Oak Park slashes lobbyist contract in half

Village hall makes adjustments ahead of Nov. 22 budget adoption

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Oak Park is slashing in half a controversial lobbyist contract at the urging of the village board. The maneuver, which will save the village $90,000, was one of several changes made to the 2011 budget plan by village officials last week.

Since 2003, the village has been using a Washington, D.C., law firm to help keep tabs on the possible expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway, and to help the village obtain federal dollars related to the effort.

To date, the contract has resulted in some $1.3 million in expenses, with another $180,000 budgeted each year for the next five years. Trustee Ray Johnson started beating the drum a few weeks ago that Oak Park should scale back or eliminate the contract, since the law firm hasn't been as active as in years past.

Oak Park trustees reduced the budgeted amount to $90,000. Village officials said they have found savings in the contract before, just last year spending $90,000 less than the budgeted amount. Johnson wanted to take the cuts further, but Village President David Pope asked the board to hold off until they get more information on the contract from village staff.

"I think this number should come down significantly more," said Johnson, who is running for re-election in April, later adding, "I am nowhere near supporting $90,000 for this."

Trustees seemed to be on board with several other cuts proposed by village staff, including reducing money toward "external support" ($14,000), memberships ($8,000) and special events ($20,000).

On the other side, some new items were added into the budget last Thursday, including $150,000 to update Oak Park's comprehensive plan, an extra $50,000 in funding for the Oak Park Regional Housing Center, $16,000 for support services in the police department, and $66,500 for "training and investigations" in human resources.

After the final budget meeting last week, the village board is scheduled to adopt the 2011 budget on Nov. 22.

Reader Comments

9 Comments - Add Your Comment

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john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2010 5:52 PM

Ray Johnson reply does not get to the heart of the matter. While on an OP commission, I met with the HR Director on several occasions to data. I always met with him in the evening. He is a busy man whose paper work is mindful of the 1960%u2019s. When money was plentiful OP invested in expensive PeopleSoft software. They never figured out how to use it. It was scrapped a two years ago. Like the OP website, its business processes are complex, inefficient, and unmapped. So we now pay in headcount.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 16th, 2010 1:47 PM

Ms. Forth,Happy to answer your questions ---- while headcount is down 70 people and about 20%, the demands within HR remain very high. In addition, there are enhancements necessary in training and development and the performance evaluation process, which are critical to building a high performing team at all levels of government. Regarding the HR/Payroll functions, many of the tasks to be handled by a vendor impact the Finance Dept. rather than HR.

Sally Forth from oak park  

Posted: November 16th, 2010 9:50 AM

I'm confused. Why does VOP need $ 66500 in assistance for the Human Resources department when they're reducing headcount, and are implementing a new HR/Payroll system?

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 5:50 PM

So basically this is just spin if there is no real "slash" and thus no "savings". We will continue to pay the same but be made to believe otherwise. Thank you OP Taxpayer for clarifying for us what our Village is really doing with our money.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 5:04 PM

'OP Taxpayer':You are correct -- I see it exactly the same way. As the article notes, we're not done yet and I am advocating for further reductions or outright elimination of the expense. More to come....

OP Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 4:59 PM

A more important clarification: The Village hasn't really slashed anything. According to an article previously published in the WJ, the Village only spent $90k last year (http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-05-2010/Oak_Park_trustees_raise_questions_on_'cap-the-Ike'_lobbyist) on the Ike lobbyist. So all they have done is cut a line item in the budget, which is not an actual savings of real money.

Rich Fischer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 4:48 PM

Cap the Ike. Only $90,000 being spent on lobbyists for it? Why not just throw that money in a hole. Don't our politicians realize they've wasted too much money on that crazy pipe dream? It's time to come up with a new money waster to waste our tax dollars on.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 4:43 PM

An important clarification: The list of 'add-ins' presented by staff is correct, but there was an additional category of recommended add-ins and it only included increases for Human Resources and the OP Regional Housing Center. The other items were deferred and are not to be included in the budget.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 4:28 PM

You can't "save" $90,000 if you are still spending. We just aren't spending the crazy amount we were spending... and then all the additional requests? Really.

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