Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:
Forty years of ugly: The administrative staff of our Oak Park elementary school district is making the move down Madison Street this week. They’re leaving the gloom and perpetual inadequacies of the HQ at 970 Madison St. for new digs at 260 Madison St.
It has been a 40-year sentence in an old, cheaply repurposed structure that, back in the 1970s, was only intended as a temporary stop for District 97. Its longtime quarters in the old Lowell School at Lake and Forest disappeared unexpectedly fast when the handsome building sold quickly to a developer, Jonas Stankus, who had visions of matching 55-story skyscrapers that never came to fruition.
But D97 found shelter in an old automotive building on Madison and got diverted for decades by the press of educating kids and never-ending budget shortfalls. Then there is the reality that, anytime a school district wants to spend money to house its HR staff and registrars and mid-level bureaucrats, taxpayers will say, “What about my kid!”
Several months back, with construction just midway, I pronounced the new HQ to be blandly ugly. Now complete, I’ll stick with that assessment. In our news article last week, central office staff said the new building is designed to boost collaboration and other modern things. That the floors are flat, the roof won’t leak and the wiring is intended for something more ambitious than IBM Selectrics and adding machines will undoubtedly increase productivity.
Maybe we only allow D97 to build new structures every 20 years because they keep building ugly. Still can’t drive by the “new” middle schools without sighing over what might have been.
Paying the mayor: Still waiting to see if Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb is going to push ahead with his request for a major pay raise for his post. He’s floated a number in the range of $75,000 per year.
Just up River Road in Stephensville, err, Rosemont, Mayor Bradley Stephens is set for a raise to $260,000 per annum. All he has to do is win re-election come April. Likely a sure thing since he is, well, named Stephens and his late father created the town, his brother runs Triton College, a nephew is the public safety director, another nephew runs the convention center.
It’s all about perspective.
Talking about race: The Community of Congregations, once on the sleepy list among local organizations, continues to impress with its focus and its actions on honest talk about race in Oak Park.
At its recent fall meeting at a church on Austin Boulevard, the group fronted a panel of local activists working toward a franker assessment and more plain talk on equity and diversity in Oak Park. We need more talk about race and how it plays out in our everyday lives, and we need much bolder plans for how we face up to equity imbalances in our schools.
The Community of Congregations, an affiliation of local religious entities, has also brought strong focus to building genuine connections in Austin and with West Side ministers.
Candidates surface: Two new candidates for Oak Park’s village board have surfaced this week. One is Simone Boutet. She was the assistant village attorney in Oak Park for many years before being passed over for promotion to the top job. Boutet is an interesting person who knows more about the inner workings of village hall than just about anyone. Can she be more than a one-issue, anti-village manager candidate?
And Dan Moroney, a local developer with a good reputation, announced his run. I was interested that, in announcing, he listed three priorities. Number three was building closer ties with Austin. That is a first.