And here you thought only Oak Park could spend five years negotiating a property sale only to see everyone leave the table muttering. Now the virus has spread to neighboring Forest Park, where a half-decade of discussions about purloining Oak Park’s YMCA ended last week with everyone afraid to tote up the legal bills.

How you spend five years talking about a deal both sides badly wanted to make, only to come up empty, is beyond me. How you keep talking about minutia while watching the sands of prosperity dripping out of the hourglass is baffling. But, by golly, they’ve done it.

They talked themselves straight into a depression – both psychological and fiscal.

There are certain and several people at Oak Park’s village hall who make all sorts of queer faces and look like their lunch didn’t much agree with them when you talk about Forest Park.

They are sick to death of being compared unfavorably with business-friendly Forest Park, where everybody knows your name and the mayor claps you on the back and says, “Howdy.”

The parade of Oak Park businesses which now call Forest Park home was once a torrent but is now a trickle as the advantages Forest Park once offered – cheap rent, an inert regulatory system, plentiful parking and marketing mojo – have dissipated.

Here though, here now, we have a notable way in which Forest Park has, egads, become scarily like Oak Park. We’ve got the lake where the Colt building once sagged on Lake Street. They’ve got “The Grove,” the interim name for a grassy knoll Forest Park bought eight years ago with a vague notion of putting it to a positive civic use that didn’t involve ubiquitous townhouses. We’ve got “The Link,” the failed Alex Troyanovsky project at Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard (see last week’s column). They’ve got “The Roos,” the failed Alex Troyanovsky project at Harrison and Circle.

There are differences, too. In Oak Park, we have spectacular flameouts after months, years of heated public meetings. We have had elections rise and fall over philosophical debates regarding public comment and historic preservation. No one is surprised when things go ka-blooey in Oak Park. We are just grateful that no one died.

Now in Forest Park there is a mixed tradition of public involvement. Once in a while, there is a great sputtering up. Then it quiets and the discussion moves back under wraps where years then pass with only an occasional assurance that the YMCA deal is just about done.

And now the YMCA deal is absolutely done. Scorched.


On another matter, I now throw myself on the court of public opinion.

Last week, I received a missive from Oak Park Village Hall. Had to be an overdue parking ticket, or they’d lost my water payment again. They don’t just send me thank you notes for being a good citizen.

It was, actually, a poorly worded letter from the alley police. Yes, I had been found deficient. In two ways. I plead guilty to not having reinstalled my address on the garage (4-inches high) after having had the garage re-sided 18 months ago. But what about the “violation” regarding my young adult kid having nailed a 5-gallon paint rim to the telephone pole for some impromptu hoops. What ordinance exactly does this violate? The village has laid off 19 people and there’s still time for some guy to walk the alleys looking for illicit basketball rims?

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...