In a collaborative effort that started here last summer, Oak Park was, once again, at the forefront to raise awareness about a national concern. Seeing white-knuckle moments in the village’s condo market and finding a rare opportunity for relief from tightening lending regulations, local real estate agents and lenders began educating people a year ago August about the deal-breaking consequences of the right-of-first-refusal clause, an often-unnoticed provision that’s boilerplate in many condo associations’ documents of incorporation. By last September, the village board backed the charge. State Rep. La Shawn Ford, himself a Realtor, carried the momentum to Springfield, where he drafted House Bill 155, which State Sen. Kimberly Lightford co-sponsored.

Last week, we reported that Gov. Quinn just signed the bill into law. Now, in Illinois, members of condo associations cannot block a sale in their building solely because the buyer’s financing is guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration. The clause that afforded condo associations the right to make such refusals was considered discriminatory by the FHA, meaning no chance of an FHA loan on a condo in a building with such language in its documents.

With condos making up 35 percent of the housing stock in Oak Park, our homegrown effort to knock this roadblock out of the way for FHA loan hopefuls should have us all shouting for joy, right?

Not quite. The victory’s a hollow one. The law Quinn signed goes into effect Jan. 1. Three months before that, as of Oct. 1, FHA rules will get tighter, no longer making what are called spot loans available to individual condo units in a building.

All that energy. All that forethought. And not in time for any of it to help local sellers pushed toward the threat of foreclosure. Nonetheless we applaud the pro-active thinkers among us. Now if only their voices could be heard farther, wider and sooner.

It’s raining trash and dopes

They seemed like such a good idea: rain barrels, brightly painted by local community groups, placed all over town to help raise awareness about conservation in an era of climate change.

Well, the message may be getting through to some, but not to all. A remarkable number of pedestrians have been using the barrels as trash receptacles. In spite of the fact that there are no openings, the lazy, the indifferent or the out-and-out stupid have been depositing their trash on top of the rain barrels, making an unsightly mess and polluting the local business districts.

The presence of actual trash receptacles, located in numerous locations, in some cases just a few feet away, makes such cluelessness all the more galling.

We spotted one barrel with a sign attached that read, “For rain water only.” That’s what we need: more signage. But it’s probably impossible to idiot-proof.

Everyone undoubtedly has dark theories about who is doing this. We suspect they’re all strong supporters of Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina. But whoever’s to blame, please stop. It frightens the rest of us that we have to share an eco-system with you.

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