Now up to eight in race for Oak Park village board

Four more candidates announce plans to run for three open seats

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's the most crowded race for the Oak Park village board in a long time; so far, eight candidates have announced plans to run for three seats on the board in the election set for April 2.

Jim Taglia is the only incumbent running for reelection. Trustees Bob Tucker and Andrea Button said earlier this year that they will not seek another term.

Campaign season kicked off with the establishment of a slate of candidates by the new political organization VOICE of Oak Park. The group endorsed three candidates in late October: Joshua Klayman, VOICE founder; Tim Thomas, global production assistance coordinator for Ford Motor Company; and Christian Harris, an entrepreneur and board member at the Oak Park Public Library.

Susan Buchanan, a physician and faculty member at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, also sought the VOICE endorsement but is running independently of the organization.

Three new candidates – Bridgett Baron, Cory Wesley and Graham Brisben – have surfaced in the race in recent weeks, and Taglia says he plans to seek reelection to the board. They all tell Wednesday Journal they plan to run independent of a slate.

 

Bridgett Baron

Baron has made a name for herself over the years on the many Facebook community groups where she is a regular commenter.

She said in a phone interview that she's considered running for the board for many years now and has been encouraged by friends to run.

"I've been asked and emphatically said, 'No, no, no.' It's easier to say no." 

She said this time around she thought more about her reasons for not running: time; kids; and a full-time job was her logic in the past.

Her kids are older now – 15-year-old twins – and she said she believes she has a valuable perspective to bring to the board.

"What I would bring to the table is necessary and needed and just a matter of certain sacrifices," she said.

Baron is a payroll accountant in the motion picture and television industry and is currently working on the hit TV show "Chicago Fire."

She is married to Matt Baron, a District 200 school board member.

Bridgett Baron is now developing her platform but said she is concerned about affordability in the village.

"I'm not talking about affordable housing, but the affordability of Oak Park," she said.

People are concerned about being able to continue living in the village because of the rising tax burden, she said, adding that she aims to help preserve Oak Park's vibrancy.

"How do we continue to be a vibrant community that grows and moves forward but does it in a way that does not completely change the demographics of Oak Park," she said.

 

Graham Brisben

Graham Brisben served as a District 97 board member from 2013 to 2017 and runs a transportation and logistics consulting business called PLG Consulting.

He said he's running for the board to "contribute my time and energy to a cause greater than myself."

"I believe we have reached a tipping point on the property tax burden; that's the elephant in the room," Brisben said.

Brisben said he supports a welcoming and diverse community that's also affordable, but added that "there is no silver bullet" to Oak Park's problems.

"We need a strategy around development," he said in a telephone interview. "There's this phenomenon of high rises but no community conversation around the strategy, vision, purpose and payoffs of these developments," he said.

Brisben said he took a fact- and data-driven approach while serving on D97 and would do the same as a trustee. "With the right approach we can attack these challenges," he said. "At D97 we were a high-functioning board that moved the needle on critical issues, and I can bring that experience to the village board."

 

Cory Wesley

Cory Wesley is the owner of the software consulting firm Tekvoyant and has spent more than 20 years in information technology. He recently joined the village's Technology Commission and has been an advocate for various issues on social media, he said.

"I felt like I could make a difference and take my message from bits to atoms …" he said in a telephone interview.

He said many in Oak Park are struggling with increasing property taxes and some are on the verge of being taxed out of the village.

"I don't think that's fair, and I don't think it should happen," he said.

Wesley is advocating for greater transparency in local government. "I think we have a lot of information to present but it's not being presented very well," he said, adding that he would work to use technology to get more information into the hands of constituents.

"With my background in IT, I do this for a lot of clients," he said. "We need to give people the tools to be informed, but if they want to take action on it, give them the tools and the time so it doesn't become a crisis."

 

Jim Taglia

Trustee Jim Taglia said in a telephone interview that he plans to run, but his focus now is completing the village budget and completing the village's plans to redevelop large portions of Madison Street.

Taglia is a former Oak Park Township Trustee who was appointed to his seat on the village board in 2017 when Trustee Adam Salzman departed for a job in Chicago.

"I'm still organizing," he said. "I'm getting signatures, but it's my intention to run."

 He owns the Lake Station, Indiana-based company Pro-Chem-Co Inc., which manufacturers chemicals used in the steel and metalworking industries, and is former owner of the shuttered Red Mango yogurt shop at 1044 Lake St.

Taglia said he considers himself a representative of the people of Oak Park and casts his votes in their interests.

"I try to put myself in the shoes of the residents, and I try to listen in that way and be totally objective and mindful that I represent a diverse community and that in every decision I make I have an open mind," he said.

He described himself as a problem solver who works with other board members to find solutions for the village.

"We've made a lot of good decisions in the last year, and we're trying to move the village forward in a long-term view," he said.

tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Alice Caputo  

Posted: December 11th, 2018 10:40 AM

Thank you all for running. I always make a point to sign every petition without question. Signing a petition isn't a vote, it's allowing someone with energy to run to be heard. Voters decide elections, not petitions. I would love to see the Wednesday Journal, The League of Women Voters or similar to host a debate(s) and invite all the candidates.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: December 10th, 2018 10:39 AM

That should read "Sugar Fixe Patisserie" in my post below. The accent marks didn't transfer correctly.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: December 10th, 2018 10:37 AM

Stop by Sugar Fixé Pâtisserie, 119 N. Marion Street, today, Monday, December 10, from 11:30 am - 1:00 pm or 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm to sign Cory Wesley's petition form to place his name on the ballot for Oak Park trustee. Come into the bakery to sign his petition or drive up alongside, and we'll bring Cory's petition form to you. It's never been more important to elect trustee candidates focused on keeping Oak Park affordable. Cory is one such candidate. Links to his website and Facebook page are copied below. Thanks in advance for your support, and a special thanks to Sugar Fixé Pâtisserie for the opportunity to collect signatures in its beautiful bakery. http://www.corywesley.com https://www.facebook.com/CoryforOPTrustee

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park   

Posted: November 30th, 2018 12:00 PM

Wouldn't it be nice if we heard discussions about affordability and the property tax burden from the folks who are running for District 97 and District 200?

Robert Milstein from Oak Park  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 10:43 PM

No matter who wins the three seats, it will result in long hours, mounds of reading, meeting after meeting, pressure from constituents and less time for family. If you are running for Trustee...note the term "trust"...we trust that you will do the right thing. No matter what you do there will be those who will not agree with you. You must decide what is best for all citizens. You will find that in Village government there are agendas, infighting and lots of hard working, decent, dependable Village employees who do all the work , but receive little credit. Beware the Village Manager's agenda and be wary of the President of OP...he has no mandate. He thinks he has one. He ran unopposed...a guaranteed landslide. That must never happen again. I look forward to hearing more from each candidate.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: November 28th, 2018 9:09 AM

Why ones are Republicans? I ask because they're so good at looking like human beings.

Marty Bernstein  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 10:29 PM

Regarding Mr. Brisben's comment "I believe we have reached a tipping point on the property tax burden; that's the elephant in the room." In 2017 District 97 held community information sessions, given by Mr. Brisben, which were slick sales pitches for the operating expense and the Capex referenda. The operating expense referendum resulted in a 10% increase in overall property taxes before D97 discovered the 2 million dollar error and kept that extra money for a 12% increase in property taxes. I asked Mr. Brisben about residents forced to sell their houses due to the high tax burden. He said that it's a problem that needs to be addressed, not by D97. Since D97 has contributed mightily to the tipping point, Mr. Brisben's type of of contribution is not what Oak Park needs.

Alice Wellington  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 8:59 PM

For each candidate, I would like to hear about the top 3 issues they consider the most important in Oak Park, and how they are hoping to deal with them.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 5:32 PM

There are now nine. One Thomas Geary filed on Monday, with 39 signatures, running as a Democrat He only needed 25, because of a weird exception in election law.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 3:40 PM

The new faces here are saying the right things. The current trustee who voted YES needs to go away, he can create problems elsewhere, no need for any more of his decisions

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 27th, 2018 3:03 PM

I would like to know the candidates opinion on the Madison Street road diet. Please tell me if wouldn't have voted for the road diet so I can vote for you. Jim Taglia voted for the road diet, so I won't be voting for him.

Marc Martinez from Oak Park  

Posted: November 26th, 2018 4:52 PM

Jeffery Smith, I don't care how any local official feels about any issues that are outside of the scope of their local office. I want local officials that will focus on providing essential services at the lowest cost to taxpayers. I don't need symbolic votes, redundant laws, or vanity projects. I want officials that understand the total tax burden and don't spend money with the rationale that the spending is matched by other profligate government bodies.

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: November 25th, 2018 9:17 AM

Jeffrey Smith, can you clarify? Are you saying that as long as local politician satisfies you that they have the proper positions on the national issues of voter suppression, woman's right and climate change you will vote for them, regardless of how they want to spend our local tax dollars? Tax dollars extracted by an extremely regressive property tax? I don't think there is a more pressing progressive issue than the ongoing gentrification of Oak Park via property taxes. There is a growing consensus in Oak Park that unites people from diverse political, economic and social backgrounds, that our property tax burden is an existential threat to the unique characteristics of this community. I hope we can all come together on this issue and not be divided by extremist ideologies.

Alex Garcia  

Posted: November 25th, 2018 6:36 AM

Ms. Baron's focus on the unsustainable tax burden is needed. Illinois, Cook County and Oak Park are suffering from among the highest combined tax burdens in the country, yet property values and sale prices are largely stagnant and the state/county/village's population (ie tax base) is declining. The 2020 decennial census will not be pretty. So, policymakers need to start getting serious about reversing these trends. Also, Jeffrey, I think that your attitude is symptomatic of what's wrong with this state, county and village in 2018. Highly vitriolic leftist partisanship that exudes tired rhetoric and no successful policy.

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: November 23rd, 2018 11:16 AM

Bruce, As Bridgett states in this news story, "Working in silos with little regard for the overall impact of government spending is not a viable path." Because the spending of every taxing body has ramifications for the others, all candidates running for our elected boards should be prepared to answer basic questions regarding D200's newly accepted $218 million Imagine master facility plan and its funding. D200 spent @ $300,000 on the Imagine process itself, on the heels of another nearly year-long master facility plan accepted in 2016. It identified many of the academic elements touted in the Imagine plan, including moving the library and tutoring center to the center of the building and renovating classrooms. The unnecessary demolition of a third of the structurally sound building, largely for PE/athletics, is only found in Imagine's plan and priced at $151 million.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: November 22nd, 2018 3:46 PM

Jason: With all due respect husbands and wives often disagree. On many matters. I've attended many D200 board meetings and have followed the IMAGINE issue very closely. It is pretty obvious - given Matt Barons' public statements and his recent vote - that he supports (in large measure ) the IMAGINE plan. I really do not see how one could argue otherwise. This does not necessarily mean that Ms. Baron does. Nor does it mean she is against affordability in our community. The simple solution here is to ask Ms. Baron if the IMAGINE plan is consistent with her viewpoint in regard to affordability. Hey why not? She is an Oak Park taxpayer as well as a candidate for office. I she disagrees with her husband let her so state.

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 22nd, 2018 9:30 AM

@Jeffrey - The Democrat's used to be the party of JFK. Now look at them.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: November 22nd, 2018 4:22 AM

If her husband is a current D200 board member then the Imagine question has to be asked. If he supports the imagine proposal then I really question how much affordability really matters to her. You can't both be supportive of the imagine proposal and campaign on affordability.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: November 21st, 2018 10:53 PM

Welcome to all who wish to run! But I think we're at a time in America where even candidates for the Oak Park Village Board need to declare which major political party they support. The GOP is a lawless crypto-fascist criminal gang stealing money from working Americans and giving tax breaks to the rich and taxpayer dollars to murderous dictatorships, and the Democrats are what the Republican Party used to be in the days of Nelson Rockefeller. I'm not voting for anyone who isn't forthcoming about their views on the wider issues that challenge us, including climate change, voter suppression and women's rights. And I hope other OP voters demand the same clarity from our candidates. Whatever our personal political views, we have a right to know who we're voting for.

Al Rossell  

Posted: November 21st, 2018 10:10 PM

And she wont change her tune once elected like a few people I know did.

Bob Pawlowski  

Posted: November 21st, 2018 5:55 PM

Taking the easy way to comment... what Neal Buer said. :)

Neal Buer  

Posted: November 21st, 2018 4:59 PM

I would love to support Bridgett in her bid to be a village trustee. I would love to see trustees that will get out of the development business, stop funding OPEDC, and let builders build within existing zoning. Enough of these high rise buildings, subsidized by the village. The village needs to sell all the village owned land at market prices. Good luck with your bid.

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