Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We paid $75,000 to learn what?

The Village of Orland Park paid $75,000, according to published reports, to Vandewalle and Associates of Madison, Wisconsin, to study ways to help the village establish itself as "an anchor in the Southwest suburbs" and to make the village "stronger economically." The contract was awarded in February, just under seven months ago.

Vandewalle spokesman Scott Harrington outlined suggestions at a meeting of the village board last week including to increase employment, improve retail, keep Orland Park residents from leaving to shop in other suburbs, increase transportation and cram more people in smaller parcels of land.

Just what we need.

His suggestions, according to the media, include:

Adding more weekend and night service to the Metra system. Wow. That's been something Orland Park residents have been asking to have for more than 25 years. That's not something many trustees can control, except, maybe, one. How about this? Give transportation discounts to people who live in Orland Park. I don't think the other suburbs would like that, but at least, that's a better suggestion and more achievable than increasing weekend and night service on Metra -- and that is using the term "service" loosely.

He also suggested that the popular holiday trolley become permanent. I like that idea. The trolley system during Christmas is a blast. It's more fun and safer than the rides at Great America.

Another is to create more office space to increase employment opportunities. Ah, creating more offices doesn't mean more jobs. Have you seen how many commercial stores are empty these days? It's not new, though. Several members of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce have been telling us the same thing for years. And for free.

A survey showed that more than 50 percent of out-of-town shopping by Orland Parker residents is in Oakbrook. I could have told him that for free, too. It's something we have heard over and over again from our village officials -- not so free either. Now, I'd pay $75,000 to find out how many village officials and employees are related or are eighbors or are close friends or church associates, or union pals. And, how many of them get their own vehicles and do they use them for personal use or just business?

The consultant suggested that much of that draw was to Oakbrook anchor stores like Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel and Von Maur. Harrington suggested trying to bring some of these companies into the village "to cut down on the overall number of people who leave the village for their shopping needs." He said we should add more "high end" stores to our existing retail inventory.

We've already tried that. We already know that.

I decided to do my own consulting service study. For free. I asked about 15 people if they travel to Oakbrook to shop. They all said yes. I asked them why? Was it because of Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel or Von Maur?

The truth is most people said they liked Oakbrook's outdoor atmosphere. It's huge and a clear landmark that can be seen from 30,000 feet from a plane outside O'Hare Airport. The truth is they like it. And people sometimes want to see something different than from what they see every day.
The worst suggestion was to change the very substantive housing environment that makes Orland Park so attractive. Instead of building big homes with large lots, build smaller homes on smaller lots. How did the newspapers report his suggestion? Create "a more neo-traditional neighborhood design" that would "include a more robust mix of small lot sizes with a high density for young professionals with no kids or seniors."

What does a "robust mix of small lot sizes with high density" mean?

In Chicago, they call that a ghetto. Or, to be more generous, it's the reason why many of us left Chicago. Vandewalle's suggestion basically is to bring back the era of Chicago "gangways?"

He also said Orland could create more cultural venues like museums, galleries, cafes and nightlife scenes. We have the Plaza Cafe. Oops! The village is going to shut that down. Maybe we can take the Sprint store and put seats on the sidewalk where salesmen and sell cell phones.

None of these ideas are worth the $75,000 the village spent. I would have hoped that a consultant paid that much money in so little time would have come up with some more original ideas, like maybe build a super-speed rail transportation system to take people from one Star Bucks to another. There are three on LaGrange Road between 131st Street and 159th Street.

A museum? Does Orland Park need a museum? Oh, how about a Green Museum to display all the varieties of weeds that can be grown naturally without chemical fertilizers that do not require watering or lawn mowing. The village maintenance people are busy caring for all the homes the village bought to mow the lawns at the Award Winning Police Station. We have to plant weeds there.

Oh. I have another suggestion. Why not award another $75,000 contract to make a list of all the ideas we've already discussed int he past. That would be redundant.

Or better yet, why not dump the consultants and ask the people int he village what they think. There's an original idea for you. How about eliminate some of the worthless rhetoric that fills the village newsletter and replace it with a survey the residents can fill out.

There's an idea worth $75,000 and you can have it for free.

But that would mean the village officials would have to care about what the people in Orland Park think.

I do give Vandewalle credit. They haven't donated any money to many Illinois candidates since the beginning of the decade to Corinne Wood and Paul Vallas. And they still got the contract? Wow!

Ray Hanania

1 comment:

  1. Von Maur is not located in Oak Brook Center. Von Maur has 3 locations in the Chicago area: Glenview, Lombard and St. Charles.