Three trustees to vie for village president seat

New Leadership Coalition names slate; D97 board member running for clerk

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By KATHARINE GRAYSON

After being formally slated by the New Leadership Coalition (NLC) on Sunday night, Robert Milstein is now the third sitting trustee in nearly as many weeks to jump into the race to become Oak Park's next village president. 

Milstein will be running against fellow board member David Pope, who announced two weeks ago that he would campaign as an independent candidate, and Diana Carpenter, who was slated just last week by the Village Manager Association (VMA). While Carpenter's term will expire in April, the trustee seats of both Pope and Milstein will not be up for re-election until 2007.

Milstein said Tuesday morning that he sought nomination for the position of president because he is interested in setting a tone that is "more open to the public and more respectful."

"I think I can do more from the presidential role. I believe I offer a good alternative to the current administration," he said. Milstein added that, if elected, he would look toward strengthening the role of the village's commissions, establishing a personnel committee on the board and focusing development efforts in areas such as Madison Street and Roosevelt Road, which he believes have been "to some extent ignored."

When asked if he was concerned about working with two other board members who he will also be campaigning against, he said "absolutely not."

"I don't want this to degenerate into a campaign meeting as opposed to a board meeting," he said. "I think all of us are going to have to rise to a higher standard if we're going to be president of the village."

In addition to Milstein, the NLC, an organization that formed just this year, announced on Monday a full slate that will oppose VMA-backed candidates next April.

For the three open village board seats, the NLC caucus selected Geoff Baker, a member of the village's Energy and Environment Commission; Martha Brock, former co-president of African American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education (APPLE); and Greg Marsey, a founding member of the Harlem Ontario Community Association (HOCA), a group that formed in opposition to the proposed Whiteco development.

Marsey, who is also a member of Neighbors United to Save South Marion (NUSS), said he is particularly interested in economic development issues and increasing citizen participation in decision making. Marsey later added the he supports "restoring the park district to self-sustaining entity" and working to maintain affordable housing, among other issues. 

"I think the next few years are going to be pretty crucial in our history, particularly in regard to development, and I want to be part of the decision making process," he said. "The administration really isn't listening to the citizens of Oak Park like it should. I want to restore government to a citizen based operation."

Brock said she's interested in bringing more "transparency" to village government, and decided to run after being approached by several residents who believed she would be "a great person to raise issues and get answers to those issues in a public setting."

Baker could not be reached for comment before press time.

For the position of village clerk, the NLC has slated sitting District 97 Elementary School  board member Sharon Patchak-Layman.

Though her term on the Dist. 97 board won't expire until 2007, Patchak-Layman said holding both positions would not pose any conflict of interest.

"If I had run for village board, it would be different," she said. The village clerk holds a full-time position at village hall, but does not vote on the board.

Patchak-Layman said she is looking forward to the race, and is interested in expanding the village's use of computer technology in record keeping and dissemination of information.

"I think democracy thrives on competition. It's always good to have a competitive election, and I think it always helps to have a set of new eyes, to see where improvements can be made," she said.

She will be running against the VMA-backed candidate Sandra Sokol, who has served as village clerk since 1993.

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