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Oak Park offers a variety of services that can be accessed online from a computer, tablet or smart phone. Some of the services are managed directly by the Village, while others are third-party vendors authorized by the Village to conduct transactions.
I think our fire and police services are very good, though I've had little direct contact with either. I've found the FORESTRY Dept. to be very responsive and helpful, both with issues involving parkway trees and questions I've had about some trees on our private property. One BIG COMPLAINT is with street and sidewalk access during CONSTRUCTION -- there is NO ACCOMMODATION made to maintain reasonable traffic flow for pedestrians and vehicles during all the major construction projects. It is unconscionable that there is no sidewalk on the north side of LAKE ST. west of Euclid throughout the entire District House construction, as one example. And during the Whiteco/Trader Joe's construction, there was no provision made for a sidewalk on the east side of Harlem. (sorry, this was meant for the previous question, I thought the commenting ran thru Monday)
While there are many examples of duplicative and, more importantly, unproductive spending in our village budget, one that runs under the radar in my view is money spent on maintaining our own health department. It is my understanding that there are just a few - 2 or 3 in the state - villages that have their own health departments. Most rely on larger City or County health departments. We are contiguous with Chicago and could rely on theirs; we should eliminate immediately the entire Oak Park Health Department.
One area I'd suggest reviewing is the various housing programs in the village. OP has the Housing Authority -- which owns tax exempt buildings in the village. Then there is the Residence Corporation, which manages properties (and owns several buildings in town). At least ResCorp buidings pay property taxes, albeit at rates which are surprisingly low compared to homes and condos. Then there is the housing center -- the vaulted group that prevents segregation in the village which does a better job of advocacy than apartment listing in the digital age. Perhaps we should consolidate or eliminate the duplicate efforts of these along with the Dept of Health, the Township (many of the functions could be put under the umbrella of the clerk to determine how many are needed.)
How about a shared vehicle pool. Couldn't the village and park district share trucks? What about purchasing/leasing copiers, office supplies, etc.?
Then the schools, while our kids get good educations, we are paying more per kid than many districts which are better ranked. Why is this? We pay for administrators and lots of them, but those at D97 can't even set the proper tax levy. Hard to have confidence in their abilities given the track record.
Redundancy vs. Community Mission
To answer the question directly, within a wonderful community such as Oak Park, with numerous independent taxing bodies, each with their own administrative functions (e.g., finance, hr, purchasing, IT), the administrative redundancies are evident. Some would even suggest that the disparate governance bodies of each of these organizations is a bit excessive for such a small community.
That said, I noticed that some of the earlier comments spoke to “redundant” Oak Park services, such as public health and housing - services that are aligned with Oak Park’s distinct and long-standing mission of economic and cultural diversity and community welfare. Oak Park’s historic stand, to intentionally institute public policies to promote diversity and community welfare, has been a successful example to the nation of progressive social policies working, particularly when market forces and the political environment of Chicago and Cook County have historically failed in these areas.
For example, because Oak Park has its own public health department, they are able to provide more frequent and thorough health inspections of our restaurants and the other service providers in the community. I think some Oak Parkers would be quite surprised at the types and frequency of inspection issues that our health inspectors identify and mitigate. On the other hand, while other nearby communities contract with the County (it’s not free) to perform their inspection activities, the County’s inspectors are often overwhelmed, understaffed, and unable to perform frequent and thorough inspections.
While it is fair and reasonable to explore opportunities for streamlining public services, and as others have indicated, there are plenty of opportunities to yield savings, I hope that we remember that some of our service “redundancies” are mission-driven, intentional and a part of what makes Oak Park the wonderful place that it is.
With the success of Evanston saving money and eliminating their township, we should look to do the same. One example of excess is the assessor services part of the township. This is duplicative with Cook County and with the upcoming removal of Berrios, there is a chance that this will no longer be necessary with a competent assessor in office. If by chance patronage politics remain, those of us who would like to fight our eye watering property taxes will continue to hire attorneys to do the work.
Park District catalog distributions
OP FYI has done a wonderful job of combining distributions of D200, D96 & OPPL newsletters with it's blanket mailings to all residents. Instead of the Park District hand distributing its 80-90 page glossy catalogs door-to-door in plastic bags, it could include a one pager in the FYI and mail out on an as requested basis or maintain the multi-page on a social media like resource.
mailings and other info
Picking up on Brad's comment (above) regarding glossy, colorful Park District catalogs, I just received via USPS a nice, colorful 20-page, quarterly "The Storyline" from the Library. Nice, but at a time when so many of us are concerned with controlling costs, it seems the insert in the Village's FYI newsletter is good enough.
And I agree with the comment about "REDUNDANCY" that we should look to cut-back on the number of local Housing programs and other programs that have no accountability to taxpayers but suck up tax-dollars. Also agree it's a good idea to explore ways to share payroll and IT services and other functions.