Less heat, more light on Comcast building hearings

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I must admit that I haven't been to, nor plan to attend, any of the Oak Park Plan Commission's hearings on the proposal to convert the abandoned Comcast building to low-income housing. I go to bed around 8 p.m., so evening meetings don't work for me. In addition, I don't live in the neighborhood, and I don't feel that strongly one way or another about low-income housing. But I am interested in how people, and in particular the enlightened citizens of Oak Park, resolve their differences when there are strong feelings on both sides of an issue.

Now I get it that democracy requires an opportunity for all sides to blow off steam in the hopes that their voice will be heard. So, the plan commission holds a bunch of meetings and everybody's blood pressure spikes for a couple of hours. Partisans are seldom very objective, and their evidence is often slanted and biased.

I previously noted that I don't have a dog in this fight, so my heart and mind are pure. With that in mind, may I suggest that the plan commission gather this information if not for itself, then for everyone who would like to be a little more informed on the issue?

First, get a commercial real estate man like Anthony Shaker or David King to advise what the likely future of this property might be if it isn't converted to low-income housing. Will it sit empty for 10 years? What other buyers might find it attractive? Hooters? Sorry. Just kidding.

Then let's get Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar over to tell about projected real estate values and taxes and all the other stuff assessors talk about. And then maybe the directors of a couple of low-income projects in the Chicago area who can tell us about their experiences on eligibility, stability, crime, whatever. A site visit could perhaps be arranged.

Finally, I'm sure we could get some expert professor, from one of the many universities in the third largest city in America, to opine. He could tell us what he has learned after spending his whole lifetime studying the subject. The more independent information and expert opinion we get, the better. I suspect the commission is probably doing this anyway, but I just wanted to be sure.

One final thing. I was surprised last week that Regis Philbin retired. I thought he was dead.

John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one. Go to OakPark.com/community/blogs to read more from his blog.

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Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2011 5:51 PM

You would think that the studies or expert opinions would come first, and then the proposal would fit a vision. But the proposal seems to be based on the minimum reqs needed for the non-profit organizations to apply for federal funding and on their missions, not on the needs of the area or impact on the area. As for the retail on the first floor, I thought an expert was quoted in one of the papers as saying that he wouldn't recommend it to his retail clients bec there is no parking.


Posted: February 5th, 2011 4:39 PM

John, you are totally Correct - and thank you for contacting the village. Papers should reveal the facts, and not distort them - to make things divided. They should dig for FACTS. At times, the papers do cross the line - and they know this sells (you know, like how reality TV Sells). Somehow, when people file into village hall to speak their mind (people who are not activists and are very busy People) they are painted as people with rage and not CIVIL. Again, in the name of SELLING a story.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: February 5th, 2011 4:04 PM

The Plan Commission Hearings have been handled professionally and without significant displays of anger or unruliness. The hearings have been very revealing and I am sure that the village will benefit from the open discussion. The local press, excluding the Oak Leaves, has chosen to cover the article as some sort of a rage party. For government to work we need a press that illuminates villages issues rather than putting a circus-like spotlight on the participants.


Posted: February 4th, 2011 6:42 AM

Shed the LIGHT! All People should Objectively file into these meetings, and speak their mind. Based on all facts, this project should be killed. With so much unknown, unanswered and unwanted, overwhelm your elected officials with your concerns.

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2011 6:23 AM

Great. So this important decision will be made on the bases of who yells the loudest or just hope and pray. There's got to be a better way.

OP Mom  

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 9:27 PM

We got the answer to your question at tonight's meeting. The village doesn't have enough money to bring in objective experts.

Name from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 11:28 AM

So, what? You're mixing your opinion about low income housing in Oak Park with your surprise that Regis Philbin is still alive? Okay. Buh-bye.

OP Mom  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 9:29 AM

This makes so much sense. Please village govt. Listen!

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