Pope's platform for 'real leadership'


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by David Pope

My wife and I made a very conscious decision to return to Oak Park, to a home that is only a dozen blocks from my own childhood home on North Cuyler. We were drawn by the village's continuing commitment to values that we share, and we remain deeply invested in the future of this community. Oak Park is a very special place. It is far more than just another bedroom community, a quick El ride from the Loop. Oak Park is really a mindset, and a way of life.

As a current trustee, I understand only too well how this way of life will be impacted for decades to come by decisions that will be taken by the village board over the next four years.

Real leadership, thoughtful leadership, unifying leadership, will be required to help us reach our brightest future without undermining the vital cornerstones from our past. I commit to you that, as village president, I will bring that type of leadership back to Oak Park. The word "trust" is embedded in the word "trustee," and I am humbled by the trust that you have already placed in me. I come before you today, asking you to extend that trust, and to support my candidacy for village president on April 5th.

Many possible paths lay ahead of us. I believe that if we remain true to our community's values, and we build upon our strengths, we can realize our brightest future. A number of key elements will require our focus.

Financial Responsibility that Supports Diversity: Costs of providing services across all governing bodies are increasing at greater than 5 percent each year. Unchecked, this will present a real threat to our community's character as we inevitably begin to tax increasing numbers of residents out of Oak Park, decreasing our level of economic diversity, forcing out longtime residents and business owners, and disproportionately negatively impacting our elderly and lower income populations. We might even get to a point where we see a steady and significant erosion of property values, if prospective home buyers and business owners begin to choose other communities because of our higher tax burden.

The steps that we can take to guard against this scenario include:

? Work with other governing bodies to facilitate coordinated 5-year operational, capital and growth planning.

? Adopt a disciplined and consistent financial review process for all property-related investments

? Fully implement performance measurement to increase efficiency in village delivery of services

? Establish a Financial Advisory Committee to support strong financial management practices

Smart Sustainable Growth and Development: Handled appropriately, we can capture significant benefits from combined public and private investment that balances our social, environmental, and economic needs. We can do this in an environment that encourages openness and communication, and in a way that enables us to get appropriate projects underway sooner and built faster, without the gridlock, frustration and anger that we've come to see as inevitable.

? Establish meaningful outcome objectives, strong corresponding plans and relevant measurement indicators that guide the evaluation of development alternatives

? Ensure that Quality of Life impacts and Economic implications are well understood before decisions are made

? Emphasize basic principles of "Smart Growth" including: Walkable Neighborhoods, Parks and Open Space, Architectural Heritage, a Mix of Residential and Retail, Convenient Public Transit, strong Cultural Institutions, and a defined process that is predictable, fair and cost-effective

Cooperation for Educational Excellence: Performance pressures, tax caps, and funding constraints place very real challenges upon our schools. But why am I, as a village president candidate, addressing this issue? Because educational quality is a fundamental pillar of our community. As a village, we must cooperate with our school districts to ensure that they can meet our community's high expectations.

? Explore increased payouts to District 97 and District 200 from an enhanced TIF Carve-out schedule?#34;based on the Downtown Master Plan's increased development and investment projections, thus reducing tax pressures on residents and property owners over time.

? Support Early Childhood Care and Education as an investment in our future that benefits the most vulnerable among us, and that pays us all back. Work with D97, D200, the park district and The Collaborative for Early Childhood Care and Education, as no group can do this alone.

Thriving Small Businesses: Independent local businesses are the backbone of our neighborhood business districts, adding uniqueness and character to our community.

? Clearly identify priority objectives to assist small independent businesses, and work with Oak Park Development Corporation to strengthen and execute programmatic offerings

Return to Fundamental Principles of Good Governance: The board must reestablish its policy-making role, taking back the direction-setting responsibility too often left to others, while stepping back from its inclination to micromanage.

? Work with the community to chart direction and determine priorities, then allocate resources and evaluate results.

? Move beyond the "politics of four votes" and partisanship, to return to fact-based, transparent decision making

? Reject back-room politics and reach across the partisan divide to actively bring people together in an environment of openness, honesty, and respect, both at the board table and with citizens

The Oak Park of my youth was a community that was not afraid to confront important issues and challenges head on. Forward-thinking leadership guided adoption of the Council-Manager form of government, separating day-to-day municipal service delivery from the rough and tumble of partisan politics and smoke-filled rooms. In the 1960s and 70s, the open housing movement was spearheaded by courageous and visionary leaders who, in confronting racism and economic fear-mongering, helped the community to see diversity as a core strength and non-discrimination as a moral imperative. These efforts, and other since, have set the village on a strong path that is reflected today in the character, core values, and desirability of our community.

As village president, I will offer a return to a different kind of leadership, unifying our community and bridging gaps that have developed in recent years. I know the importance of hearing diverse opinions, and I will treat residents, commission members, and my board colleagues with respect. At the same time, I will help return us to efficient, fact-based, transparent decision-making, the kind that residents and business-owners alike tell me they want to see. And I will help us as a board return our focus to policy leadership, and avoid political gamesmanship.

We face real issues today. The strong path of our past is not a guarantee for our future. At the same time, we have tremendous opportunities ahead of us. With thoughtful leadership, our future will be bright.

To contact our campaign please call 708-802-1212 or email voteforpope@sbcglobal.net

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