My husband and I own a paint and decorating store in suburban Westmont, and recently we took a pay reduction that amounts to about a $1,000 a month. With five working adults in our home, we will still be able to meet our household bills, but the cut is certainly a pinch in the pocketbook.

In addition to the salary reduction, we got rid of the coffee service and Musak, and replaced them with a drip pot and CD player. We ended our cleaning contract, and now our family mops the floor and scrubs the toilets. Sales have been surprisingly brisk this year, but ours is a seasonal business and the slow season is looming. We’ve cinched in our belt because vendors are certainly going to expect timely payments, and we do not want to cut hours for our employees.

In these tough times, the lines of credit for everyday working capital-that businesses have traditionally depended on-have dried up for new retail operations like ours, so we have no cushion. We have to pay as we go. In much the same way, the taxpayers of
Oak Park will appreciate recent indications that the village board is looking to cut costs and loosen, just a bit, their strangling grip around our necks.

In a village run amok with pricey projects, the plan to cut municipal costs is long overdue. Although the final figure may change somewhat, it is a clear-cut fact that the fancy redo of the former mall area on

Marion Street
will come in about $6 million. It is a charming block, but businesses suffered, and while the area certainly benefits from the project, the heated sidewalks and bubbling water feature were overkill.

Trustees also plan to cut grants to local non-profit organizations that foster the arts, tourism and integrated housing. While these organizations may do fine work, we simply can no longer afford to fund them at previous levels, if at all. It will be difficult for them to wean themselves from the taxpayer teat, but groups must heed the old saying and learn to make do-or do without.

At the end of 2008, most of our homes are worth considerably less than they were a couple of years ago and yet most of us were reassessed at higher value. While there is little we can do to oppose the Chicago Democratic machine’s corrupt iron grip at the county level, local taxing bodies like the village, the library system, and the two school districts must be made to understand that their profligate spending often comes with a human price tag.

No observant
Oak Park resident can fail to notice the disturbing exodus of longtime residents once their children have graduated from local schools. Many do not want to abandon homes filled with happy family memories, but they are not willing to trade security in their golden years for Oak Park‘s golden fleece. In much the same way, many of our children leave to raise their own families outside the village, not by choice, but rather forced by economic realities. A community may be enhanced by ritzy schools and streets, but it is defined by generations of families who make it their home.

So here is some advice, not from an overpriced consulting firm, but from a practical business-owner mother of 12 to a village unaccustomed to economy. It should not cost $3.29 million to encourage residents to bicycle, not in tough times and not ever. Give a second thought to painting bike lanes. Experience indicates they confuse drivers who ignore them most of the time anyway. Buy some bike racks and place them in strategic spots. Do not spend over half a million dollars to educate the public about bike safety. Public servants with the title “gym teacher” can include it in regular class time, and students can bring literature home to their parents. The village already publishes a bimonthly newsletter, and
Oak Park has two weekly newspapers that can run articles about the benefits of biking and bike safety. I suspect the four local bike shops would enthusiastically support village efforts-for free.

Oak Park led the charge in planned community integration. Now let’s teach other communities in the United States to be prudent stewards of taxpayers’ money.   


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