In last year's Oak Park village election, as Anan Abu-Taleb began to be taken seriously as an independent candidate, it was a sore point to those in the VMA who backed John Hedges that their candidate was painted as Mr. Status Quo when it came to economic development.
Hedges was portrayed as part of Oak Park's plodding, divided problem with growing the local economy. He'd been on the village board for six years, a period defined by both a grim recession but also the usual endless development debates.
That might make Monday's appointment of Hedges – a choice clearly blessed by Abu-Taleb – to temporarily head the remade Oak Park Economic Development Corporation feel a little odd and backwards. Abu-Taleb has staked his first year in office to overthrowing the existing attitudes, divisions and, some of the players.
So why does Hedges make sense for this temporary post?
Not a great campaigner, Hedges did, in fact, have a strong case to make that he was the fiercest internal critic of the economic development stasis gripping Oak Park. One-on-one he made basically the same arguments as Abu-Taleb. The situation was a mess. It needed to be reinvented. But the more charismatic Anan won that debate with voters.
Hedges has the unique opportunity to be the transitional force in this critical endeavor over the next several months. He knows what was OPDC, he knows village hall, he knows the current development projects on the table that need to be moved decisively ahead.
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