Didn’t Even Know It Existed

Background Reading


Plans to upgrade the Naperville Park District's Riverwalk Eatery has been put on hold. (Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune)

Plans to upgrade the Naperville Park District’s Riverwalk Eatery has been put on hold. (Melissa Jenco, Chicago Tribune)

You know when people like something because they tell you, and they apparently really like the idea of an upgraded Riverwalk Eatery. So I assume they’re upset that the improvements to the eatery, like a nice patio, which were scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day, have been suspended indefinitely.

The reason they’re suspended, of course, is that Gov. Rauner, in the name of fixing Illinois fiscal troubles, has halted all construction projects funded by state grants to park districts. That money, which I think comes primarily from real estate transfer fees, was going to help build a large recreation center here in Naperville, and fund many other projects around the state that, for many if not most of us, enhance and perhaps define our quality of life.

Because Chicago is also losing $28 million in sorely needed funds to repair its parks, you might think that the Rauner and the Rahm Emanuel families would not be vacationing together quite as often in the future, but with veto proof Democrat majorities in both houses that part of the governor’s budget and the mayor’s objections to it may simply be theater.

The governor’s budget also cuts in half the amount of state income tax revenues that go back to municipalities. Thus the state avoids having to raise taxes by forcing individual cities to raise theirs, or making them raise fees if their taxes are capped. Because both parties protect big shots and their corporations at all costs, those cuts may stay.

DuPage is a relatively wealthy county, but median incomes have dropped significantly, big mortgages and bloated school taxes have eaten up big salaries, and the childhood poverty population has more than doubled.

And, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Rauner proposes cutting $330 million from the public university budget, so tuitions and student debt are sure to rise. The bottom line is that even though average families had nothing to do with those decades of mismanagement in Springfield, they’re going to pay for them.

The recreation center in Naperville will be completed because it’s more expensive not to do it, but the project will cannibalize the money for popular little projects like the eatery. There is, however, still a way that the eatery can be upgraded if we simply invoke the spirit of the Riverwalk.

Most people don’t remember that, when the Riverwalk was built, the city didn’t have the money to do it. The project was a classic example of “stone soup.” The land was the pot with the stone in it, and the villagers who passed by contributed whatever vegetables they had to make the soup better.

There was admittedly a bit of arm twisting, but there was also an enormous amount of generosity. Builders contributed materials and tradesmen contributed time. Metal standards that had sheltered commuters at the Metra station were dragged out of storage and erected along the walk.

If they couldn’t afford to remove the foundation of an old gas station, they left it there and built on top of it. Ordinary citizens got down on their hands and knees and laid brick. If people couldn’t do anything else, they gave money.

I don’t know what was actually planned for the eatery, and it may have to be done a little differently. But I can’t imagine that, if we collected some money, bought some materials, and descended on that little building for a few weekends this spring, that a bunch of volunteers couldn’t turn it into the kind of place everybody wants it to be.

It may be that the corporate class still rules Illinois, and it’s a shame that we let that happen. But until we manage to elect the government we need, we have to realize that life goes on, you can’t wait forever, and summer is coming.


Where exactly is this structure located? The town itself frankly does not lack for places to eat. And given the thirst of today’s tourists for alcohol, a place like this would probably not do well in summer (as compared to the dozens of eateries within walking distance).

As far as budget cutting goes it might be fairer to wonder aloud why we let ourselves get into this ‘fiscal mess‘ in the first instance. And that claptrap about the ‘corporate class‘ ruling Illinois is pure Socialist nonsense. The wealthy have always ruled either here or in other places across the country and around the world.

We all seem eager to allow them to do it so long as we get what we want. But the party is over friend. Now even the Middle Class has to wonder what gets cut next. Too bad.