Written by Bob Rakow
The Oak Lawn village board Tuesday The intersection of Southwest Highway and Central Avenue could have turning lanes by the end of summer. Photo by Bob Rakow.agreed to add a committee-of-the-whole meeting to its monthly schedule, but one trustee believes the decision not to televise the meeting sends mixed signals to residents.
“People have come to expect to see the meetings on television and to hear all sides of the debate and the issue,” Trustee Bob Streit said at Tuesday night’s meeting. “Most of the debate is going to take place in the committee meetings which will not be televised and the public is not going to see that.”
Sometimes televised Oak Lawn meetings can get pretty heated. Last November, neighboring community Chicago Ridge was mulling broadcasting its meetings live and Mayor Chuck Tokar made reference to the Oak Lawn board’s debates and said that “It’s almost as if they are on campaign mode at every meeting.’’
Streit cast the lone vote against creating a committee-of-the-whole, which will meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month before the village board meeting. Trustee Carol Quinlan did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
“If you don’t televise the meetings you would be taking a giant step backwards in regard to open government and transparency. The people deserve the various viewpoints and to hear the explanation for votes that we take in the regular meeting,” Streit said.
Mayor Sandra Bury said committee meetings are traditionally not televised, but they are open to the public.
“It’s important to say that these are public meetings. Nothing is hidden. Everyone is welcome to attend them,” Bury said.
Trustee Terry Vorderer said trustees will still have the opportunity to discuss issues covered during the committee meeting at the village board.
“This is just a workshop that gives us all a chance to vent our issues in a more lengthy presentation and get feedback,” Vorderer said.
Trustee Mike Carberry, who proposed the committee meeting, said its primary purpose is for village staff to approach trustees with questions or for direction on various issues.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak said the annual budget meetings are similar to committee-the-whole meetings, which involve the whole board and department heads discussing matters related to the coming year’s spending plan. The meetings are held in a more casual format than board meetings and are not televised, he said.
“We do a lot of good work there. There’s a lot of friendly debate,” Olejniczak said.
He added that “the business in front of the board will still be on front of the board.”
• In other business, the village board took a significant step toward the construction of turning lanes at the intersection of Southwest Highway and Central Avenue. Trustees approved payment for the acquisition of nine easements on the east side of Central Avenue to make way for the turning lanes.
The board one year ago entered into an intergovernmental agreement with Cook County that calls for the county to pay 100 percent of construction costs and 50 percent of design, engineering and field construction services. The village, meanwhile, will pay for easement and land acquisition costs, which are estimated at $200,000, village manager Larry Deetjen said.
The project could be completed this summer if two remaining easements are acquired soon, Deetjen said. The village has fought for the turning lanes for nearly a decade and the issue has long been championed by Olejniczak, whose 2nd District includes the intersection, Deetjen said.