Never would we say that any unit of government or any agency drawing funds from government should get a pass when it comes to proving its need for taxpayer support. And not just once but over and again; it is healthy for expenditures of tax dollars to be examined and for recipients to make the case for why the spending is essential.

This week we report that a committee within Oak Park’s village hall is asking tough questions of several of the so called “partner agencies” which provide services to the village. There are a handful of such agencies — arts, economic development, tourism, housing programs are focus areas — and mainly they have long history in the workings of this village.

In the past we have written about Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb’s strong support for increased funding at the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation and his near total disdain for Visit Oak Park, the tourism effort.

Today we are reporting on the relationship between village hall and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center. The housing center has reportedly been asked by the “Reinventing Government” committee to offer up ways its $400,000-plus annual subsidy from village hall can be gradually reduced. One practical suggestion advanced is that the Housing Center find space for another agency to share its South Boulevard offices.  Perhaps a fine idea.

However, asking the housing center to find efficiencies and seek out additional funding sources should never be a first step toward questioning its reason to exist. We support Abu-Taleb, we value his focus on economic development and recognize that all those major building projects involve adding hundreds of high end apartments to our housing stock and all at market rates.

But, for 40 years, and still today, an unfettered market is not the answer to fostering a racially integrated Oak Park. If you believe in integration, and we absolutely do, then reasonable efforts to impact the housing environment remain essential. 

Beware those who believe that Oak Park’s hard-won integration is a lock. Simply look around Chicago and the nation and you will find that genuine, long-term integration is rare and never accidental.

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