NLP is the good organization the VMA once was

Opinion

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With deep disappointment, I feel obligated to send this letter. Regrettably, the Village Manager Association (VMA), an organization that once drove some of Oak Park's best new ideas, has nothing (other than personal attacks and innuendo) left to add to the debate in this election. Specifically, I refer to long time VMA stalwart Bob Kane's letter ("NLP will bring 'revolutionary destruction' to OP") and Jack Crowe's column ("Vote VMA?#34;they're not crazy"). Rather than dignify these fact-less tirades with response (I'll chalk'em up to short term lapses in judgment), instead I'll focus on what's gone wrong with the VMA and its candidates, and how that now bereft organization has clearly been replaced by a new civic-minded organization called New Leadership.

I was a great believer in the VMA's mission. In fact, I served as President of the VMA. I participated in six candidate selection processes over 15 years. Throughout that time many community interest groups organized and joined the VMA selection process in order to effect changes in village government. After all, the VMA had enjoyed decades of one party rule. The selection process was the only reliable means of driving change. Over that time, the VMA was able to embrace, absorb or co-opt interest groups to facilitate positive changes in government. In that spirit, a large group of people interested in changing the way Oak Park plans, promotes, and manages development joined the VMA selection process in 2002. Who could blame them? That's how things worked in Oak Park politics.

Instead, Mr. Kane suggests that those folks that joined the VMA selection process then were attempting to "hijack" the process. Frankly, that notion is just bizarre and maybe even a little paranoid. Even more bizarre, is the repeated assertion by Mr. Kane and Mr. Crowe that a swelling number of grass-roots community groups with similar concerns, and now the NLC and NLP are all part of one giant, deranged conspiracy?#34;a classic political response. If your ideas aren't compelling, focus on the personalities. Maybe, instead of a giant deranged conspiracy, there is a large number of rational thinking, caring Oak Parkers who think village government needs a new direction. Maybe, since the VMA has been closed to them, since the VMA is no longer looking for new ideas, these people have seen the wisdom of uniting for positive change.

In any event, my own association with the VMA rapidly deteriorated after the 2002 VMA selection process. I left the executive board in a purge resulting from my own participation on the board of another community group, REDCOOP, which advocates for responsible economic development. Apparently the VMA leadership believed that the principles of "good government" on which the VMA was founded, are inconsistent with responsible economic development.

Since then, the VMA has continued its decline. This election season, the VMA has failed the community again by closely restricting its candidate selection process to deter "outsiders" who might "hijack the process." Even more disturbing, the VMA has again put forth candidates that continue to support the status quo in spite of a groundswell of concern about the direction our village is headed. Once an organization capable of identifying and implementing Oak Park's best new ideas, the VMA has, in my opinion, decided that it owns village government, that any effective opposition threatens that ownership, and that such threats need to be met with all available means.

By contrast, the New Leadership Coalition (NLC) and its slate of candidates, the New Leadership Party (NLP) have become what the VMA once was or could have been?#34;an organization focused on listening to citizens, and finding qualified people to run for office. The NLP's policy views are communicated clearly and derive from a careful citizen driven platform development process. The NLP will not focus on personalities. We think a debate engaged on the issues will result in a better Oak Park. From long experience and for many reasons, I truly believe that electing the entire NLP slate on April 5 can return openness, accountability, and true civility to Oak Park.

Oak Parkers, go the polls on April 5. Support the candidates from the NLP slate. The NLP team will work for all citizens. They'll support independent parks and schools; genuine economic development in all the business districts, not just Downtown Oak Park; better value for your tax dollars by making village government more accountable; support of small businesses; and protection our village's historic character. The NLP candidates for Trustee: Geoff Baker, Martha Brock, Greg Marsey; Village President, Robert Milstein, and Clerk, Sharon Patchak-Layman share your values and will truly put Oak Park first.

Gary Schwab
Campaign Manager, New Leadership Party

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