The Illinois Senate held an illegal closed meeting last week. State Sen. Don Harmon, an assistant Senate majority leader, continues to defend the meeting as a necessary way to move senators past the intense partisan posturing that has become the norm in Springfield.

First of all, Harmon, Oak Park’s favorite son, is dead wrong to offer any support for a private meeting of the entire Illinois Senate. By our reading and that of the Illinois Press Association, such a meeting is a patent violation of the Open Meetings Act and is therefore indefensible. Defining the closed session as a “joint caucus” of Democrats and Republicans is positively laughable. A caucus is by definition a subset of the whole. We know our politicians think we’re stupid. But this stupid?

While we’re proud of Sen. Harmon and the growing role he has come to play in the Senate, we increasingly question the value of being a leader in the service of such tawdry and failed efforts as we see coming out of Springfield.

We recognize that the disintegration of effective governance of our state is complex and long in coming. But as one of the top leaders of the majority party in the Senate, Harmon must accept his part of the responsibility for the sordid condition of our politics.

To reach a point where your defense of an illegal meeting is to say that it’s the only way for our politicians to communicate honestly, is to damn the entire institution. Honestly, what have we come to? And how can we possibly move beyond the barbs and accusations and blame-shifting that have left us with a state government that’s in financial tatters and on the precipice of defaulting on the very social obligations we join together in community to address.

It’s nice to rise to the top of a powerful institution as Don Harmon has. But what’s the value when that very institution is a failed sinkhole?

The alley and Chris Kleronomos

Harrison Street is a success today as an arts district in spite of, absolutely not because of, its largest property owner. Chris Kleronomos and his family have owned the broad center swath of Harrison Street, most everything from Lombard to Harvey, for many decades. For the past 30 years, all of the family’s holdings have been under-contributors to the street’s resurgence and some properties have literally sat empty and untended.

It’s a sorry history and one that we have never been able to understand because, if you sit and talk with the Kleronomoses, they talk a good game and seem genuinely to care about their family’s legacy.

Now, Oak Park’s plan commission has accepted what we acknowledge is an intriguing plan by the family to link two properties it owns but which are currently separated by an alley. The Kleronomos family wants to buy the alley from the village and use it for shared seating between Briejo, a fine restaurant currently in operation, and a phantom restaurant the family pledges could occupy a prime location, a spot that has been vacant for at least a quarter century.

The decision will ultimately be made by the village board. But we like a suggestion from a plan commissioner that the village lease the alley to the family rather than sell it. That leaves the leverage with the village. And since we don’t believe the Kleronomoses have earned the privilege of being trusted, that’s where the leverage ought to remain.

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