By Dan Haley
The VMA is inviolate. Pass the word. Impermeable, too. It is also immovable, impenetrable, indefatigable. And possibly inchoate, though I have to look that word up.
In sum, the VMA is unbeatable, unstoppable, unflappable and, surely, it is undefeated. Why, I hear the VMA has never lost a race for village government in Oak Park, not a single spot, and that's over the course of more than 50 years. That's a long time. Why if the VMA were a brick street, it would be time to flip them over. That's old. And sturdy. And dependable. And smart. Bricks are sort of like the VMA. Old, sturdy, dependable and smart.
Could be a bumper sticker. The next election is just 13 months away. Almost time for the Village Manager Association's secret society to convene so they can pre-ordain the next village president and trustees. I'll be mildly curious to see who they have chosen to lead us forward into a continued era of open and progressive governance. Transparent, too.
What, you say, the VMA has lost in the past? Multiple times? The VMA lost a majority of the seats on the village board just a few elections ago? No, that can't be right. The current village president, David Pope, Mr. Bricks himself, was elected to that office as an independent? The VMA must have taken a sabbatical from village-wide world domination that year. Really? The VMA had a candidate for president who lost?
Wow. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it really is possible to run in opposition to the VMA and actually win seats on the village board. Maybe a small child somewhere this morning in Oak Park, possibly in civics class, could aspire to be village president, free of the yoke of the VMA. Someday. Somehow. Someway.
OK. I'm starting to get my mind around this. I'm starting to recall conversations with actual members of the VMA — these are people with faces and physical addresses — who have expressed amazement at their own aura of invincibility. "Sure we're beatable. You just have to have good candidates, some organizational smarts," they've said. And then I said, "Plus they should probably campaign for something and not just be against the big old boogie man of the VMA." I remember gasps. "Don't tell them that. That's the key to the whole wizard-behind-the-curtain gig we've got going. So long as they keep puffing up the VMA, we've got a virtual lock on the village."
I promise I didn't tell but perhaps there are people over on our comment boards at OakPark.com who are beginning to crack the code. The subject, of course, was brick streets (who knew bricks would drive traffic to our website?!). Brick critics want to throw the rascals out next spring, some people said the overlords wouldn't allow it, and then a smart person noted that it doesn't take that many votes to win an election in apathetic Oak Park unless the schools are going for a referendum or some guy named Obama has his name on the ballot. Neither will be the case next April.
It is out of the study of vote totals that rogue campaigns emerge. You start nosing around in precinct results and the whole thing doesn't seem so mysterious anymore. It's just people who live on Scoville or LeMoyne.
Oak Park could stand a good election. Shake the cobwebs out. Find good, interesting candidates who actually have their wits about them. Don't run against the VMA because most people have actually never heard of the VMA. Run for some positive, affirming vision of what Oak Park can become that still feels connected to the pride most people feel about their hometown.
It won't be enough to be against bricks.