The Chicago Tribune article “Seniors have got it good in Cicero” (Jan. 23) compared their senior services to those of Oak Park. Cicero, at a cost of $1.4 million, provides free lawn care, free snow removal, free home repairs, a dedicated senior center with many programs, including free transportation, and rides to entertainment venues such as casinos. This money is well spent, fully $550,000 used directly for the free lawn care, snow removal and home repairs.
In Oak Park, the outdated township is a separate unit of government which provides far fewer services at a greater cost. With a budget of $1.5 million, home-delivered meals are provided, with a suggested donation, and chore services and rides in the immediate area can be obtained but the senior has to pay a nominal fee for either. For the first time, they will shovel the village sidewalks on your property, responding to the new village shovel-or-get-fined-and-a-lien-placed-on-your-home law. The seniors must still shovel their own sidewalks, stairs, or driveways. Furthermore, these services are only for low-income and/or handicapped seniors. The vast amount of the $1.5 million is for administrative salaries, not the actual services.
Other local governments treat seniors equally poorly, notably the park district. Any classes are pay-as-you-go and no transportation is provided. The recreation centers are being converted to ballfields for the youth athletic teams and the areas for seniors to walk, sit, or picnic have disappeared in some parks and will continue to disappear in others under the current administration and board.
The result is predictable. Whereas seniors in Cicero stated in the Tribune article that no greater place exists for seniors and that they will remain there “until they die,” in Oak Park as soon as their kids are graduated, many adults move, preferring not to be bled to death by the property taxes for which they receive little in return except scorn.
An election for township, park district, and village government positions will take place in 2009 if seniors want to see a change in the manner with which this community treats those who have paid taxes for decades, only to have to move into assisted living in their later years.
Also, a state constitutional convention will be held in 2010 if approved by voters in the November 2008 election. There, some of these benefits could be made state law and meaningful property tax relief for seniors could be provided as in other states, like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Indiana. Let’s energize seniors’ good old legs-democracy even now!
Penelope E. Gervais