I lachrymosely read the news about District 97 and the park district considering joint office space in the parking lot behind village hall. More than 20 years ago, the late Oak Leaves writer Charlotte Cooper referred to my non-stop lobbying for eradication of duplication of government services as a means toward efficiency and tax relief.
The various proposals I made over the decades include bundling of newsletters, consolidation of D97 and District 200, dissolution of the library, park district, and township as separate taxing districts, construction of a park district/D200 athletic field over the OPRF High School parking lot, and placing D97, park district, and township offices together in a building behind village hall to aid communication and free their properties on Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue for commercial development and property and sales tax generation.
I was happy that years ago the library bundled its newsletter with that of the village. In the most recent village newsletter, I see that D97 and D200 now include their news notes with those of the village and library. I suggest the park district and township also ask to come aboard.
The news, however, that with Jan Arnold at the helm, the park district and D97 now find the parking lot office space viable for what we should call our “civic center” is a major advance in efficiency and tax relief. Both the park district and D97 are heavily vested in children’s programs. A brief perusal of their programs, however, indicate duplication of efforts. Now, with offices literally down the hall, such inefficiencies will be reduced.
The problem they confront is parking. I have always proposed that the offices be built on stilts over the parking lot. This allows retention of the parking lot and removes the need for snow shoveling and repaving, saving additional, although modest, taxpayer money. A pedway between the current village hall and the new structure would facilitate communication between all three units of government.
It is now up to Oak Park Township head David Boulanger to contact D97 and the park district and, to reverse the ever-expanding non-tax-generating blueprint of the township on our central business district, ask to be a partner in the new civic center. They, too, have a sizable offering of youth programs. They, too, should be housed with D97 and the park district. The library should also move their offices to the civic center.
As cooperation evolves, the nonsensical, inefficient, and wasteful existence of separate library, park district, and township governments will become obvious and these units of government could be absorbed, their programs intact, by the village.
Then, D97 and D200 should begin consolidation discussions, following the efforts of myself and Sharon Patchak-Layman a decade or so ago. (State law allows such consolidation even though D200 includes residents of River Forest.)
After that, with a glorious civic center at the east end of the village, the village can take up our formal proposal, presented since 1984 and in its fourth incarnation in 2009, for a fine and performing arts/cultural and conference center in the context of a restaurant/retail park at South Blvd and Harlem. This would become the focus point for our cultural life, at the west end of the village.