Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:
Keeping secrets, making points: Evenings at the River Forest village board table have been more placid since the spring election. There’s been no name-calling, no thundering, no gavel-pounding.
Now, though, tensions are on the rise over a facet of recent discussions about installing those damnable cameras that catch drivers who fail to stop completely before making a right turn on red. The board seemingly likes the idea of the cameras, but wisely wants to distinguish the fine for blowing through a red light from the 3-mph right turn on red.
All of which is, strangely, not the source of contention. As has become common on this board, the tension is not about policy but about internal board governance.
Here we go again.
Straight-up conflict of interest is the meat of this fracas. Newly elected Trustee Catherine Adduci has an absolute conflict as her husband, Al Ronan, is the lobbyist for the vendor pitching River Forest on the red-light technology. Adduci should have recused herself on this issue from the first moment it was discussed. She didn’t. Doesn’t matter that she and Ronan are currently separated.
If Adduci wasn’t forthcoming in recusing herself, and everyone involved knew of the connection, then Village President John Rigas should have forced the issue from the start. Instead he has only muddied the waters by receiving, but not immediately releasing, the letter Adduci belatedly wrote taking herself out of the discussion.
Given this board’s recent histrionics, Rigas missed an easy chance to demonstrate simple transparency. Instead he proffered his head for easy pummeling by critical trustees.
Business beat: Net pluses for River Forest in the recent decisions of two large, old-line retailers to skidoo from the village. Plunkett Fine Furniture closed all of its stores, North Avenue included. A local developer is already in place to give this large frontage a new life. Hines Lumber, facing the squeeze of a demolished housing market, is now preparing to close. This is an anachronistic use of a prime piece of Madison Street real estate. When the economy turns, and it seems to be starting, there will be a higher and better use for this large parcel.
Not a bright side in Forest Park where the legendary Trage Bros. abruptly closed shop on its extensive location on Madison. This creates a gap that will prove harder to fill.
Multiple generations of the Haley family bought a lot of appliances, electronics and bedding at Trage across the years. My dad, not an impulse buyer, went to Forest Park to buy some beer for the first-ever Super Bowl game – that would be 1967 – and came home with our first-ever color TV from Trage. Boy, was mom surprised.
High end, low end: Thirty-five years ago, Philander’s proved that Oak Park could support a decent restaurant and hold its liquor, too. Sad to see the old heavy wood, heavy price tag place giving way to a more modern, less pricey concept. And I hate to see the Philander (Barclay) name mothballed. Barclay was the odd fellow who, a century ago, took all the early pictures of the village. Created a record that is irreplaceable.
Parish priest: Was a shock that Frank Jenks, the longtime pastor of Ascension, died last week at 64. A good man. He saw our family though my parents’ many illnesses, then their deaths. He baptized our daughter. A couple of years later, he opened the church to bury her birth dad – opened the church being the key. A far cry from the earlier pastor who wouldn’t marry us because we weren’t Catholic enough for his taste.