Something different is going on in Oak Park village government. It leaves me off balance, yet a bit giddy.

A week ago Monday the village board accepted, with kudos and thank yous and not an insult or I-told-you-so to be heard, the report of the Environment and Energy Commission. This is the green committee and it has been working hard to assess and recommend a wide range of possible actions the village might take to save the planet and burnish its reputation for sustainability.

Honestly I haven’t read the report. Probably won’t. I’m sure though that it is excellent.

The giddy, off-balance part came when Trustee Jon Hale asked what would happen next with the report. In Oak Park there would previously have been two possible directions to take. Both would have lead to doom.

The board would have formally accepted the report and then scheduled any number of “study sessions” in which to dissect and, typically, eviscerate the effort. Along the way, some piece of said report would engage and enrage some local special interest which would then launch letters to the editor and other forms of hand wringing. Six months from now, with everyone exhausted and disheartened, we’d be thoroughly done with the environment and be ready to argue about how tall the next condo project ought to be.

The second usual path would have been for the board to accept the report with the standard hosannas about citizen involvement but then to decide that for reasons A, B and B.2 that the report ought to be sent out to three other commissions-say Community Design, Community Relations and, just for fun, Historic Preservation-to see what they made of the recommendations.

Instead, after Hale asked the “what next” question Village Manager Tom Barwin piped right up and said he was going to take as many of the recommendations as he could and build them into the 2008 village budget. That would be the budget proposal that lands on the board’s desk late this month.

Seemed almost like common sense to me.

Budget bursting

How much of anything new can be built into the next village budget remains in doubt however. Barwin and Village President David Pope are sending strong signals that the village is facing financial hardships in the immediate term. At the same time, Pope has been particularly strong in recent years in acknowledging that the overall property tax burden shouldered by Oak Parkers has reached troubling levels.

To that I would add that the many and varied fees and taxes layered on by the village-cell phone taxes, utility taxes, etc.-are not insignificant either.

Taken together it will force real budget challenges as this new village board crafts its first budget starting late this month.

Very quickly

It is not natural for me to feel sorry for Cubs fans. But I do. And I hate the Cubs even more because of it. Now that feels better. … Anyone else having Wendy’s withdrawal? According to their website, the nearest replacement Wendy’s is on Harlem Avenue in North Riverside. Meet you there.

A version of this column first appeared in my blog at

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...