In an effort to help bridge the gap between Chicago and Oak Park and create a tighter knit community across the Austin border, Village President David Pope, Village Manager Tom Barwin and Police Chief Rick Tanksley met with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and key members of his staff Oct. 2 to discuss issues of mutual interest.
Daley brought along leading representatives from the two police districts along the Oak Park/Chicago border.
Pope said the two communities already have a very positive working relationship in terms of public safety and coordination between police departments. However, they discussed ways to further strengthen the relationship, like working through the CTA to place cameras on all train platforms in Oak Park, just like in most of Chicago.
They also discussed Chicago allowing Oak Park police direct access to the city’s extensive crime databases.
Outside of crime, a key point was the two community’s need to work together on broader issues of planning and infrastructure investment.
“It’s really coordination in these areas that will best provide for long term enhancement to quality of life for our two communities together,” Pope said.
Oak Park is currently working with Chicago on improvements to North Avenue’s streetscape and physical environment, but Pope said coordination over Austin Boulevard is not as strong as is needed.
Pope emphasized that if you focus solely on crime in discussions, you can get stuck in a continuous loop and won’t be able to address the broader issues that might be causing crime along the border.
A healthy relationship, Pope said, is built by strengthening the sense of community across the border between Chicago. He gave an example of Oak Parkers walking across Harlem into Forest Park without giving it much thought because Forest Park feels more intertwined with Oak Park. Oak Park wants a similar tight-knit environment with Chicago.
Pope pointed to the relationship Oak Park has built with Berwyn and Cicero in Roosevelt Road planning, including streetscape enhancements to foster an integrated retail and residential environment between the three communities. In meeting with Daley, Pope discussed getting Chicago involved in Roosevelt Road improvements.
Oak Park has also recently completed initiatives to enhance key intersections along Austin such as at Harrison Street, Madison and Lake.
“As we move forward in implementing important aspects of these plans, we should be working more closely with Chicago regarding what’s happening on the Chicago side of Austin Boulevard at these important intersections,” Pope said.
As part of the outgrowth, Oak Park has also instituted a regular quarterly meeting with the Oak Park police chief and Chicago police officials. Pope and Daley will also continue to meet on issues of mutual importance between the two communities.