The Oak Park Together (OPT) team will bring continuity and change to village government.
Continuity is desirable because there are a lot of positive things going on in village government, including initiatives that John Hedges has pushed for as a trustee that he will make even greater priorities as president.
Change will happen because, with our team's collective experience on the village board and school board, our longtime involvement in our community, and our commitment to listen to your concerns, we want to take a new direction in some areas to make sure Oak Park remains a diverse, affordable, sustainable community ready to compete in the post-recession economy.
On the continuity front, let's talk first about your taxes and the village budget. The village board has held the line on spending over the past six years, making the difficult decisions to cut staff and unnecessary programs, to outsource some activities better handled by the private sector, and to ask village staff to run things more efficiently. This year was budgeted at 2011 levels. Oak Park has come through the recession in much better shape than other communities. With the OPT team led by John Hedges, fiscal responsibility will remain a top priority.
On the change front, let's talk greater accountability. John Hedges and OPT will set and enforce clear performance standards for the village manager, village staff, and partner agencies. We will work toward a multi-year budgeting process so we can make more responsible spending decisions. We will meet regularly with our colleagues on other boards to find ways to save taxpayers money. We will reach out to you on a regular basis — village president office hours, Farmers Market, community events, knocking on doors — so you can more easily share your concerns.
Continuity: Downtown Oak Park has never been more vibrant, despite the punishing economic times we've been through. In an independent, statistically-valid survey taken in 2011, 90% of residents surveyed indicated a "good" or "excellent" quality of life in our village — 10% more than in the initial survey in 2000. We want to continue to make Oak Park a great place to live by encouraging local investment, supporting our housing diversity programs, and advancing our new sustainability initiatives.
Change: We need a better and more cohesive public-private approach to economic development in the new economy. We need to make it easier for businesses to get up and running. The newly created economic and community development position will improve our efforts to attract and retain business. OPT pledges to hold the new village manager accountable for improvements in these areas by setting clear and actionable performance standards.
Experience matters. It allows for continuity and change because we already have an idea of what's working and what needs improvement. We have made a lot of progress over the past few years. The last time we elected completely inexperienced board members, the result was chaotic, with two trustees quitting before finishing their terms. It is a big commitment to be on the village board. Our broad and diverse community involvement has prepared us for that commitment. Experience also matters because when unanticipated time-consuming issues arise, you want leaders who are tested and trustworthy, who can think on their feet and have already proven they can make hard choices.
Oak Park Together is John Hedges for Village President, Peter Barber, Glenn Brewer, and Colette Lueck for Trustee, and Teresa Powell for Village Clerk. Please let us know your concerns at www.voteopt.org. We sincerely ask for your vote on April 9.