During a study session of the Oak Park Village Board, while considering the DTOP Steering Committee recommendations, Trustee Bob Milstein took time to admonish former trustee Galen Gockel.
During public comment at the meeting on Oct. 27, Mr. Gockel had urged the board to make a decision on the matters at hand or risk losing the confidence of the community who, as Mr. Gockel pointed out, were becoming disenchanted with the lack of direction taken by the board in the first several months of its tenure. In an almost storybook example of killing the messenger, Mr. Milstein took Mr. Gockel to task and reminded him that they were the elected board now and that they would be making their decisions as such. The astounding thing is that it appears that Mr. Milstein and his block of trustees actually believe that they have a clear mandate for the personal vision that they claim is in the interest of all Oak Park.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is, less than 14 percent of all the registered voters in Oak Park voted for this group. In fact, only 10 percent turned out for vote for Mr. Milstein. Hardly a mandate.
An analysis of the Spring 2005 election that brought them to office shows that this group of trustees garnered a mere 54 percent of the vote cast in this election. That percentage, as derived from an overall turnout of only 28 percent of registered voters in Oak Park, brings the actual percentage of registered Oak Park voters that voted for this group to only 14 percent of the registered voters in Oak Park. Got that?
With respect to the election results, the pervasive opinion in Oak Park is that voter dissatisfaction with the dysfunctional workings of the previous board led to a "throw the bums out" mentality among the electorate. This sentiment took votes away from the VMA-endorsed candidates whose previously endorsed candidates ruled in majority during the prior board's term. It also led to the election of an independent, David Pope, as board president.
The big puzzle is the non-election of Milstein in the election. He led their ticket as the candidate for village president. His own personal lack of mandate becomes clear when one considers that Mr. Milstein captured a meager 35 percent of the total votes cast. When contrasted to the 54 percent cast for his trustee slate, it quantifies the percentage of those swing voters whose dissatisfaction made the difference in the election. The 19 percent chasm between Milstein and the rest of his ticket equates to almost 3 percent of the total number of 35,000+ registered Oak Park voters and brings the block of trustees' "mandate" down to a paltry 11 percent.
Having received approximately 3,500 votes in the election, which interestingly is a smaller vote total than the vote total received by each and every individual VMA-endorsed trustee candidate, Bob Milstein's base reflects an overall constituency of only 10 percent of the registered voters in Oak Park.
Once again, hardly a mandate.
So, we have the leader of the group with approximately 10 percent of the electorate and the trustees slightly ahead with approximately 11 percent of the electorate behind them. Right?
The wild card in this equation is Elizabeth Brady. Let's not forget that Ms. Brady was elected by this new board to serve the un-expired portion of David Pope's trustee term when he was elected president. Now the equation swings even further away from a constituency supported by a majority of citizens because, guess what, only six people voted for her! The rest of us didn't get a choice. I will leave quantifying the numbers on that one to someone else. Suffice it to say that it drives the overall constituency to well under 10 percent.
So why all of this now? Because these trustees, who have been given plenty of opportunity to learn, lead and make good decisions, have failed to do so. This is not sour grapes over an election loss because I even voted for one of them, although I'll never tell you which. This is about honoring commitments to process and representing citizens fairly.
If I were in the position of offering advice to this board I would recommend that, if they want to be re-elected, they might consider instituting an electoral college for Oak Park elections. It's been working quite well for non-majorities in America for a couple of hundred years. It may be their only hope.
Of course, the best way to be re-elected is to make good decisions and represent the majority of citizens, not special interests. We'll see, as we'll all be watching.
As for the numbers, visit www.voterinfonet.com. And see for yourself.