THE GREAT BATTERY RACE
In 1960, following his stunning and transformational election, President, John F. Kennedy set an audacious goal for the country. As we all know, the United States did achieve President Kennedy’s goal of landing a human on the moon within ten years. That goal and its achievement not only provided enormous prestige to our country, as we worked through the cold war, but as importantly provided an economic platform and pillar (computers and technology) from which to grow our economy over the past 50 years.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration ~ Chrysler’s Trio of Electric Vehicles
In 2008, just prior to his stunning and transformational election, presidential candidate, Barack H. Obama, set an audacious goal for the country. “For the sake of our economy, our security, and the future of our planet, I will set a clear goal as President: In 10 years, we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East.”
President Obama’s audacious new goal may be even tougher to achieve than the goal President Kennedy set for our country, and it may be more important. Achieving energy independence will require a national commitment to renewable energy, a commitment to dramatic new transportation technology, and a breakthrough in battery technology. Setting this new goal, the President has opened the door to joining and winning the great battery race. This race is likely to be won or lost through the facade of the electric vehicle (EV) competition. In fact, they are one and the same, with the US playing catch up on the EV battery race behind Japan, China, and South Korea.
You may recall it took the Soviet Union’s success with “Sputnik” to awaken the sleeping giant, to get its governmental priorities straight, and the giant US economy to get serious about joining the space race.
Our new President’s vision commits the United States to trying to win “The Great Battery Race”, which like winning the “space race” will create an economic platform for the winners, and a vital economic pillar critical to maintaining and growing an economy over the next twenty or thirty years.
At the vanguard of US advanced battery research is nearby Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne/Lemont, Illinois, 22 miles from Oak Park. Argonne is the direct descendent of the University of Chicago Lab where Enrico Fermi conducted vital research in the early days of the Manhattan Project. It sounds like we might be getting serious.
CONNECTING THE DOTS
Being from Detroit, Michigan I have seen up close and personal, the unfortunate ramifications to main street, family, and community which has resulted from the massive job and tax base losses associated with losing our manufacturing base. Just yesterday a Michigan Community (Hamtramck) asked the State for permission to file for bankruptcy. It may not be the only government in Michigan or Illinois to do so over the next few years.
While there is nothing wrong with having a mostly service economy, our economy should be diverse, and we need to rebuild some of our manufacturing base. What better place to start than in energy/battery breakthroughs and transportation. The positive implications to our economy, lifestyle, and planet are enormous.
LOCAL POLICY IN SUPPORT OF NATIONAL GOALS
As we have done often and with success, Oak Park again takes on national challenges and goals at the grass roots. While our simple ordinance to provide free parking to electric vehicles that live in or visit Oak Park throughout 2011 and 2012 may be more symbolic than substantive, the spirit behind it is what is important.
While a new electric vehicle could save $1,000 or more per year (depending on how often they visit our shopping districts or parking garages) the real idea is helping achieve our country’s goals. The more citizens, the more communities, the more governments who get on board, the more likely we will achieve our goals. If we are going to be in the competition, as they say, we might as well be in it to win it, and force ourselves to understand the new infrastructure that will be required.
Thanks to Oak Parkers for supporting the free EV parking ordinance and the board for voting for it last Monday night! I’m not sure how many electric vehicles we will have come to live or visit Oak Park over the next two years, but we will be tracking it.
Today, we know of six electric vehicles in Oak Park, and estimate there may be a couple of hundred ‘do it yourself’ conversions in the Chicagoland area. The electric “cupcake car” built in Oak Park represents the kind of creativity Americans have fun with in their garages and basements. Come to think of it, isn’t that how Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs got started!
My next car will be an EV, so scientists and manufacturers let’s get going with the breakthrough!
Drive past the home of environmental pioneers Mary Chris Javlevic and Roy Schuster on the 1100 block of Clinton Avenue and it looks much like the other well-kept homes on the block. Take a closer look – or be lucky enough, as I was, to go inside – and you begin to realize this is no ordinary Oak Park home. Actually, it is no ordinary American home. It’s furnace free, yet designed to keep its occupants comfortable in what can be a pretty brutal Chicago climate.
The house, designed by architect and Oak Parker Tom Bassett-Dilley, speaking to visitors in the photo above, is based on the concept of European passive houses that use materials and design to create a thermal envelope so tight, no furnace is needed. The heat comes from the warmth generated by appliances, electrical devices, body heat, and sunlight.
According to Tom, the house uses nearly three-quarters less energy than a comparable building. When it comes to keeping its occupants warm, which is the biggest energy cost a homeowner must meet, the home uses 85 percent less energy than the average home. And thanks to the super-insulated walls and roof, it is 10 times tighter against air infiltration, a feature those of use who live in older Oak Park homes certainly can appreciate when the winter winds begin to blow.
Mary Chris, who graciously invited members of the Environmental Advisory Commission and several of us from Village Hall for a tour Thursday, described her home as a Thermos. Sealed from top to bottom. With the doors and windows closed, the only opening in the thermal envelop is a relatively small air exchanger in the basement that keeps the air inside fresh, with no drafts, no breezes, and no heat loss. In fact, the exchanger actually captures the heat from the house and recirculates it with the clean, fresh air from outside, a process it can reverse in the summer.
Even inside you wouldn’t readily see anything that would suggest the home’s energy efficiency. The only visual hint of the R-45 insulation is the 12-inch or so depth between the inner wall and the super-insulated windows. The walls actually were prefabricated, then erected on site, a process that I would have liked to have seen.
Such super-insulation means that the only heating source is considered supplemental. It’s a stove that uses wood pellets manufactured from production waste. The stove is so efficient it can’t be used at maximum capacity even on the coldest day without overheating the entire house. In the basement, a new heat-pump water heater, pictured above, captures warmth from the air to help keep the family in hot water.
Among the many interesting aspects of this home is how its owners worked with their architect and builders to balance their desire to be green with the goal of building something that will last. They used green features like non-toxic, no-VOC paint, water saving faucets and toilets, ecological landscape design and locally sourced oak floors. The roof is metal – which can last virtually forever – and the siding is essentially maintenance free cement board that is impervious to just about everything.
Natural light is a key component of the design as well. The windows, primarily on the south side, bring light deep into the home, including from the third floor down a central staircase. The windows are so insulated that they were warm to the touch on the inside, even when the temperature was quite brisk outside.
As we left the house after more than an hour, I couldn’t help but be excited about what a wonderful example of a true house of the future we have right here in Oak Park. But I also was a little troubled by some of what I had learned. So much of what made this house so special was not from the United States. The windows were from the Canada, the condensing clothes dryer that required no outside vent was from Germany, and the heat exchanger was from the Far East. Even the concept of super insulation and passive heating was European.
With all of our talk about wanting to be the world leader in green technology, the United States is still far behind when it comes to designing and producing the products that will make it happen. I remain optimistic, however. The U.S. has always been about individuals blazing a trail through the wilderness that eventually becomes the superhighway for future progress. Perhaps Mary Chris and Roy are leading the way. Now, it up to the rest of us to follow their lead.
If you would like to learn more about their no-furnace house, visit their blog at Four Thick Walls, One House, One Family, No Furnace.
Like Mom, Apple Pie, and Chevrolet, the notion of leaving the planet in good shape for future generations is a nice sentiment, but who thinks that is happening?
What is happening is the increasing certainty that climate change is by far the biggest challenge humans have ever faced.
Unlike war, fascism, the depression, or a pandemic, the climate change challenge is a slow motion, incremental, not particularly telegenic, inter-generational threat. We can hope for a quick fix, hope that a technological silver bullet solution emerges at the 11th hour, but the days of hoping that climate change science is wrong, are over.
Breaking civilizations addiction to carbon based power economy will require innovation and a real commitment to building a new “renewable” power infrastructure. Most everyone I know who has really studied climate change or has spent a lot of time in the natural environment feels a sense of responsibility and urgency to do what we can, as aggressively as we can, to reduce carbon emissions.
I came to Oak Park 4.5 years ago because it is a community that has a strong and successful history of addressing some of our country’s most difficult challenges on a grass roots level.
Today Oak Parkers are stepping up to the challenge of climate change in a multitude of ways. Of course the United Nations, Washington DC, Springfield, and big business can theoretically do much more than we can. But with so many political gamut’s to hurdle, and special interests to overcome, when will they do more, what will they do, and how long will it take?
The thinking here is not to wait anymore. Let’s do what we can on a grass roots, local, main street level; where innovation, creativity and timely decisions are possible.
On October 21, at Governors State University the Village of Oak Park was awarded a renewable energy grant by The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Pictured above are (l to r): K.C. Poulos, Sustainability Manager, Village of Oak Park; DCEO Director Warren Ribley; GSU President, Dr. Elaine P. Maimon; and Jeff Julian, Director of Communications and External Relations for Joliet Junior College.
The first significant step to building an Oak Park Renewable Energy System occurred last week when Oak Park was awarded a grant by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) which was presented to our Sustainability Manager KC Poulos at Governor’s State University, by DCEO Director Warren Ribley.
The grant will cover up to 50% of the costs of installing American made solar panels on top of the 540-space Avenue Parking Garage. Once installed, we expect the solar panels to immediately reduce the carbon footprint of the parking garage by about 25%. Equally impressive is the reality, that when our local investment toward the solar panels is paid down, over ten years, electricity bills to operate the garage will go away. We will make money on the renewable energy we generate through dramatically reduced energy bills combined with the selling of our renewable energy credits. Over 30 years we are estimating the solar panels will not only save Oak Park money, we should make over a half a million dollars profit, to seed new renewable energy innovations.
The up to $450,000 solar panel grant funds pledged to Oak Park come from the Federal American Resource and Recovery Act (ARRA). The dollars are being made available to prime the renewable energy economy which is becoming a national economic and environmental priority, a “Green New Deal”.
Hopefully, this go around (unlike the 1970’s) with credible climate change science available, and the renewable energy industry becoming essential, government backed solar, wind and geo-thermal investments will bring costs down enough so that within a decade, grant dollars will not be necessary to see renewable energy systems flourish.
If you are interested in serving on the first Oak Park Renewable Energy Advisory Committee, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you four your interest.
The Village’s Proposed 2011 Budget is available for public review and comment. The $125 million-budget, tentatively scheduled to be adopted by the Village Board on Nov. 22, is “the story of a great community continuing to navigate carefully through the recession, while not resting on its laurels”. For the first time in three years, after reducing the Village workforce by 70 positions, the 2011 Budget does not include new layoffs. However, a small number of staff positions will be reduced through attrition.
Other highlights of the proposed 2011 spending plan include maintaining police and fire staffing at 2010 levels and no property tax increase for operations. The proposed capital plan would invest $7.9 million in local infrastructure, primarily for water, sewer and road improvements, including the completion of upgrades along Roosevelt Road.
The capital plan also allocates $100,000 to tree planting, doubling plantings in response to trees lost in 2010 summer storms and to the emerald ash borer. Funds also have been allocated for planning future improvements on Madison Street and in the central business district, with efforts focusing on creating local job opportunities and building a stronger, more diverse property tax base. Federal grants will allow the Village to continue to pursue a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly community with new bike lanes on Chicago Avenue and Division Street, as well as new bus shelters across the community.
For more information on the budget, call 708.358.5770 or email us.Village Board Agendas are posted by date, for your convenience.
Over the past two years the Village of Oak Park has been working with the Illinois Institute of Technology and several other organizations to understand and promote the new clean energy economy. Creating new-energy economy jobs and slowing climate change are two pretty good motivations for jumping into the renewable energy realm with both feet.
Preparing our codes, budgets, infrastructure, staff, residents, and educational systems for the ability to integrate renewable energy systems into our daily lives will continue to be a local, state, and national priority for years to come and a wide open field for creativity and innovation.
Last Thursday, IIT’s Wanger Institute for Sustainable Energy Research hosted an afternoon symposium on the FUTURE OF WIND POWER, which I had the good fortune to be able to attend.
The very impressive panel included Brian Connor, US Department of Energy; Sonny Garg, President of Exelon, Michael Polsky, President/CEO of Invenergy; Paul McCoy, President, Trans-Elect; and Kurt Yeagar, Executive Director of the Galvin Initiative. The panel represented differing perspectives but collectively brought a vast amount of knowledge and experience to the wind power component of the rapidly changing energy field.
Kurt Yeagar, who has visited Oak Park on several occasions challenged the 250 engineering types in the audience to think in terms of the “internet ” and transforming our horse and buggy era energy grid into an “energynet”!
Kurt also suggested that technology is now available to transform many of our buildings “from energy pigs to energy producers.”
In a nutshell, with the amazing improvements in wind power technology over the past few years, the panel consensus was that renewable wind power will be able provide 20% of our national energy needs by 2020. Prudent investments in modern transmission lines to send wind generated energy from high wind regions of the country to more urbanized areas will also be necessary but as with all things energy, expect regulatory battles between vested interests, and “not in my backyard” concerns, to slow things up.
Intermittent wind is obviously a reality the new energy economy and wind industry must deal with. However the panel seemed confidant that new sophisticated wind prediction equipment, energy storage breakthroughs, learning from past mistakes, and grid coordination combine to provide promising advancements for reliable wind power.
Most of the new large wind turbines citizens will see, will not be in our urban areas or on the edge of Lake Michigan, (still too expensive, maintenance and ice issues, aesthetic issues) but will continue to appear with increasing frequency in more rural areas in the western 3/4ths of the country.
Locally, IIT has landed one of three major, multi-million dollar national grants to build a major wind turbine, study its performance, and further integrate wind power knowledge and technology into the IIT curriculum and our communities.
In Minnessota an entire new community is being planned around a massive new wind turnbine with the community to grow to the extent the wind turbine can provide the power it needs.
Smaller scale, home application wind turbines were not discussed extensively at this conference other than that this technology has also improved dramatically in recent years and local governments are getting an increasing numbers of inquiries from homeowners and businesses investigating these new technologies.
During the reception following the symposium I couldn’t help notice that it seemed like 80% or more of the engineering students who attended appeared to be international students from the far east, with only a couple of women amongst them. Lets hope a good many of them hang around to help us move toward energy independence as the massive economies of India, China and developing nations ramp up to compete for whats left of the earths fossil fuels.
Chicago was coined the “windy city” for the reknowned rhetorical practices of its politicians of a bygone era. Today, IIT in Chicago is bringing a new meaning to our “windy city” handle by becoming a national leader in understanding how to maximize the future potential of wind power for all. That is a windy city concept we can also be proud of and need to root for.
Growing up in the Motor City, surrounded by factory toughened UAW members, Labor Day was a pretty big deal. Like Santa at Christmas, Presidential visits, union parades and union picnics were the labor day norm.
These days union membership has diminished from a high of 36% of the workforce to a mere 7% today. In 2010 most US union members aren’t miners or factory workers, but public sector employees; teachers, police officers, and clerical workers. US manufacturing jobs, vital to building our great middle class, have been diluted by the “free trade” global economy, millions of them lost over the past few years.
This labor day, 155 million Americans have jobs. Unfortunately, 10% of us, or about 15 million who need and want decent jobs can not find one. Economists and President O’Bama seem to agree, there is no ”silver bullet” solution for a quick exit out of the recession.
The burst housing bubble has cut into construction work. The smoke and mirrors financial markets, which sustained our sprawl economy for years, fell through the thin ice it was based on. But for the depression era safety net and stimulus funding this great recession would have likely become another depression.
From the trends we see on Main Street it would seem to be imperative, like during the depression, that we rethink our national priorities and recalibrate the economy for the future we need.
The economy of the last 50 years has been based on consumerism. We are all going to continue to like new stuff, need new stuff, and want new stuff. However, at the dawn of the sustainability movement, as we begin to note the dramatic implications of sustainability and resource conservation thinking into our life styles and economy, the time is right to revisit our priorities. A more diverse and balanced economy would be a much wiser long range path to follow than the path we have been on.
An analysis of labor statistics this labor day, combined with an understanding of our most intractable grass roots challenges, suggest a major part of our focus should be on our youth. Research and the proven success of early childhood education programs, virtually guarantee that even modest investments in early childhood education will pay dividends to our society and economy for the entire lives of our newest citizens.
But our biggest challenge, a crisis really, can be found amidst our country’s 16 to 24 year old youth.
In January, 2010, the national not-in-school/unemployment rate for 16 – 24 year olds was 15.2% for whites, 24.3 % for Hispanics, and a staggering 32.5% for African Americans. This is a disastrous, staggering, depression like problem. epi.org
So, a message from Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue, lets get moving. It is the perfect time to start a serious youth program to clean up and rebuild America. What is needed is an intensive, (away from home) public service/work program to train and employ our 18 to 24 year olds in need. Many need a job and a purpose so put them to work rebuilding our communities and economy.
Integrate sustainability programs into their urban, suburban, and rural work. Pay for it with a national carbon tax or some other sensible alternative. Try it for ten years. For each year a youth completes, we reward them with a one year scholarship to college, apprenticeship, or trade school. A sort of modern GI bill for helping with at home priorities not wars.
Besides being the right thing to do, I suspect any decent economist could prove this would actually save us money in the long run and strengthen our economy by tapping into so much potential that now falls by the wayside.
With everyone concerned about the economy, it was appropriate to begin the $8.5 million Roosevelt Road Improvement Project on the Friday before Labor Day.
Optimism filled the air as Governor Quinn, who provided crucial support in our pursuit of federal and state funding assistance ($7 million) joined local village and legislative leaders to break ground to start this major south Oak Park public works project. After nearly ten years of planning and two years of designing, improvements are finally underway.
The collaboration between Berwyn, Cicero, and Oak Park to design a unified streetscape and zoning district is unprecedented.
Roosevelt Road, named in 1919 for President Theodore Roosevelt, the original conservationist, is home to an array of excellent small businesses and neighborhood services. Roosevelt Road is one of those places where the dream of starting ones own business continues to flourish. Recent trends have featured the growth of the hispacnic community along the corridor.
I fully expect that within five years the $8.5 million in public investment on the Roosevelt Road Corridor, will be tripled by private investors as they improve and fix up their aging properties to match the new standard being set.
Rebuilding our infrastructure creates jobs and it is estimated that 100 various construction jobs will be necessary to complete this project over the next year. Although Roosevelt Road appears built out, there are currently several vacant buildings within the corridor. Our goal is to match the 100 construction jobs with another 100 new jobs over the next three years, by attracting entrepreneurs to invest on Roosevelt and put vacant store fronts to productive use.
I think we can hit our job creation goal as a result of our communities making this investment and statement about the future of Roosevelt Road. To monitor our progress, I have asked our planning, building, and business staff to baseline, study, and monitor building vacancies, new investment, and job creation on Roosevelt Road over the next five years.
While the future of Roosevelt Road is promising; dining, shopping, and supporting Roosevelt Road businesses during construction will be more important than ever.
Road Improvement projects are always an extremely challenging time for businesses and we need to stick with the folks who support our neighborhoods despite some occassional orange barrel inconvenience. Your support of them is deeply appreciated.
And thanks to the many staff, firms, Roosevelt Road business leaders, and our elected officials who came together to create a new vision for Roosevelt Road and stepped up to get it funded. Let the work begin!
Residents can safely recycle old electronics and related items from 9 a.m. – noon, Saturday at the Public Works Center, 201 South Blvd. Acceptable items include desktop computers, peripherals, laptops, monitors, televisions, cell phones, rechargeable batteries, printers, fax machines, MP3 players, portable digital assistants, video game consoles, video cassette recorders/players, digital video disk players, zip drives and scanners. Residents must unload their own items. Call 708.358.5700 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
It’s amazing how quickly our electronics become obsolete and this stuff piles up. Thanks Karen Rozmus for once again organizing an exceptional environmental public service project.
Blessed with good weather, Saturday’s third annual Brew Fest drew 1800 attendee’s, sampling 75 brews, from 25 micro-breweries from Illinois. the nearby mid-west, with one micro-brew from Colorado!
Seven Generations Ahead and their co-sponsors did another great job organizing and conducting the zero waste event. Of course, as an attendee joked, when was the last time anyone saw good beer wasted? Everyone seemed to have a great time socializing, as well as sampling unique micro-brews and local foods. The pumpkin, blueberry, and chocolate brews were unique and tasty.
Lot’s of visitors who took the trains in were complimentary of the event and Oak Park’s hospitality. We hope our businesses see them again soon. Thanks to all involved.
OAK PARK MICRO BREW REVIEW
THE MIDWEST”S LARGEST ZERO WASTE CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL
The Midwest’s largest zero waste, craft beer festival will be held on Marion Street in downtown Oak Park from 3–7pm this Sat., Aug. 21. More than 75 craft beers from 25 microbreweries across Illinois will be represented.
Thanks to local non-profit Seven Generations Ahead, this year’s micro brew review models sustainable best practices through its zero waste and local food components. Oak Park restaurateurs will be on hand to showcase samples of select dishes, incorporating sustainable and organic foods from local farmers.
With live music, local foods and drinks, it’s a can’t miss event! For more information on the event and to purchase tickets.
Ever wonder if drinking beer can be green (not to be confused with drinking green beer on St Paddy’s Day)? Here’s what Paul Waddington said in his book Shades of Green, a guide for the reluctant environmentalist:
Deep Green: Go to the pub, drink hand-pulled real ale, preferably organic
Dark Green: Brew your own
Quite Green: Go to the pub and drink any old keg beer
Pale Green: Drink local beer in cans or bottles
Not even a little bit Green: Drink exotic imported bottled lager from far away
Draft beer cuts down on the manufacturing and delivery of all of those cans and bottles.
I’m hopeful that the next liquor license issued in Oak Park will be for a micro-brewery, and suspect if its run well, will become very popular.
With AMI Smart Electricity meters now in place throughout Oak Park, the effort to install additional essential elements of a Smart Grid has begun.
(L-R) John Kelly, Galvin Electricity Institute; Brian Kolata, Citizens Utility Board; Sung Hyuk Lee, Deloitte Consulting on behalf of the Korean Smart Grid Institute; David Pope, Oak Park Village President; and Tom Barwin Oak Park Village Manager
On Wednesday, July 31, President Pope signed a Letter of Understanding with officials of the Korea Department of Knowledge and Technology to explore implementing Korean Smart Grid Technology in Oak Park. The Citizens Utility Board (CUB), the State of Illinois, ComEd, the Illinois Institute of Technology, and the City of Chicago also signed exploratory Memorandums of Understanding with Korea.
Governor Quinn speaking at the Network Dinner for Republic of Korea - State of Illinois Smart Grid Collaboration, July 21, 2010
In a follow-up to the July 31 conference with the Koreans, a smaller working group returned to Oak Park. On Friday, August 13, Oak Park Sustainability Manager KC Poulos and I hosted a delegation of business executives from Korea. After a brief look at Oak Park rooftops (for potential solar applications) from the top of the Avenue Parking Garage, we explored energy policy and ideas over lunch at Winberries.
(L-R) Jordan Cutler, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition; K.C. Poulos, Sustainability Manager, VOP; Tom Barwin, Village Manager; Sung Hyuk Lee; Kweon; Dong-Sook; Dr. Tae-il Choi, General Manager, ICEPCO; Ki-Hyun Kim; Choi; Tae-il; Do-Yang Jung; and Lee, Seung-jun
It’s really interesting how different countries and regions do things differently.
Over lunch we learned that the 40 million residents of South Korea are rarely without power, averaging less than one minute of outage per year. In contrast Oak Parkers averaged 120 minutes in power outages in 2009.
We are looking forward to continuing our push toward the Smart Grid with our new Korean friends, ComEd, and of course all of our residents who are thinking globally about climate change but may wish to act locally.
Pat, me, Rich, and a nice guy but we didn’t catch his name rider, and Franklin (he did the 50 miler) taking a water break at the 9 mile marker in Riverside.
I did my first Wright Ride today, with fellow Oak Parkers Rich and Pat Brey, along with 440 other riders, who like biking through cool neighborhoods. It was fun picking out the 15 Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings on the fly.
Beginning in downtown Oak Park Pat, Rich and, I did the 25 mile version, 50 miles would have done us in. The internationally reknowned Unity Temple was the first landmark on the ride. Wright riders had a great time biking through the neighborhoods of these nearby communities:
The tour de-Wright course featured beautiful parks, train stations, and interesting businesses districts.
Thanks to Visit Oak Park, Active Transportation Alliance, Oak Park Cycle Club, and all the sponsors and volunteers for organizing another terrific Oak Park based event. The green arrows on the streets were easy to follow. Water, snacks, and bathrooms were located in gorgeous parks just as we needed them and everybody I talked to was having a great time biking and making new friends.
A little history: The Wright ride began in 2005 as a partnership between Vist Oak Park and the Oak Park Cycle Club. Key figures were Paul Aschelman, chairman of the Village Transportation Commission, Rich Corrollo, President and CEO of Visit Oak Park, and Gail Moran, Vice-President of Oak Park Cycle Club. The plan was to create a ride for this part of Chicagoland focused on prarie architecture, given the natural offerings of the area. Early rides took place in River Forest and Berwyn, progressing to the areas listed above over the years. There are 15 Frank Lloyd Wright structures on the ride, including Unity Temple and the Home and Studio. There are fewer structures as you go west, however Riverside is a National Historic Landmark and two Frank Lloyd Wright structures reside there.
The first couple years the ride began at the High School, then there was a rained out year, a move to the downtown Oak Park lot between Cold Stone and Carriage, and finally last year the ride moved to Westgate & Marion, a great spot!
The Oak Park Cycle Club’s Gail Moran and others create the routes from their casual rides and mark the route, no easy task.
Using social media this year, and a promotional partnership with the Active Transportation Alliance, the Wright Ride surpassed the elusive 400 mark, enjoying its highest attendance ever.
Above, pit stop at the 15 mile mark at a big park in Willowbrook. Bagels, bannanas, and gatorade never tasted so good.
Since I’m still a little uncomfortable riding on some streets, I found great comfort in having many other riders around to help make motorists aware of all of us. Sunday morning traffic is light so conflicts with cars was never an issue for our group and a good many youngsters and novice riders participated. It appears grass-roots biking is getting more and more popular. Oak Park hopes to be investing in many biking enhancements in the years to come.
With Lance Armstrong maybe entering semi-retirement I wonder if the US Postal Service might be looking for a team to sponsor next year?
PS. I would also like to use this opportunity to thank Rich Corrollo for helping start and continue the Wright ride and for all of his other efforts to promote conferences, visits, and appreciation of the attractions in and around Oak Park. Best wishes Rich on the next chapter of your life out in Denver, Colorado. With the momentum you have started here, maybe next year we can get 500 riders to come enjoy the Wright Ride. Come back and ride with us someday, those mountains are a great place to stay in shape.
At 9:00 am this morning local officials met with Governor Pat Quinn and Congressman Danny Davis in the Village of Westchester for updates on the status of the local, county, and state efforts to make communities and households impacted by the July 23 and 24th floods eligible for federal disaster recovery assistance.
As local governments complete damage assessment reports which are forwarded to the State through their respective County, the State of Illinois is preparing to submit a comprehensive statewide disaster damage report to the federal government.
From today’s meeting I expect the State to file the required, multi-county disaster damage report with the federal government no later than next Friday, August 20th.
The federal government will than review the Illinois report and render a decision on whether or not Illinois is eligible for federal disaster aid. Learning that Congressman Davis raised this issue with President Obama last week when the President was in Chicago, I think we can expect a decision within 45 days or no later than by the end of September. Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) damage assessment teams have been inspecting the region this week. FEMA representatives were also in attendance this morning.
Many communities like Westchester were hit much harder than Oak Park but the eight inches of rain in 16 hours in Oak Park caused over 300 homes to experience serious basement flooding with Village budgets absorbing over $50,000 in emergency flood response costs.
Should a Federal Disaster be declared the Village should be reimbursed for $37,500, or 75%, of our emergency response costs. We will be keeping a data base of all residents who have reported damage to us to help make homeowners aware of any homeowner assistance and claims procedures should a federal disaster be declared for the recent July storm event.
Local leaders in attendance at this morning’s meeting began to discuss the regional long range need to complete the deep tunnel work to create more storage space for rain water during future heavy rain storm events. Our patchwork system of government, with no truly metro-government, makes the coordination, prioritization and funding of big, important regional projects like the deep tunnel, very difficult. However, once completed, the deep tunnel investments will minimize future flooding and the need to damage the environment by dumping chlorinated raw sewage into our steams, rivers and lakes.
It was nice to see the Governor this morning and learn that he is on top of the immediate issue at hand and doing what he can to represent the region. Of course with the Governor having attended high school in Oak Park (Fenwick High) who would expect anything less!
As we look down the road, perhaps with this summers experiences fresh on our minds, most health and public safety officials I know seem to believe we are going to see more and more strange and volatile weather attributable to climate change. Accordingly, I have directed our key emergency response team leaders (police, fire, dpw, health and public information departments) to submit a plan to me yet this summer, to further enhance our local emergency operations center (EOC) and further clarify the lines of accountability and responsibility for preparing for and responding to each and every phase of a local emegency/disaster event.
We have done a pretty good job in the past but I believe the future requires we be be at the very top of our game, 24/7 - 365.
We will keep you posted on the matters discussed above and our progress on enhancing our local disaster response efforts.
P.S. Sorry for the fuzzy photo’s….I have to stop multi-tasking or get a better camera.
Congratulations go out to Steve Kirshenbaum, President of the Friends of the Oak Park Library, and 75 volunteers who pulled off the 40th Annual Oak Park Book Sale this past weekend, Friday, August 6th and Saturday August 7th.
Steve and his book loving friends spent much of their free time over the past six weeks preparing for last weekends big book blowout sale. Steve figures the average volunteer donates about 60 hours to help sort and stack the 100,000 books that people donate throughout the year to the library. Talk about volunteerism and recycling!
A very long line of book enthusiasts were at the door of 260 Madison Friday night when the 40th annual Oak Park Book Fair kicked off.
But this year’s sale had a couple of unexpected dramatic plot twists. First, due to summer construction at the 1 million square foot OPRF High School, the Friends were not able to use a spacious portion of OPRF High for the annual book sale as they have in the past. A hero emerged when DPW Director John Wielebnicki came through at the last minute and made the old Volvo Dealership at 640 Madison available for the sale.
The plot thickened when the Friends discovered the building did not have functioning air conditioning. Guts and grit prevailed. Undaunted, Steve and Friends rigged up some temporary air and forged on to pull off the sale during the hottest summer on record.
The Friends of the Oak Park Public Library utilized every square inch of space to pack in books to sell in the former Volvo dealership space, loaned to the Friends by the Village of Oak park.
Despite a smaller location, record heat, and so-so air conditioning, the volunteers stayed together and kept the book sale going. The story has a happy ending for taxpayers because lots of people picked up lots of great reads at bargain prices, and over $40,000 was raised and donated to the library. Real money.
This years drama in the heat reminded me of one of my favorite sayings. “Those that sweat together, stick together.”
So as all recover, thanks again to Steve, all the volunteers, the good folks at the library, the Village DPW, and the hundreds and hundreds of book sale customers who pulled off another awesome event. And now that we all have lots to read, let it snow.
PS. Note to school board, over 1,000 patrons of the book sale signed petitions requesting the annual sale be allowed to return to OPRF High next year, where proceeds could return to the $60,000 + level that was raised in 2009.