Fulmination at the library: Anan and Peter meet the people

Fur flies, A&P cool, following the TIF money

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By Jim Bowman


About the Dec. 11 meeting at the library, where President Anan Abu-Taleb and Trustee Peter Barber took on comers.

Yes, it got heated regarding the District 97 building situation, and Anan got pointed in his rebuttal, but he was not flustered by the detailed objections. Neither was Barber, who recalled his days on the D97 board and how parents and others get quite energetic at times, in the faces of board members, etc. That's a longstanding pattern. Heated commentary, finger-shaking, even once I recall, a board member being asked to step outside by a citizen, and not to grab a smoke and chat.

Anan apologized at one point. This was after the heated citizen pictured in the Wed. Journal story interrupted him from the back – he had been recognized and had the mike, Anan was adding to what he had said. Really, it was like old times, when men were men and women were women and you couldn't tell one from the other when it came to putting up (verbal) dukes.

When the dust settled at the library, it was nonetheless another historic gathering. The village board did not use to leave its chamber to go toe to toe with voters, except at election time. It's what Anan had in mind when he ran for office last spring – a first for him – and said he wanted more citizen involvement. As he said at the library a few days ago, to one of two energetic objectors, "I am more interested in making you engaged than you want to be engaged."

He means that. Why else would he put himself up there in a free-for-all situation, for voters to let loose on him this way? Same for his sidekick at this meeting, Barber.

They had been told: "You guys are acting as if it's a new thing," that is, District 97 spending and (probably) village spending in general. "That's why people are frustrated with you. You guys are good politicians, you avoided" the big issue.

Anan had been "disrespectful" with his "rant" to an ally of the speaker, he was told. The speaker hoped he'd be "more respectful" in Saturday morning's joint village-District 97 meeting at Village Hall.

"There's no proposal yet," Anan said. "As I said in your house" – he had gone to the man's house to talk about it – "District 97 is the largest employer in our community." And then he added the part about "making you engaged."

To which the man told him, "Stop saying there's no plan. There is a plan, and you know it."

So it went on that issue, which Anan explained as negotiation by the village with the school district over left-over TIF money, per a 1995 agreement that called for giving it back to the district in 2010. It's better to negotiate than sue, "with your money," he told the man to whom he was accused of being disrespectful.

This 1995 agreement does explain why these two taxing bodies are in conversation. TIF (tax increment financing) siphoned off revenue from the schools in order to finance business development, in this case on Madison Street. So the village owes the school district. If that 1995 agreement has been publicized, it hasn't been publicized lately or at least not much.

Another explanation came as to how the new development plan will work. The developer goes to the yet to be named director of economic development and his commission, where the development proposal is hashed out. Then the development director calls the newly named village hall manager with details to be permitted. This person deals with the permitters and gets back to the development director with the go-ahead or stop-action.

Finally, something else to show the meeting was not one battle: Anan gave a quite upbeat report on village council activities, in which he announced (early in the meeting) an "end of turmoil" at the village board, to whose presidency he was elected as a political outsider less than a year ago. "Please be optimistic," he said. "We've had a lot of changes already. We have probably the smartest board in a long time. We have developed relationships, can do a lot over the next three years."

Email: jimbowman7@aol.com Twitter: @BlitheSp

Reader Comments

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Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 5:18 PM

FYI, regarding whether the 1995 agreement has been publicized, here is a link to the 2012 TIF report. The agreement is included in this report. You'll have to scroll thru quite a few pages to find it, but it's there. http://www.oak-park.us/sites/default/files/budgets/finance-reports/TIF/TIF-2012.pdf

Mike S from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 1:56 PM

I am not a NIMBY because I don't live anywhere near there. I think this is a dumb idea. It seems to have generated out of no where with no one really in favor of it, yet it won't die. It is not the best use of the TIF funds and it is a dumb land use idea. The more narrow streets were not designed for this much traffic and there is already no where to park when you need to visit Village Hall. Can someone just declare this idea dead?

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: December 19th, 2013 1:08 PM

Thanks for the feedback Jim. I think Anan took a harsh tone with my neighbor, Rick, because Rick used the word "scheme" in describing the funding for the building, re TIFs. Anan didn't like the word "scheme." Fair enough, but he took it a little too far. I will say that Anan and I shook hands after that forum, and I told him I was sorry if I got a little heated. He is a good guy, in my opinion. People can get a little hot with each other and then move on, that's what happened.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 12:05 PM

Anan's first two forums were peaceful and friendly. Some call that a Honeymoon. The Honeymoon ended at Forum 3. The cause was Anan's sense that it was his forum and therefore he got to choice the topic - Economic Development. It took very little time for the D97 issue to surface. That should not have been a surprise to Anan. It was/is the most volatile issue on the resident's agenda. Rather than allowing the audience to steer the agenda to D97, he decided to keep the forum on his agenda. A "Big Mistake" attributable to inexperience rather than presidential hubris. The office of president only succeeds when the resident has trust in the officeholder. He lost some trust at the meeting but his trust bucket in not empty. In future forums, Anan would be better served if he worked through a moderator rather than trying to be moderator and president simultaneously. The problem now is that the D97 is the rage OP issue. A fast solution will provide the path to a return to "honeymoonerish" forums.

Jim Bowman from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 11:33 AM

Chris, thanks for the clarifications. As for the NIMBY business, I thought Anan was referring at least primarily to the man who complained about his taxes paying for Early Childhood Education and the like. He had preceded yr neighbor in the give and take. Anan has often in these sessions tackled several comments at once, not just to agree or disagree but to argue this or that point, usually with the effect of advancing the discussion.

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: December 19th, 2013 10:24 AM

Lastly - I was mad at Anan and Barber because they really reacted to my neighbor's question by essentially minimizing it into a NIMBY issue. Everyone knows it's much. much more than a local issue, even if VH neighbors are most directly impacted. So, I'm not really complaining about your piece, but it does not provide any real context to this whole issue. The context is needed to understand it, and to understand why Anan and Barber deserved my scorn.

Chris Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 10:20 AM

Also, with regard to a "plan," I'm not sure if you're aware of the details of everything that has happened with this. The fact is, at least one member of the D97 Board has been actively discussing the D97/VH building with one or more Village Board members. Moreover, my whole point was that there WAS a real, concrete plan last year - and now the plan is being brought back. Anan and D97 were all acting as if this is a new proposal, one of many plans. Not exactly true.

Chris Williams from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 10:14 AM

Jim - interesting piece here. I was the heated guy you are referring to. For clarification - I said "you guys are acting as if this a new thing" in relation to last years proposal from D97, the Park District, and the Village to build a building on VH property. I wasn't talking about spending in general. I am not opposed to smart spending.

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