Oak Park‘s fiscal emergency continues. How could reasonable people ever have foreseen that a real estate/development boom, largely created by indiscriminately loaning vast sums collateralized by fantastic expectations and lies, would ever end?

Now that village hall must do something about a great deficit resulting largely from their own wild optimism, they are using the emergency to do some things most of them have been wanting to do for a long time:

Reducing unionized staff though layoffs and privatization.
Cutting back the traditional “partner” agencies.Reducing “social engineering” expenditures which have contributed to real diversity in the community.

I don’t think village employees providing direct services are grossly overpaid. If they aren’t, how can a private contractor provide services as well while making a healthy profit, without paying substandard wages?

Partner agency services are important. Rescorp, OP Development Corporation, the
Housing Center, and others, including social service-providers getting CDBG support, provide good value for village dollars.

In hard times, social services are often seen as non-essential. Coincidentally, by driving away people needing the village’s help, we further gentrify and advance the unstated goal of removing people who can’t pay their own way.

It’s been said that “everything’s on the table” for reductions. Some things aren’t:

Grandiose plans to subsidize ugly, out-of-scale developments which lose market viability each day.
“Green” initiatives which favor replacing much of our built environment with bigger, uglier, more expensive buildings in the name of saving the planet.

The village now has four quietly arranged development “partnership” deals (
Madison and Highland, Lake and Forest, South and Maple, and the “superblock”) in which taxpayers get to carry the expenses of keeping property off the tax rolls until developers are ready to use our subsidies to build inappropriate projects.

Early in 2009, we’ll get to pay almost $1.5 million to demolish three superblock buildings once identified by the Historic Preservation Commission as “significant” and replace them with a temporary parking lot so that AvalonBay can take all the time they want on our dime. Remember that AvalonBay has always said they’ll need a donation of the entire site as well as a large cash subsidy.

Perhaps we’ll get our own “Block 37.”

President Pope gives high priority to showing how “green” he can be. He doesn’t seem to be able to balance his green propaganda with any thought of maintaining community character and acknowledging that the greenest buildings are often the ones that already exist.

The current village regime hasn’t done such a great job that they should be rewarded with automatic reappointment. It will be a real shame if the VMA can walk into office for at least another two years and reward a friend with a $70K+ job as clerk.

The VCA has driven real
Oak Park policy discussions and reforms throughout its history. We’ll be meeting after the national elections to once again offer voters an alternative.

Gary Schwab is president of the Village Citizens

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