By Dan Haley
David Pope came to our offices Monday morning to talk about why he is not running for a third term as Oak Park's village president. He spoke without notes. He hardly even paused for excessive periods of time to consider and reconsider his words. He did draw us one chart, which is a low number for him, and made me wish I'd kept all the charts he's drawn at the small round table in my office over the years.
This chart had to do with the level of village spending during the eight years he has been village president. Take away the cash being shoveled into the pension funds, a situation out of the control of the village Pope would be clear in stating, and spending is actually down by a million bucks a year.
That is a measurable thing and David Pope likes to measure things. And after he measures that thing, he likes to compare it to another measurable thing. So the actual drop in village spending is compared to the community surveys of recent years that show locals are happier with village services, even though the village workforce has been reduced by 20 percent in recent years.
Conclusion from all that measuring: Oak Park's government is getting more professional, more efficient. And that is why, when he is asked to explain projects he wishes he could stay on to complete, David Pope starts with "performance measurement" as a process and standard for making choices and decisions for the village going forward.
The village president regularly tells me that he has sworn off reading the comments at our website at OakPark.com. But he allows that he did take a peek last week after we posted the story that reported he would not run for re-election. And it is not the anonymous mopes questioning his virility and values that gets him jabbering. It is the lady on North Hayes complaining about the village wasting money on this or that while her street gets rutted with potholes that has him upset.
Doesn't she know, he says, that Oak Park has set a goal of 70 percent of something or another related to smooth streets and that we have now climbed to 69.5 percent as measured by a third party that evaluates every street and alley with a laser device and ranks them?! Her street is on the matrix to get fixed, but repairing streets faster would mean spending more money, and that would endanger the flat-spending model which indicates greater professionalism and efficiency.
That, friends, is David Pope. And you've got to love the guy. Even when he is annoying. Maybe especially when he is annoying.
David Pope loves Oak Park. He feels blessed to have arrived here as an adopted kid in the 1960s. His activist mom inculcated him with the Oak Park gene. And he and his wife, Beth, feel blessed to be raising their two daughters here.
So scotch the rumors he is moving out of town after he leaves office. They just spent two years renovating a house. They're not moving. Scotch the rumors he wants to run for Congress or the state legislature.
"I have no interest in ever serving in a legislative body," he said.
He came to the right decision not to run for a third term. Oak Park isn't about 12-year presidents. But David Pope will be around, and he will be active, and he will continue to make Oak Park and the area surrounding it a better place.