An oak tree as old as Riverside's founding came down in a storm last year. Now, paying respect to our history and the power of re-use of a profound resource, that glorious tree has been remade into the governing tables for our town.
As Editor Bob Uphues and staff photographer Alexa Rogals documented last week in a field trip to a sawmill and wood crafter up in Woodstock, that 160-year-old oak was saved from the chipper by Village Forester Michael Collins and a supportive administration and village board. Together they saw the wholeness in remaking the tree into stunning new tables that now serve as the village board's council table.
This is one of the great stories where Riverside's heritage and history — a place the town sometimes gets stuck in — are happily fused with a forward-looking village government.
Komarek's moms upgrade recess
Normally we measure school improvements by the millions, as bond issues raise money for building additions and wholesale renovations of aging spaces. But last week the Landmark had a story out of Komarek School that was driven by a handful of moms, supported by the school board and basically paid for by donations from a few local business people.
The result is that Komarek kids come back to school this year with their boring blacktop play area now featuring hopscotch and a batch of other painted-on activities. The bike racks have been spray painted to match the colors on the playground. Mulch has been spread around the trees. New play balls, jump ropes and other outdoor toys have been donated.
All this because a few moms noticed when they picked up their kids that the playground needed some loving care and imagination.
Drinkers get a Lyft
There is not a town in all of Chicagoland that puts more focus on driving drunk than Riverside. It is a top priority for Chief Tom Weitzel and his colleagues on the force. And in recent years it has shown in the rising number of arrests for impaired driving in Riverside.
That is, until this year. In the first six months of 2017, arrests for drunk driving are down by 31 percent in Riverside. That's not the result of shifting focus to other issues. Rather, says Weitzel, his midnight shift officers attributed the drop in arrests to drunk drivers who were still sober enough to call for a ride share rather than climbing into their own cars.
So that's good news. But Weitzel, one of the more innovative chiefs we've encountered, decided to build on a good thing. The result is that Riverside has entered into a small partnership with Lyft. Local restaurants and bars and local police now have discount cards they provide to potentially overserved patrons that gets them a half-off ride via Lyft.
Smart policing. Smart public policy. Look for this idea to spread.
Dems in Brookfield
Party politics in the suburbs is organized around townships. So there is a Riverside Township Democratic Party and one for Proviso and Lyons, too. Same holds on the Republican side.
But if you are a Democrat in Brookfield, a village split among all those townships, it might be a little harder to rally the troops. That has led Christopher Crisanti, a young Brookfield native just back from grad school, to attempt the formation of the Democratic Party of Brookfield. He has the backing of the Democratic committeemen from the enveloping townships and will work with them.
A worthy effort.