In August 2022, Oak Park trustees approved the Climate Ready Oak Park (CROP) Plan, which makes a commitment for our community to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 and cut our greenhouse gases by 60% by 2030. The village staff and board should be lauded for establishing equity-focused programs and key policies that address climate pollution in Oak Park, such as becoming the first municipality in the Midwest to require that new buildings be all-electric. These steps demonstrate our potential to rise to the challenge we face in climate disruption, and to do so in a way that makes our community more resilient.

We request that the same attention to a decarbonized and climate resilient Oak Park be applied to the vision and plans for village hall and a new police station. We understand the passage and implementation of the CROP Plan to require that every new project and budget of Oak Park take climate emissions and impacts into account. With CROP as the framework, the benefit-cost analysis for renovating, constructing, or demolishing/rebuilding, both buildings should include the emissions associated with each option, and weighed alongside financial impact. Additionally, OPCAN is concerned about the disproportionate and inequitable impact the financing would have on residents with limited resources, as no other public funds would be available in the reconstruction of a building with National Landmark status.

Greenhouse gas emissions incorporate not only the future emissions associated with operating the building, but also those used in demolition and waste disposal — and the “embodied energy” in the building itself, which includes all the energy consumed in the production of a building, from the mining and processing of natural resources used, to the manufacturing and transport associated with product delivery.

The costs of these emissions can be estimated using the federal government’s “social cost of carbon,” which puts a dollar figure on the costs borne by society for each additional metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent put into the atmosphere — about $51/CO2e. These costs are real, and material, to the residents of Oak Park today, as well as to future generations.

For this reason, as well as concerns about the additional tax burden that seems likely to squeeze out implementation of the CROP Plan, we cheer the decision to appoint a community-led expert committee to review options for village hall and the safety headquarters.

We additionally urge the village board to engage a wide range of community voices in this process — from Oak Park residents to local experts in energy efficiency and sustainable building retrofits and construction. We ask that the board keep CROP goals and milestones top of mind as they explore ways to ensure a safe, accessible village hall and create a new home for our municipal safety division. And we thank both board and staff for the path-breaking steps they’ve taken so far to pass and implement our CROP Plan.

Oak Park Climate Action Network (OPCAN) is a resident-led climate action and community resiliency working group.

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