This year is history.

And while, both locally and globally, it will be considered an astounding year of exceptional highs and frightening lows, we look back at 2008 as a series of stories-some small, some more notable-that captured the imagination of our neighbors and reflected the values of our villages.

Let’s have a look

In two towns where the election outcome was never in question, Oak Park and River Forest were, nevertheless, swept by a deep passion for Barack Obama. His progressive ideals, his mixed race heritage, his Chicago ties, combined to turn up the energy as an enormous base of local Obama volunteers spilled across stateliness to campaign ceaselessly in Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. The next question is how will that volunteer energy be channeled locally?

River Forest took the prize for most crazed elected officials this year. The village board “deliberations” were ugly, bitter, personal and not particularly productive. Even the entertainment value waned as the months ground by. Out of the mess came genuine achievement in retooling the leadership in the police department. The April election promises to be a doozy.

Oak Park managed to hang on to two potentially wandering public officials. Both Village Manager Tom Barwin and elementary school Superintendent Constance Collins kicked the tires on new jobs in Colorado and LaGrange, respectively. When both came in second in the hiring derbies, Oak Park looked darned good and, it turns out, neither of them was ever the least bit serious about leaving. River Forest got a new school chief in Tom Hagerman, and since Comcast just managed to get his cable hooked up, we don’t think he’s looking yet.

The school board at Oak Park and River Forest High School has held a series of conversations about race that have impressed us. These have been personal and public discussions of the most charged and challenging issue we face. Hats off to this group of leaders.

Not settled as 2008 clatters to a close is the issue of lights at the stadium. This discussion has been going on since Edison invented the light bulb. So Thursday night, New Year’s Day, a bunch of us are going over to high school to erect the light standards and plug it all in. See you about 8 p.m.

Smaller stories that stuck with us

River Forest’s Rose Sloan took fourth place in the National Spelling Bee. If she also knows the difference between its and it’s we could use her as a proofreader.

Beye School students behaved so well they sent their principal to camp on the school roof on a dark and stormy night. A bet’s a bet, Mr. E.

The Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry was named “Outstanding Agency” of the year just in time to serve more needy families than any time in its history.

Wednesday Journal was named the best weekly paper in all of Illinois, an honor we’re not too shy to mention.

While River Forest’s conflicted leadership did a rotten job of protecting Lake Street during September’s flooding, citizens came through with an inspiring volunteer effort.

Now it is on to 2009. May our leaders act like leaders and our citizens set high expectations.

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