Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:
Before I forget: Every year as I try to depart Oak Park’s wonderful fireworks display I make a note to mention to the powers that be – and just who the heck would that be? – that they need to create wider exits from the high school track on the south side of Lake Street. There are always a few thousand folks camped out there on the rubber grass. And when the oohing is over, there are two 4-foot-wide gates by which to decamp. Not enough. Danger. Danger.
Anticipatory journalism: After nearly 30 years of publishing a weekly paper, it takes a steady drizzle to soften my hard head. As Saturday afternoon wore on and the rain fell steadily, I wondered if the fireworks would go on as planned. “Gee, I thought, how would I find out?” I know. I’m an idiot.
There’s this Web thing and we’ve got one called WednesdayJournalOnline.com. We’ve also got a feature called Breaking News, which allows us to e-mail 3,200 local households with real-time news. As in, “Yes, the fireworks are on, said the police department at 5:30 p.m.”
I’m evolving at breathtaking speed. Step back.
Honest-to-God cash money: Monday night in some sort of odd, backwards compliment, Village Trustee Jon Hale said at the board table that the fireworks were great and that Wednesday Journal had sponsored the Grand Finale. But he couldn’t quite get his mind around the idea we had actually paid cash for the privilege. Well, Jon, we did. First we tried to trade ad space to the pyrotechnic company, giving them space to sell dynamite and nitroglycerin to villagers, but they wanted U.S. currency. Thanks also to the senior partner in the fireworks extravaganza, the good folks at Community Bank.
Why the village should not buy property: Monday night, the village board OK’d a deal to sell a long abandoned commercial building on South Oak Park Avenue to an adjacent grocery store. The old Avenue Pharmacy will soon become a small parking lot for Pan’s Food Center.
Why did this take 10 years? How can the village own a slum property but no one else can? Will anyone ever do the math on what this screwy deal cost taxpayers?
There remains a place in a market economy for government to have a hand in assembling parcels, being a buyer of last resort. But this village has to get a whole lot better at doing it.
A high-frequency metaphor: Steve Castle is leaving Oak Park’s public elementary school district after six years as special ed director. He gets high marks for fixing a badly discredited program. In his valedictory before the school board, he mentioned “peace, healing and consistency” as accomplishments. I suppose so. But he also acknowledged in a peaceful, healing way that Oak Park can be challenging. “With some districts (no names please), the challenges tend to be more high-frequency than other districts.”
Did he just call us high frequency! As in looney. Impossible. Shrill. Smug. Self-involved. Why I never!
Shadowland: With the village OK of a 19-story building for Lake and Forest, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we heard the shadow argument. First launched 35 years ago when there was a proposal to build twin 55-story towers on the southeast corner of Lake and Forest (now 100 Forest Place), the argument was that in certain seasons and day parts that Unity Temple would fall under the shadow of the Stankus Tower. Now there is the argument that Austin Gardens might be shadowed by progress.
OK. Nothing taller than 12 feet in Downtown Oak Park.