Clamorin’ and yammerin’ for open government is like blood sport in politics these days. The Alaskan maverick is going to do “some fixin’ and some shakin'” in order to remake Washington into the decent, honorable place we all recall in the denouement of Frank Capra movies. Awkward then that our hopes of transparency are dashed by news out of Anchorage that Governor Palin abused her state’s ethics law by trying relentlessly to get her ex-brother-in-law cashiered as a state trooper.

So, as often happens, we turn our gaze anew to
Oak Park for balm. Is good government possible? Can elected officials ever simply be straightforward?

We offer two examples that give us hope:

The park district’s capital improvement plan: You can like the plan, hate the plan or quibble about the choice of building materials or the placement of a sand volleyball pit. But when it comes to the Park District of Oak Park, you cannot say that officials didn’t tell you what was coming.

A few years back,
Oak Park voters broadly approved a tax hike for the park district that was intended to refurbish every park. Years of under-funding and political recriminations on the park board had led to faded parks and a new park board.

Since then, the park board and staff have been intently working through the re-do of several parks. They’ve opened the process broadly to citizen input. Those people who have taken part have found the process welcoming and worthy.

Now the board has put forward its five-year capital improvement plan for the next phases of park rehab. This plan is in keeping with the board’s promise to taxpayers. It is ambitious, it is specific, and it is spelled out in black-and-white. Totals out to $39 million over five years, and it includes major work at the obsolete Ridgeland Common, planning and implementation at Scoville Park, the crown jewel of the district, and the expansion of the gymnastics program on Madison Street.

For our part, we are going to be watching closely as the parks sort out their
Madison options for gymnastics, maintenance facilities and headquarters space. We have concerns here about costs and overreaching in financial hard times. But we appreciate the financial guidepost the district has provided us.

The hardscrabble village budget: For more than a year there have been murmurs that the 2009
Oak Park village budget would be a beast. And that was before the world economy opted for the crapper.

In recent weeks, the village board and staff have begun to assess the challenges just ahead in 2009. Some staff have already been laid off to partially close a shortfall in the balance of this year. “Everything is on the table” for the next budget.

In a departure, the village has chosen to hold a town meeting this Saturday to set out the situation for citizens and to gather input on what ordinary voters see as the most essential services they require from village hall.

The meeting will be held at the Maze Branch Library,

845 Gunderson Ave.
, at on Saturday.

Thanks to you

Wednesday Journal is honored to have been named the best large weekly paper in the state. The recognition came last week from the Illinois Press Association.

But newspapers do not publish in vacuums. So it is that our newspaper is nourished by the active engagement of Oak Parkers and River Foresters, by the vital issues these villages hold close, by the values of community we share.

It is an intimate dance between readers and their newspaper. You honor us.   

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