The Village Manager Association — the political party that has won nearly every village board election in Oak Park since the 1950s — might already be adding another notch to its belt, five months before the next local election.
The rival political party that challenged the VMA in 2009 announced last week that it won't be putting together a slate of candidates to compete for three open spots on the village board.
However, leaders of both the VCA and a VMA candidate said they have heard of planning by independent candidates contemplating making the race.
But in terms of fielding a slate, "there just isn't enough people," said Gary Schwab, president of the Village Citizens Alliance.
They've cycled through their Rolodex and there doesn't seem to be sufficient interest to form an opposition, he said. A group of residents banded together earlier this year, trying to oppose a controversial downtown Oak Park hotel tower, but those individuals aren't looking to become politicians, he said.
Schwab and others still plan to host any interested Oak Parkers in a group called "Citizens for Community Conversation," with a get together scheduled for 2 p.m., Nov. 21, at the Barrie Park field house. There, the VCA hopes to get a dialogue going about local political issues. Schwab says he's troubled by the lack of discussion between elections.
The VCA is also willing to support or assist any independent candidates who need help.
"It is our position that having a healthy political debate in Oak Park is a good idea," Schwab' said.
Meanwhile, the VMA has announced that it is slating two-term incumbent Ray Johnson, along with two veterans from Oak Park's volunteer citizen commissions — Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman.
Johnson agreed with Schwab that it would be better for Oak Park to have a competitive election next April — though both men said they've heard that some independent candidates are planning to join the race. Neither, however, would name those candidates.
Schwab worried Johnson, Tucker and Salzman will fly under the radar and not talk to the public if the race is uncontested.
"Why get any attention if you have a meeting and people just come out and call you names when you know you're going to get elected anyway?" he said.
Johnson said that the "Citizens for Accountable Leadership" slate of candidates will campaign in the same fashion, regardless of who they're running against.
"Whether there's competition or not, we need to engage with the public," he said, later adding. "Contested or not contested, we need to do outreach and learn from people in regards to what they view as the future for Oak Park.
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