When is a public hearing not a public hearing? When it’s an “open house.” Of all the brilliant, cynical moves we’ve seen government pull off recently, this Illinois Department of Transportation gambit tops the list.
IDOT needs to claim some sort of public hearing process as part of its Ike rebuilding plan, a plan sure to include driving added lanes through Oak Park and other Near West suburbs. A traditional public hearing would certainly garner a heavy turnout of activists pushing public transit options, as well as frustrated locals determined to preserve their neighborhoods. There’d be legitimate upset, TV cameras revving up the upset, and a protest to be built on.
Some while ago, IDOT figured this out and designed an Open House process that thoroughly diffuses all genuine concerns, avoids any single moment when the opposition gathers and, in the process, assures there is no intensity to be captured by the media, no momentum to be generated by opponents.
And that’s how it played out Nov. 18 at IDOT’s little charade at the Best Western next to the formerly stinking landfill in Hillside. Some 200 earnest people turned out to submit their written opinions, which likely will be duly filed and totally ignored.
There’s a string of towns that would directly feel the impact of more lanes of Ike traffic, noise, pollution and land-grabbing. Oak Park, Forest Park, Maywood, Bellwood and Hillside would be hard hit. While the mayor of Forest Park has seemingly thrown in the towel and accepted the Ike expansion, Oak Park isn’t going to be sidetracked by such a PR ruse. Nor should it be.
This is the moment to fight IDOT’s uncontrolled impetus to build more highways, more lanes. Let’s unite to battle for new transportation options and to save our homes and history.