We are in the delirium of plausible deniability.

It occurs in the interregnum between old and new village managers, in the wholesale turnover of village board members.

You know you are square in the middle of it when someone slaps their forehead and exclaims, “They what? They didn’t agree to that? Tell me they didn’t!”

Then they faint dead away.

Well, actually no one but Marie Osmond has fainted on my TV lately, and she’s over on a network show. The activities I’m describing are taking place on Channel 6. VOP6, for the addicted. In all honesty I’m not particularly transfixed by watching village board meetings on Channel 6 these days. This good government is dull as dishwater. Nothing like the days when I’d throw my sneaker every time ol’ Bob Milstein started in on some obstructionism or another.

So I’m actually paraphrasing what happened last week when this cash-starved bunch of earnest trustees, and their village manager, Tom Barwin, who is starting to remind me of Andy Taylor in his good humor and common sense, cautiously approached a discussion of parking fees. If Social Security is the third rail of national politics, then parking-with its tickets and fines, and doubling fines, and screwy meters and fired ticket enforcers-is Oak Park’s version. Anywhere you poke at parking in Oak Park it bulges out somewhere else and the endless whining commences.

I’ve actually been one of the whiners lately, wearing my other hat as head of The Avenue business association. Andy Tay… er, Tom Barwin, has come to town with big fresh eyes and right off spotted that Oak Park’s parking fund is the black hole (I know, a minute back I used the third rail metaphor. The astounding thing is that it is both a black hole and a third rail) of village government. Considering the parking fines I alone pay, I know that seems impossible. But Honest Tom swears it is true. And, of course, I believe him, what with his common sense and good humor.

Anyhow, the trustees are discussing the parking garages in town, of which there are four. Two in Downtown Oak Park. The Avenue garage. And the “community” garage at the high school. It was the high school garage which caused the head-slapping as trustees were told the old trustees signed off on a deal to let teachers park in the garage for free for 25 years. Now don’t start blaming the teachers. They’re already paying five percent of their health insurance premiums!

Further, trustees were told that basically no one paid for permits to park in the garage overnight since there was the Farmers’ Market/Pilgrim Church lot a block over. And the nickels and dimes that parents paid to park there on the occasion of their daughter playing the lead in Brigadoon just wasn’t going to pay the debt service on this handsome albatross.

That’s where the infuriation and the cover of the plausible deniability comes in. With all the turnover, there’s no one left to raise their hand and say, “It seemed like a good idea in the moment.”

Over on The Avenue, where we agreed, in our collective memory, to let the village build townhomes on our surface parking lot in exchange for a garage with free parking, we get looks of incredulity when we spin that tale. Village officials don’t exactly accuse us of lying. They just look unconvinced and repeat very slowly, “Free parking is history. How much can we charge?”

Soon enough these elected and appointed officials will have been here long enough to have made their own messes. In the meantime, Carl Swenson has moved to Arizona and Joanne Trapani has decamped to, of all places, Elmwood Park. We labor on, with our dual parking shortages-no place to park and no money to pay for it anyhow.

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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...