Langer's efforts make her a heroine

Opinion

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Among the unsung heroines of this historic year, 2008, let us acclaim Barbara Langer, Ph.D., founder of "Exempt Our Elevators," who single-handedly turned back compliance requirements with the Illinois Elevator Safety and Regulation Act for four years-thus giving all citizens in buildings with elevators a reprieve.

In January 2008, after considerable research, she challenged unnecessary sections of River Forest's draft building code ordinance about unnecessary elevator and fire alarm upgrades. Her two briefs and her ability to pack board meetings with angry citizens convinced the River Forest board to eliminate all of the draft's onerous provisions.

Following this triumph of citizen diligence, Barbara turned to eliminating elevator upgrades mandated under the state elevator law. Her research, including her collaboration with the Federal Consumer Products Safety Commission, established the outstanding safety record of elevators in Illinois. She brought her findings to state Senator Don Harmon and other legislators and supplied them with the legislative language to define condos and apartments as exempt "private residences" under the law and to extend the compliance mandate to 2013.

She also spent days leafletting several legislative districts with help from Exempt Our Elevators volunteers to generate support for the legislative initiative. Harmon immediately recognized the importance of her suggestions and incorporated them into his first amendment. He invited Barbara to testify at the May 8 hearing of the Senate Licensed Activities Committee and to negotiate with the state elevator board, the state fire marshal and the elevator union on May 13 on behalf of all of us. I attended both sessions, where I watched Barbara fight relentlessly for all of our interests against huge odds.

Sen. Harmon, however, quickly compromised with Rep. Saviano and eliminated the exemption for existing condo and apartment elevators in his second amendment and at the May 13 meeting.

Barbara learned of the effect of this legislative maneuver too late to remedy it in the Senate. In the days before the House vote, Barbara contacted key House members with her research and with requests to remedy Rep. Saviano's House Amendment 1, which eliminated the 2013 compliance extension for elevators in apartment buildings. This effort helped to restore apartment elevators to SB0886 and to generate a huge "yea" vote on May 30 for the emasculated bill, which remains bereft of our exemption.

Despite that, with tenacity of purpose and respect for the truth, Barbara has won for us taxpayers a temporary respite from a draconian law. As taxpayers, we owe Barbara a tremendous vote of gratitude for her singular role in the "Exempt Our Elevators" saga.

Virginia Thomas

River Forest

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