As we write these editorials it is early on Election Day. Regardless of outcome, we take great hope in 100 million of our fellow citizens finding a way to vote early in a grim pandemic. We watched, and we participated, in early voting at Oak Park’s village hall. The lines were long, the voters patient and determined, the organization of the vote focused on safety under the leadership of Village Clerk Vicki Scaman.
And so that is the first thing we like. We like voting. We like a determination to make voting easy and open. We like votes being counted.
Here are other things we like:
Having a health department
Mike Charley, chief of Oak Park’s public health department, has announced he is leaving the village to take a similar post, closer to home, in Skokie. Their gain, our loss.
Pre-pandemic, Charley was really a one-man band running public health in Oak Park. That department had been trimmed and then trimmed more over the years as budgets got tougher. But Manager Cara Pavlicek did a good job of assigning other village staffers to the department to address COVID-19. Now she will need to figure out the next steps.
But everyone recognizes the great value of being one of a handful of Cook County communities with an autonomous health department. And we offer our thanks to Mike Charley for his calm but determined work in guiding Oak Park during this scourge.
About Farmers Market
Early on in the first round of COVID’s dark days, Oak Park was doing a lot of cancelling. Playgrounds. Day in Our Village. Fireworks. Block parties. But when we started pushing for an answer on when the Farmers Market would be deep-sixed, we got a different, if vague, response from Mike Charley and Cara Pavlicek.
If there was a local institution to be salvaged even as it was fully reimagined, Charley and Pavlicek intended it to be Farmers Market. They recognized that getting fresh food to people in a pandemic had great value.
And, together with the Farmers Market Commission and a raft of volunteers, they made the market happen. Sure it was wildly different, more regimented. But for this grim summer it was a major success.
The animal shelter that could
Oak Park’s Animal Care League has long been a standout in its loving treatment of shelter pups and kittens. Over time it has also built itself into a sturdy nonprofit, growing its mission and its footprint on Garfield Street.
For 10 frustrating years, ACL has been trying to acquire a deteriorating building that sits in the middle of three other buildings it has long owned. It has lost out twice in the county’s tax scavenger bidding process. But this year the property was finally grabbed by the county’s innovative Land Bank program. That entity looks not for the wealthiest purchaser but the best long-term use. And for this dilapidated building that clearly was ACL.
The purchase is now complete. The major reclamation will begin. Congratulations to ACL and Chatka Ruggiero, the nonprofit’s biggest backer.
Save our restaurants
There’s a group at work, happily it includes our own Oak Park Eats editor Melissa Elsmo, to create local dining bingo cards. It’s a way to boost recognition of our essential local restaurants as COVID again shuts down indoor dining just as winter looms.
CarrryOutOakPark.com, the website launched in the spring by the Oak Park Economic Development Corp., is also getting new updates on who is dishing up what for pickups and delivery.
And Wednesday Journal has brought back our Fall into Winter, Food to Go! weekly email (and, yes, restaurants pay $25 a week to be included. Everyone has to eat, so to speak).
There are other rumblings about other ways to keep our local restaurants alive through this very necessary shutdown. Our point is that our restaurants, mainly independent, many locally owned, have to be saved. And we have to be the ones doing the saving. Actively, consciously, repeatedly ordering takeout.
These will be different towns, diminished towns if this pandemic robs us of our restaurant industry.