feel that–in addition to our choking property taxes–we don’t have the separate master of a parking division tailing us to ring up additional taxes at every flashing parking meter, in every no parking 8-10 zone, during every minor snowstorm, etc., etc.
Parking enforcement rules are intended to make parking possible, easier. Parking enforcement should guarantee a flow of available parking spaces in business districts, not drive paying customers to Forest Park and Oak Brook. No parking 8-10 zones are aimed at keeping commuters off residential streets, not to entrap the homeowner unloading grandma.
Our sense is that Barwin gets the distinction. We know he understands that if you scratch an Oak Parker, parking angst oozes out. The change in reporting structure is a start. A broad change in attitude about who works for whom is the goal.
Settle this case
Time is running out for River Forest to settle the federal lawsuits brought by two of its police officers. The long-running suits against the village make allegations of age and gender discrimination as well as alleged retaliation for the officers’ initial EEOC filing. Also running out is the lockstep political energy on the village board that has fought these suits for years.
Now with a trial just weeks away and with very little having gone the village’s way in all manner of pre-trial motions, it is time to pay up and move on.
Things are not well in the River Forest Police Department. We’ve said that for years, based on our reporting. Officers have said it with two “no confidence” votes. These suits, which just don’t go away, have loomed over the department for years. The village’s strategy–really, Village President Frank Paris’ strategy–of denial and hunkering down haven’t worked. And the newly complex politics of the village board suggest such a continued strategy is inoperative.
Sooner or later, one way or the other, things will have to change in the River Forest police department. The best way to inaugurate that change is to settle these suits now.
Losing a colleague
We often focus on the impact of a death on a family. Yet, when a valued colleague dies, especially unexpectedly, the pain in a workplace is also raw and powerful. Our condolences then to the staff at Oak Park’s village hall who grieved last week for Susan McMahon, a 19-year vet who died after being struck by a car.
She was described as outgoing and smiling–the opposite of the mood in the hall last Wednesday as the harshness of her passing became real to her many friends there.