The doldrums of August have forced me inside where I have been watching lots of old movies, which have provided me some insight and inspiration into our village’s workings.
Maybe Oak Park is like the 1999 sci-fi flick, “The Matrix.” In that movie, Keanu Reeves as Neo discovers that what seems to be reality is really only simulated by sentient machines to pacify and subdue us humans. In Oak Park, we pride ourselves on our openness, transparency and citizen participation. We have two local papers covering government, business and the schools. But I don’t think we really know anything. I’m not saying there’s anything particularly sinister, but I feel like I’m always in the dark. Some business development projects languish; others get fast-tracked. Village employees and superintendents come and go, and the explanations for their departures always seem fishy to me. The local political factions are always shifting and changing their names. No one seems to understand where all the TIF money goes. It’s confusing, but like in “The Matrix,” I’m sure there are some really smart, unidentified move-ants and shake-ants who know what’s really going on, and what’s in store for us. We’re just happy to go to the farmers’ market and Thursday Night Out and think we know what is going on, but we don’t.
So I’m going to find out who is really in charge, like Jack Nicholson’s J.J. “Jake” Gittes did in “Chinatown.” This great movie (even if it was directed by a perv) detailed a private eye’s quest to find out the truth about who owned Los Angeles’s water rights. On second thought, the private eye model for truth-seeking might not work for me. I like dames, but I don’t drink or smoke, which are essentials for shamuses. Plus I don’t want some muscle to cut my nose like the goons did to Jake’s in “Chinatown.”
I’m thinking Robert Redford’s Bob Woodward in the 1976 film, “All the President’s Men,” might be the better role model for truth-seeking. You may remember, that movie details investigative reporters Woodward and Bernstein’s mighty efforts to find out who was behind the Watergate burglary of the Democratic headquarters. (“Follow the money.”) I’m kind of a newspaper dude already, and like Redford, I’ve got decent hair for an old guy.
I’ve already begun my investigation into who really runs Oak Park. I’m pretty sure Village Attorney Ray Heise, Lake Theatre owner Willis Johnson and building owner Mike Fox either are part of an oligarchy that really runs things, or knows who does. I’m sure there are others. I can’t do this alone. I need your help in identifying the real power in town. I can meet in one of Oak Park’s creepy parking structures some evening, like Woodward and Bernstein did with Deep Throat – their off the record source (not Linda Lovelace. I would be happy to meet with Linda Lovelace, but I think she’s dead.) I could also meet at George’s. Anything you tell me will be kept in the strictest confidence, even if I’m sent to a prison like the one in “Jail House Rock,” where Elvis rocks out at the end. In fairness to you, if I get sent to a prison like Andy Dufresne got sent to in “The Shawshank Redemption,” I might have to give you up.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that. I really need your help in identifying who runs Oak Park. Once we know that, we can begin to figure out what is going on, and what the future holds for us.
John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one.