Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Comings, goings, hanging around

* Board meetings proliferate, trustee(s) object: Two of the OP Seven, Brady and Baker, have missed 10 and 19 study sessions respectively of 27 sessions this year. Brady is unrepentant. He was told by President Pope and Trustee Milstein, both holdovers, that being a trustee would take 20 hours a week max, but

“Anyone who reads the [local] newspapers or watches [VOP] Channel 6 knows that the trustees have essentially taken on another full-time job."

he told WJ. "Do I help my son go to sleep and read him a bedtime story, or do I rush out to the village study sessions two to three times a week?" he asked. He wants more discussion at the regular meetings, which Trustee Johnson said go longer because — it’s “the irony” of it, he said — some who missed the study session have to be brought up to speed — “we have extended the debate.”

Brady pleaded work obligations as her reason for missing meetings but noted:

"We're sometimes a little loose in study sessions. If we were more disciplined overall it would probably make study sessions more effective."

Anyone who watches Channel 6 can attest to that. Only the dedicated need attempt it. Cherchez le Milstein here, who recently had to be reminded by another trustee that a matter was "not in our purview" in discussion of which he wanted to linger — something about how to get villagers to own fewer autos! “I don’t know the answer to that,” said M., as if in a college common room or even a student dorm. He’s not supposed to know the answer to that!

Not only could Milstein try putting a sock in it, but President Pope might take half the time to say twice as much now and then. His starts and stops are enough to make a grown man fidget if not weep. He seems also at times to take Milstein’s side lest M. get on his high horse at being contradicted. He won the presidency in part thanks to revulsion at alleged high-handedness in running meetings by his predecessor. Now he has one of those who profited from the backlash refusing to attend meetings that go on and on, calling it

tedious to have read all the [information provided on an issue] and be ready to make a decision, and then spend five hours rehashing people's positions that have already been made public,

and another whom he picked pointedly criticizing how he runs things. Maybe there’s a good reason why Joanne Trappani ran a tight ship.

* Affordable housing again: Working from a 2003 report, “our bible,” says the relevant committee chairman, a village committee wants to put “more teeth” in OP’s program. One of these presumably would be hitting up developers who tear down buildings with affordable units to build more costly ones, as suggested by the woman who heads W. Suburban PADS.

Not a good approach, said Rick Kuner, who chairs the Oak Park Regional Housing Center board, He cited a recent study that showed OP as the fifth most affordable community in the Chicago area because of its access to mass transportation. Don’t build anew, he said, indirectly countering the PADS woman’s idea, but look to what’s here already.

One out of every four condos becomes a rental unit, he said, and units in two- to four-flat buildings are often big enough for families with children to rent.

* Run, do not walk to read two columns in 8/23 WJ, Jack Crowe on who authorized the expenses that beef up whose tax bills -- We did it! -- and John Hubbuch on what other kind of games we can host beside gay ones, how many ways to lose how much $ on the Colt building, and perfectly matching us with our new manager.

* "I've always been suspect of the state's tax cap legislation," says Dan Haley in his 8/8/2006 column, who surely wanted to say suspicious. It's the legislation that's suspect.

It's in this column that he says:

Would be a good moment then for this village board to swear off the insanity of the Colt Building. The proof is in-this building is a white elephant. And while the village may, or may not, have funds to pour into it from its discretionary Tax Increment Finance stash, it is still real money, still comes from local taxpayers.

And it's a week later that Milstein chimes in with his column about taxes, where he talks about courage again — this is Father Courage speaking —

Legislators typically find their courage only when they're scared to death of voter outrage.

And in which he emphasizes coordination by taxing bodies -- village trustees prompting school board members, for instance -- a utopian concept, assuming it's a good idea, and in his criticism of the village board exempts his own role in overspending by saying the board

“dithered on new development (Colt building, whether restored or razed), which prevents the village's tax base from growing to keep pace.”

Haley took strong exception. Milstein, he wrote,

seeks cover on the Colt building boondoggle. . . . Colt proponents are claiming the cost of filling this black hole would be borne out of the TIF fund, as if that isn't really tax money. Milstein actually misstates that the TIF fund is sales tax driven which is plain wrong. Property taxes diverted from the schools and parks create the TIF fund. [Ask any school board member.]

Also note that Milstein is paving the way to fill the unleaseable Colt building by suggesting it would be a good place for a children's museum. This way lies ruin.

Another Oak Parker took exception more pithily to Milstein as problem-solver. Jack Strand in an 8/23 letter tags him tellingly as a barnyard fowl. “He often reminds me of the rooster that thinks it is his crowing that makes the sun rise each morning.”

In another letter (same link), Dan Finnegan tries to help President Pope in his "reverse buy-out" plan to help people pay their taxes, from trustees repaying the village $21,000,000 “from their personal wealth” when they “spend $7,000,000 on a project and later learn that the project makes no economic sense,” to rebating “$100 per bite” to every taxpayer dinged by a mosquito “within [village] boundaries, despite mosquito abatement efforts.”

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