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What to Watch For in 2012

Filling the Borders space, all-day Kindergarten in River Forest, lunch policy at OPRF, development on Lake Street and more.

The year 2012 could be one of change but the forces of the economy, political will and, of course, community debate, all could play a role in Oak Park and River Forest. A presidential election year will cap off 2012 but more than likely local issues such as development, questions of safety, school district policies and other matters may well be more on people's minds.  

Here are a number of the questions that could keep Oak Park and River Forest busy in 2012:

Borders Site

One of Oak Park’s major retail sites this fall. But what will move in there is unknown at this point. The village floated a , declaring that it wanted to bring an Apple Store to town. Residents responded to a saying they wanted a general merchandise store like an urban Target, which was proposed for the Westgate area years ago. Officials have not made any public inkling about nibbles for the site. The key question is whether it will stay vacant like high-traffic sites such as Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue.

Sertus

Thenow retail project for the corner of Lake and Forest is still pending with the board of trustees expected to vote on it next month. What will happen if it doesn’t get approved? Will it end up a parking lot as the Colt Building, Oak Park and Madison and South Boulevard and Harlem Avenue? The other question is what will happen with the garage, which is in desparate need of a major overhaul? A new garage was to be an important component of that development. ?  

Gun debate

After a few months of study, the will submit recommendations on new gun limits to trustees in January. Then there will be a public hearing, which should be heated, if Rep. LaShawn Ford’s forum this fall on a conceal/carry law is any indication. The question is whether the village will adopt rules that will be tough as they can be? Will the board go the safe route? And what about on shops? Either way it’s possible they’ll see more challenges from the NRA.  

Camille Lilly

The Loretto Hospital executive could face a difficult primary challenge this March when she runs for re-election as representative from the 78th District. Lilly replaced Deborah Graham in 2009 when Graham was appointed to the Chicago City Council and was unopposed in 2010. In a redrawn district, which includes more of Oak Park but more of the western suburbs of Elmwood Park, River Grove and Franklin Park, Lilly will face Mike Nardello, a Chicago resident and the director of finance and administration for the Chicago Department of Aging.

Home rule in River Forest

River Forest may seek to have more control over its own affairs as it ponders whether to go for home rule. Home rule communities have more power to levy taxes, take on debt and adopt ordinances. Voters would have to approve the measure. The village board considered putting the question before the voters in 2005 but the board split on the issue, according to the Wednesday Journal.

Red-light Cameras

Will they be a boon to ? That’s going to be the question when the cameras are installed at Lake Street and Harlem Avenue in River Forest.

All-Day Kindergarten

may again take up the issue of all-day kindergarten. Discussion took place this school year hit a wall of opposition from the . Additional discussion could take place early in the year.

Modified Closed Campus

After hours of community meetings, modified its policies, allowing juniors and seniors, under certain conditions, to during lunch. For years, the school had one of the only open campuses, letting sophomores, juniors and seniors go off campus. But discussions over off-campus drug activity and other led the school board to change its position. The modified policy may have unintended consequences with unexcused absences up among sophomores and food fights, according to the Wednesday Journal, and rumors of student action intended to force administrators to let sophomores again go off campus. Nathaniel Rouse, the school’s principal, will be cracking down on the trouble-makers, but will it be enough?

Sustainability

, an area-wide sustainability plan for Oak Park and River Forest got the thumbs-up this year. A project of the OPRF Community Foundation’s Communityworks Initiative, it is supposed to be a multi-step process of planning, strategies and steps to make both communities more environmentally friendly. Not much has been reported on this in late 2011 after much fanfare to adopt it earlier in the year. Question is in a year of potentially tight budgets will it, again, do what it is supposed to do?

Social Services

While there has been a greater need, ultimately the sluggish economy and less state and federal funding hit agencies such as West Suburban PADS and the particularly hard. Community fundraisers have stepped in, but PADS has had to close a site and the food pantry reduced the number of communities it served. What will happen next year?

Changes at Park District

The will lose its long-time CEO, , to retirement. A new chief will be hired before Balling, who helped the district through many of its many challenges over the past 12 years, leaves in April. Balling also is helping oversee the festivities of the park district’s 100th anniversary, which will begin this summer.   

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