OUR VIEWS
It is simply good news that Oak Park and River Forest High School elected officials have chosen to sit down with their counterparts from the village and the elementary schools to craft a solution to the debate over funds from the TIF.

This is a far better situation than having one taxing body sue two others, costing time, legal fees, and, inevitably, creating dissension at a time when we need collaboration among local governments.

Two elected officials from each board joined staff and attorneys last week for a first meeting. While officials on all sides have been determinedly silent on the content of the discussion, it seems to have gone well enough to schedule further confabs. Nothing should be allowed to sidetrack these discussions.

A few observations:

There are legal and accounting issues in play here. But fundamentally, a settlement of the confusion around the current and complex TIF deal from 2003 is a political and policy matter. This mess needs to be settled by elected officials on all sides empowered by taxpayers to make policy. We need a solution not a fight till the last dollar.

The high school will argue that by filing its lawsuit in February that it has finally forced the village to the bargaining table. That is self-delusion. It was a failure of leadership at the high school that allowed this issue to go to court.

The village has historically done a poor job of managing the downtown TIF. The current TIF agreement is overly complex and at the same time inartfully documented. TIF accounting has been inadequate. Accountability and communication among the governmental parties to the TIF has been badly lacking and it is the fault of the village. Our village has done little to establish its credibility through its management of the TIF.

The village and the District 97 elementary schools rightly admit now that by having their own private negotiations on a TIF settlement almost a year ago, that they exacerbated tensions and distrust with the high school. It shouldn’t have happened. On the other hand the settlement they reached without scorching the earth is a fair and admirable one.

A letter writer this week makes the point that by going behind closed doors to attempt a settlement the parties are furthering worries common in TIFs everywhere that secret deals with tax dollars are being made. That’s true. But we’re willing, given the strained circumstances, to give these three bodies a window to reestablish a working relationship.

Make it happen.

Imminent collapse

With the not surprising news that an $85 million construction project is being delayed at Lake and Forest by the treacherous economy, comes word that the village may just go ahead and demolish its rickety parking garage at the intersection.

Why spend money, in the hundreds of thousands, the village’s thinking goes, to shore up the garage for a few years until some development comes to fruition. Better to use the funds to demolish the garage, create a spacious surface lot and then deduct those costs from the eventual subsidy planned for the project.

We agree with the reasoning and urge the village to move ahead.

Superintendent’s debut

Steven Isoye, the new superintendent at OPRF met parents last week in an informal discussion that showed off his smarts, compassion and sense of humor. Sounds like the trifecta to us.

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