Faster on Lake Street

Never let a good crisis go to waste. And we have a doozy with COVID-19.

A smart move by the village of Oak Park, therefore, to take advantage of the effective shutdown of many businesses at and near Oak Park Avenue and Lake Street to dive into planned sewer and utility replacement at the intersection. The upshot is that instead of a series of partial closures of the intersection over an extended time period the crossroads will be fully closed by the time you read this editorial.

By closing fully and adding more workers tackling aspects of the major project simultaneously, the work will be completed in 7-10 days rather than the original four-week schedule. More pain, but a time when most everyone is sequestered in their living rooms.

Every good decision the village and project managers can make on the massive rebuilding of Lake Street from Harlem to Euclid (and the more modest repaving of the street from Euclid to Austin Boulevard) is critical. For all the years this project has been contemplated and debated, timing was always set with the goal of having the project — sewers, water mains, utilities, curbs, pavers, fancy streetscaping, new lighting and traffic signals — complete before Thanksgiving. The idea was to give local business a clear shot at a successful holiday season.

Now with independent businesses traumatized by this already extended shutdown, it becomes essential that, when the stay-at-home orders finally end — June 1? — customers can get to their place of business.

The stakes here are consequential for not only business owners but a community spending $15 million to upgrade its downtown for the decades ahead.

Get it right, Cook County

As we suffer through endless — and daily — muddle and blather from the current president related to COVID-19, locals have come to rely on substantially more immediate and accurate information from our hometown and state officials.

Local mayors, including Abu-Taleb in Oak Park, Adduci in River Forest and Hoskins in Forest Park, have grasped that we’ll all deal better and follow the imposed restrictions more closely if we know this virus is all about us. At the city and state level, Lightfoot and Pritzker have been exemplars of plain talk, delivered with context and concern every day at the same hour.

That’s why it has been disturbing, confounding to see the Cook County Department of Public Health so thoroughly botch a public-facing website seemingly designed to tell residents across Cook how many COVID-19 cases are in their town and of any deaths linked to their communities.

Our Growing Community Media reporters discovered this largely unknown site last week after tips from local officials. Since then the site has disappeared, reappeared, crashed, provided conflicting information. All the things a good public health communications strategy should avoid.

Can’t tell you at this moment the status of the site. Can tell you Cook County residents deserve straight information on a crisis that has upended each of our lives.

More Viewpoints

It’s been on our to-do list for some months: Create a weekly digital newsletter to share the thoughtful — sometimes provocative — content of the print version of our Viewpoints section. With page counts limited for now but, stunningly, no shortage of opinionated readers, our need is to share letters and essays that don’t fit in print.

So, with any luck, before the week is over a Wednesday Journal Viewpoints newsletter will hit your inbox. Ken Trainor, as always, will edit the pieces. And he invites you to submit letters and One View essays (500 words max) to him at ktrainor@wjinc.com.com.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...

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