The school board at District 200 has played hardball with its custodial staff. With outsourcing hanging over their heads, custodians, at the 11th hour, approved a new contract proposal last week.

While details are very sketchy, we’re glad to see the compromise that will allow the dedicated custodial staff to remain hard at work at Oak Park and River Forest High School.

The school board makes noises that they will be equally stingy in contract talks with other bargaining units as contracts come due. Consider this an early reminder since the board signed off on an absurdly long five-year teachers contract just two years ago. Eventually the faculty – the bulk of the school’s payroll by size and by salary – will return to the table. While we don’t foresee the option of outsourcing our teachers, we do expect this school board to be as tough-minded in negotiating the next teachers contract as they have been with the rest of the staff.

The economic catastrophe enveloping us nationally only reinforces what a sweet, sweet deal the high school faculty received. Raises, step increases, generous benefits in health and pension are all above the reality non-public employees face each day.

The tough love shown the custodians must also apply to the talented, hard working faculty. This ride is over.

A new revenue stream

By the time you read this, Oak Park’s village board may already have decided that planting trees is a luxury it can’t afford this year. Falling real estate transfer taxes may curtail falling leaves by the fall.

Here then, at no charge, is an idea which may allow a few new trees to be added before the emerald ash borer starts boring, before we start dunning the dead for just-discovered meter violations on their Studebakers. This is a revenue-raising idea whose time has already lucratively arrived in neighboring villages and which we know has been discussed within the walls of Oak Park’s village hall.

It is known as administrative towing fees, and involves the cops extracting real money from real creeps. Say you get arrested in Oak Park for drunk driving, having a suspended or revoked driver’s license. Logic says you are not allowed to drive away in that vehicle. The village tows your car and charges you a small handling fee ($500 in River Forest, $500 in Riverside, $100 in Forest Park) to get your car back. River Forest is on target to raise at least $100,000 in towing fines this year. Oak Park could certainly double or triple that jackpot. What’s the hold-up?

Pardon our mistake

In our March 25 endorsements, we gave a qualified endorsement to Norridge resident and Schiller Park businessman Julio Vargas for the Triton College board.

Several people e-mailed us and suggested we dig into Vargas’ business background. What we found shows a clear and convincing pattern of, at the very least, ineptitude. For more details, see our story in News.

We still believe few people would do a worse job overseeing Triton College than Mark Stephens has done. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that Julio Vargas is among those few people. For that reason, we retract our endorsement of Vargas.

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