VCA follows VMA's candidate selection rulebook

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Oak Park's new opposition party, the  Village Citizens' Alliance, will be picking its candidates behind closed doors in a series of weekend meetings of its selection committee.
If that sounds familiar, it should. The VCA's candidate selection process is almost identical to that of its rival, the Village Manager Association.
"I was part of their process the last time around," said VCA organizer Tom Ard. "I didn't think there was any problem with the process. It's what they do after that that's the problem. They don't talk about issues."
So far only one candidate has made known his interest in running for the village board on the VCA ticket: former Oak Park Community Relations Commission chairman Robert Milstein, who has interviewed with the VMA in the past.
The VCA's selection committee will be meeting every Saturday afternoon starting this weekend. Like the VMA, it will be selecting three candidates to run as a slate in the April 2003 village board elections. Anyone interested in joining the selection process either as prospective candidate or as selector is invited, but attendance at early briefing sessions on Oak Park issues is required.
Briefing sessions, too, are part of the VMA's ritual.
Both organizations hope to announce their candidate slates by Thanksgiving.
Like the VMA, the VCA will not admit reporters to the sessions. Both organizations hope to encourage participants to speak more candidly than they would if the press were present, and encourage strong candidates squeamish about publicity to explore the idea of running with some privacy.
However, answering concerns from VCA members that the closed door VMA selection process can get too nasty, the upstart party has ruled that selectors are not allowed to say negative things about candidates unless the candidates are given the opportunity to respond to them.
The VMA this year considered opening its selection process to the media, but ultimately decided instead to allow a media spokesperson to give limited answers about the content of discussions at the meetings.
When asked whether the decision was motivated by the thought that allowing press coverage of the selection committee process might put VCA candidates at a disadvantage--because VCA mudslinging would be aired publicly and VMA candidates would emerge unscathed--Ard answered no. "We never talked about that," he said.
Another difference between the two parties is that the VCA has already written a first draft of its political platform--something the VMA does only after candidates are selected. The VCA's early platform, Ard said, is designed to focus the party on issues in a way VMA campaigns rarely are.
The VCA will hold interview sessions Saturdays, Nov. 9 and 16 from 1:15 to 5 p.m. Interested candidates or selectors may mail oakparkvca@yahoo.com

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