There is no larger local bully pulpit than the one controlled by the village board: Village Board meetings. These events are televised for home viewing, recorded visually, manually transcribed by one and sometimes two legal secretaries, witnessed by citizens in person, reported on by two separate newspapers and commented on by two separate editorial staffs.

During these meetings, trustees seem reluctant to comment/discuss/reason/explore/investigate/pontificate/take a stand or speak out on anything of substance. They take their seats and for the next three hours generally give a monosyllabic “yes” to anything put before them. With one exception. There was the stirring, controversial and as-yet-unresolved issue of the president spending too much time at village hall.

This would be fine if our board was like most other boards, dealing with streets and sanitation, police and fire and personnel issues, while letting our zoning laws do the work for them. You know, the boring week-in, week-out stuff that boards deal with. But they’re not.

Our board is building 22-story apartment towers by giving actual cash, land and variance subsidies to already wealthy developers while shorting our local schools millions of dollars from TIF districts. Our board is saying it’s OK to have another 270 families with kids at Holmes school so an apartment tower can get built. Our board is amassing, prior to any board discussion, large parcels of properties and signing development agreements that have us on the hook for half-million-dollar payments if the deals don’t get done. Our board pays for master plans, and then when it doesn’t suit their agenda twists and turns or their needs, ignoring the fact that the plan specifically calls for no tall buildings. And that was one of the few aspects that was included because of citizen input.

So with all the options trustees have for open, honest public discussion and comment at board meetings, it is all the more surprising to find them camped out on local websites. They do not have the will to talk at the board table during the public discussions but appear to have endless time to camp out at citizen spawn sites on the web. It has that creepy feeling of the leering neighbor peering in your windows “just to see what those young kids are up to.”

It also has that feeling of the town bully, doing everything possible to get his way.

Paul Hamer has served on the Parking and Traffic Commission, the Cul-de-Sac Committee, the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, the United Way and the Oak Park-River Forest Historical Society.

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