Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Read a Good Book Yesterday

I read a book yesterday called Now Coming to a Town Near You by Gina Olszowski. The subtitle tells you what it is about: Voices of Urban Sprawl. The writer is from my town, so some of her insights are particularly relevant to me.

We moved to Batavia, from Crystal Lake, in 1992. Part of the reason was to be closer to my wife's work, but also we felt that Crystal Lake was starting to get too crowded. Crystal Lake and the neighboring community of Lake in the Hills were building developments of 500, 700, 1000 homes. All those extra people and all that extra traffic just made it less enjoyable to live there.

When we moved to Batavia, I think all we had on Randall Road (Route 37 in her book) at the time was the Jewel, the Ace, and Target. Now that I look back, we had everything we needed in those 3 stores. But, now the road is packed with places to shop and eat: Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, Fridays, Chilis, Bennigan, Applebees, Borders, and the whole Geneva Commons complex of really high-end foo-foo stores. Having a variety of places to shop does have its benefits. But, there is no character to Randall Road. It’s exactly the same as Route 59 in Naperville / Aurora and thousands of other strips in cities across the country. The sameness and ugliness of it all is depressing. There are no sidewalks – there is no easy way to walk on Randall Road. It is designed for wheeled vehicles only.

What can be done? Nothing can be done for Randall Road now. It’s all built up and there’s no going back. There isn’t much undeveloped land north of Main Street anymore, so all we can do is try and stop even more strip malls south of Main Street.

She does point out something important regarding what can be done. Pay attention to local politics. I spend much more time reading about, thinking about, the presidential race than I do local politics. Which has more of a direct impact on my quality of life? Local politics! I have never attended a city council meeting, a county board meeting, or most importantly (as it impacts my already outrageous property taxes) – a school board meeting. I assume these meetings are open to the public, but I honestly don’t even know. That is going to change.

No comments: