On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the first day of classes in River Forest Elementary School District 90, there will be some sort of organized, adult presence designed to get River kidlings across busy streets without being squished. You can count on it.

Whether those adults will be police officers, parents or good ol’ crossing guards being paid by some branch of River Forest government remains to be seen.

This most basic of government services – “Please ensure my kid isn’t killed on his way to school.” – has become a fiscal hot potato in these recession racked days when one unit of government professes to be broker than the next. In at least three towns we cover – Oak Park, River Forest and downriver in Riverside – municipal officials are trying to offload crossing guards, saying this can’t be anything but a school matter. That villages have been funding all or nearly all these costs for decades is a pretty fair argument in our mind. But we are sympathetic to just how strapped village governments find themselves.

Best case scenario seems to be in Oak Park where Elementary School District 97 and the village have come to a compromise that shifts some costs to the schools, rightly reduces the level of service since virtually no kids go home for lunch anymore, and leaves the coordinating function in the hands of the village. Also accomplished is eliminating the absurdity of having unionized crossing guards, a situation that could, we believe, only happen in Oak Park.

In Riverside, the two sides are genuinely annoyed with each other and have broken off all talks for the moment. That, at least, beats River Forest, where in another case of failed communication at village hall, there have been no talks. While a village board citizens’ committee recommended months ago that crossing guard costs be punted to the schools, no one from village hall actually communicated that dictum to District 90 until last week, when it was announced via letter as a fait accompli.

Though this is an embarrassing performance by the village government, the school board does still need to step up and take part in solving the problem.


Ease up on alcohol

The underlying architecture of Oak Park’s liquor control laws are rooted in fear and need. The village, leaping in the 1970s from decades as a dry town, needed the economic stimulus that new restaurants and limited package-goods sales would bring. But village leaders were afraid that more open liquor sales would speed racial change and make Oak Park a destination for purchases by black people from Austin and Maywood.

Those were different days, yet the impetus to be cautious about alcohol remains real, if exaggerated. Now the village board is ready to direct its Liquor Control Review Board to consider allowing restaurants to serve a drink without the requisite food order. We’ll wait to see the information the liquor board gathers over the summer. But we’re predisposed to an active easing of restrictions on liquor sales.

The responsible sale of alcohol has been nothing but good for Oak Park. Opportunities to expand such sales should be actively sought.


Puppy store that wasn’t

A proposed shop on Lake Street that would sell puppies and pet accessories has turned tail before its needed zoning variance hearing was even scheduled. Is this response to a strong and hostile public reaction a good thing or bad?

We’d argue after reading more than a dozen intense comments on the Journal’s Web site that backers of the project got a pretty fair marketing study suggesting they’d do better elsewhere.

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