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What the Transportation Commission does--and doesn't--do

I would never want to deny the God-given right of an Oak Parker to complain. It's what we do. My complaining is also what got me involved in local government. It's how I first met Village Trustees. It's why I first attended meetings. And those meetings are what made me want to get involved. I now serve as a volunteer on the 7-person Transportation Commission.

As I read some of the commentary over at our local paper this morning, however, I felt like our role needs some clarification...especially as it relates to the high school pool controversy.

The Transportation Commission is an advisory body who serves at the pleasure of the Village Board. We make recommendations, but ultimately it is your elected officials who will vote on policy. We're simply there to review and be active citizens who give thoughtful discussion during the (yes, usually long) process of getting anything done. Each year we create a Work Plan--with approval--that sets our agenda for the next year. We just completed this task for 2016, in fact, and we're quite busy. We're the body that first discusses your petition for a new stop sign, parking restriction changes, or we also respond to Village Staff recommendations for things like bike lanes or whether to install better crosswalk signs.

I want to be clear that the removal of the village-owned parking garage to make room for the new OPRFHS pool was not a long-term, upcoming item for us. It has been added to our work due to the evolving nature of the high school's construction plans. And though you are more than welcome to come discuss the pool/parking situation with us, the Transportation Commission has no impact on whether the pool gets built and the garage comes down. Even if we voted 7-0 that the parking garage should stay and we want zero cars in the surrounding neighborhood...well, it's ultimately between the Village Trustees and District 200.

The reason the Transportation Commission did not have much to say at our last meeting about the high school parking situation is 1) it was meant to be an opportunity for the public to give input BEFORE the process moves forward 2) village staff has not made any recommendations to us for a vote which would then be sent on to the Village Trustees. A very, very rough outline of what a possible parking plan for the neighborhood could look like was presented at the meeting. But it was not final, official, or in any way formal. In fact, my impression of our feedback is that the Transportation Commission understands the impact the loss of the garage will have and would like to take a slower, more well-rounded approach to coming up with alternatives.

Oh, make no mistake, if District 200 and the Village decide to go ahead with the pool and destruction of the parking garage there will probably be cars parked in the surrounding neighborhood. But we'd also like to discuss everything from improved bike parking to shuttles to using other properties (like the Avenue garage) to siphon off some of the excess. Essentially, if the garage is going to be torn down...and we have no say on that element...our job isn't to come up with a magical plan to find spaces for 300 cars. Our job is to listen to staff and the public and try to come with a balanced, holistic, fair way to deal with the situation.

I certainly can understand if Oak Parkers get fatigue over where, when, and how to stay engaged and pay attention. We have multiple taxing bodies with a governing board plus multiple sub-committees. Trust me, I have 2 kids in D-97, use the Park District, the library, and serve with the Village myself and I can't keep up. I'm also not saying the frustration out there isn't justified. Just last week, I noted that members of the community wait exceptionally long for resolution on important safety issues. That upsets me as well. We're just about to get a traffic light in my neighborhood that we've been waiting on for years. I, personally, am in favor of building the pool and have no problem with cars parking in a school neighborhood. But I also realize there are people out there strongly opposed who need a better explanation from the inside of the steps involved.

Hopefully, the above explanation at least tackles the parking angle a bit more effectively. Where are 300 cars going to go if they build an Olympic-sized pool? I don't know either--let's find out. But please keep in mind that my fellow commissioners are mere volunteers. Residents just like you giving back our time for the community. Pool or no pool, my goal is to try to offer my own guidance in the spirit of "what will best serve our entire 50,000 residents going forward."


  1. I commented on the WJ website in response to this earlier today. You said it much more nicely than I did!


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