Village board study sessions need study

Opinion

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To the Oak Park Board of Trustees:

I have attended many study sessions of the village board for the past few years, and they haven't changed much, despite the election of new board members and a change in the board president. It appears that the board president is the person who determines the structure of the information discussed and sets the agenda.

One problem now is that what is called the agenda--and published on the village website as such--is not an agenda but a collection of materials that the trustees will use in their conversations during the session. Why not just call it what it is--information for discussion? An agenda indicates the direction for conversation, the parameters to follow.

Is there some reason for keeping the agenda a "secret?" So much for the new "transparency" in our newly elected board, although, granted, Mr. Pope did not campaign on this transparency issue--only the majority of the newly elected board did. So that points out how much power the board president wields--he can squirm out of setting agendas but label them agendas, and also control the focus of the conversation totally. One recent Thursday night, some of the trustees tried to allow discussion of new topics and to steer the conversation in a different way. What happened is that the village president denied these attempts and went about conducting the session as he wanted it.

Another issue is that the people who attend these study sessions--other than the trustees themselves--are all avidly interested in the topic at hand. To allow people to attend these sessions without the possibility of speaking to a topic that is of great interest to them seems very unfair and one-sided. In addition, some audience members may have knowledge to impart that could be of great value to the discussion. Many times the audience is on the verge of revolt, making comments to each other and trying to get the attention of the trustees, etc., because they are not allowed to have input.

And what decisions and action items came out of the meeting? Were they recorded and when can we expect some action on what was discussed? Or will they be forgotten until one of the trustees cares enough to go after it? Certainly couldn't a follow-up meeting be at least tentatively scheduled in the master calendar? Some kind of followup mechanism needs to be established.

Surely the structure of these study sessions could be reconfigured to make it a worthwhile experience for trustees as well as residents. How about it?

Gloria Ryan

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