Endorsements for Oak Park Village Board

An independent for a VMA board

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

It became crystal clear, after the Illinois attorney general scolded the Oak Park village board earlier this month, that an outsider, an independent voice is needed at village hall. But only if that voice was thoughtful and multi-dimensional. Fortunately, one of the two independents in the race, Lynn Kessen, fills that bill admirably.

The Village Manager Association — the political party that's dominated nearly every village election in the past half century — is by no means an evil empire pulling the strings behind the scenes. That is all overdone. And the current makeup of the village board, made entirely of VMA-backed candidates, doesn't vote in lockstep on every issue. The "Johns" (John Hedges and Jon Hale) often go against the grain and disagree with their five counterparts more often than not.

However, we didn't publicly see Hedges or Hale fighting to keep the November meeting, where the alleged violation occurred, in the sunshine.

That's why we enthusiastically endorse Kessen for village trustee. She has views that are counter to some of the VMA's long-held principles. Kessen at first expressed interest in abolishing the village's TIF districts outright (something we disagree with), but later relented and took the more moderate position that Oak Park should gradually wean itself from the pot of money used for development initiatives in the coming years.

She's anti-establishment, but strikes us as calm, rational, and not prone to starting shouting matches at the board table if a vote doesn't go her way. In a forum last week, we saw her agree occasionally with her political rivals, and when she disagreed, she was direct but peaceable. Kessen has a background in engineering and architecture and has served on her condo board for several years. While she doesn't seem quite as polished as the VMA candidates on the inner workings of village hall, we're confident that she'll be a quick learner.

Two-term incumbent Ray Johnson has been the epitome of a good public servant during his eight years on the board of trustees. He comes to meetings well prepared and ready to ask questions. He actively listens to what villagers have to say. He seems genuinely compassionate about the challenges that village hall faces. The village board has seen its share of successes over the past eight years with Johnson as a member (Whiteco, Barrie Park and Marion Street come to mind), and bungles (Whiteco, Barrie Park and Marion Street also come to mind). We feel completely comfortable endorsing Ray Johnson for a third term.

Bob Tucker voluntarily admits that he's a bit of a nerd about village government and budgeting. He's spent the past 13 years serving on citizen boards and commissions in Oak Park, most recently on the village's community design commission. His background in affordable housing will be helpful to the village board, particularly as one of the first big decisions for trustees in May will be whether to approve a controversial affordable housing complex on Madison. He expressed "deep" concern about pouring money into lavish street projects that might not necessarily spur business development in downtown Oak Park. And in addressing the board's recent violation of the open meetings act, Tucker said, as an elected official, you should "go out of your way to bring things into the sunshine."

Adam Salzman is simply the unlucky man out in this race. He no doubt would make an admirable addition to the village board, with his experience on the universal access commission and background as a labor and employment lawyer. However, he doesn't have as solid a résumé as his two VMA running mates, and we worry that, at 32 years old, he may defer to his more tenured colleagues on the board.

The other independent in the race, Lewis Carmichael, seems to have some pointed criticism of village hall — particularly that the board appears dominated by the business class, and that there could be more interaction between local police and residents. But he strikes us as disinterested in many of the issues that are facing the village, and mostly running because he has an axe to grind with the police department after an alleged incident that happened several years ago.

Reader Comments

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Posted: March 31st, 2011 2:27 PM

OK, Adam Salzman's 32. So what. A bit of age discrimination, what?


Posted: March 29th, 2011 8:05 PM

Voted for ALL three CAL candidates. I wasn't sure who the other candidates were. I feel my vote wasn't lost with Johnson, Salzman and Tucker. I believe they were the "smart" way to go. Thanks gentlemen for running and I hope you all succeed.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 5:06 PM

I'm voting for all non CAL candidates. I like Ray, feel he is dedicated and believes he is working in the best interest of the Village. I respect him for even jumping on this sometimes caustic forum. I just don't agree with him and since the other two want to run with him, non of them get my vote. I would rather have transparent gridlock than what we have today.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 4:57 PM

@Sammy can't explain it in 500 characters or less...just like Ray Johnson explains on another post. sorry, sammy.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:52 PM

J.Oakpark, Could not pass up the positive comment about Johnson, Salzman & Tucker. Instead of negative why don't you tell us why you voted for your canidate? I will not vote for a canidate who does not stand for something. Say what you want about Johnson, Salzman, and Tucker but at least you know where they stand.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:30 PM

I early voted and did the exact opposite: i did not vote for Johnson, Salzman or Tucker...and it felt great!

Johnson, Salzman, & Tucker 2011  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 3:27 PM

Election is one week from TODAY. Please get out there and vote for Johnson, Salzman and Tucker!! Thanks

OP voter  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 11:47 AM

Jeff, you are obviously not a serious poster but just a disrupter, one of the many on this list who are engaged to demean those who don't follow the status quo in Oak Park. Grow up

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 10:58 AM

The Madison Housing Proposal is a development submitted by the Interfaith Housing Development of Chicago. The words to note are "developer" and "development." OP government leaders, using a cloak of silence with the residents, gave the go-ahead to the "developer" informally and most likely informed the "developer" -- there will be no approval problems. All that was done without discussion of cost or whether OP needed single unit housing. Another development headed in the wrong direction?

OP Resident  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 10:41 AM

OP, you sure can pick 'em!I believe Donald Trump would still be on Fox News demanding to see President Obama's birth certificate. And he'd be trying to decide if Gary Busey is the right man for the job on his goofy TV show. Of course, he would have all the wealth he inherited from his father. I'm thinking you are also a big fan of the Koch brothers and their errand boy Scott Walker.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 8:49 AM

Just a passing thought, since someone brought up The Donald. Perhaps this project would seem more desirable to more people if the Village licensed his name. The building could be called the Trump Bombast Tower.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 8:31 AM

@OP, thank you for speaking for Ray J. I hope he appreciates your support.


Posted: March 29th, 2011 7:33 AM

Ray Johnson is for the low income project and for the high rise hotel. He said so many times. He is going to win. Get over it. Have some positive vision. Where would Donald Trump be today if he listened to people like you? Go Ray!

J.Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2011 7:25 AM

@Ray J. I think you did a good job, in 500 characters or less at sating why 500 characters is not enough characters. Simple question, answer in either two or three characters: Will you vote NO(2) or YES(3) for the comcast building? BTW "Thoughtful response" is a euphemism for BS when it comes to political rhetoricians.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 10:30 PM

Gee Ray, I think most of us would be willing to hear simple, thoughtless, responses on minor village issues from your unknown slate mates. We are real people. We know that everything in life is not complex or complicated. As far as the slate webpage. It is totally P.R. and candy for your supporters. Some of the stuff on the site had 500 words but no meaningful content. Maybe 500 characters is a better platform for the slate.

Freedom of Speech - re the @Jeffs of the comments pages  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 5:00 PM

Libelous remarks should only be allowed if authors use their real names & it is verified that they authentically sent the "Comments", consequently, they are legally responsible. Freedom of speech does not mean that people should be able to post character assassinations anonymously. The WJ needs to be responsible for defamation of character by printing falsehoods. Likewise, anonymous comments praising people, programs or projects are always suspect, too. Who knows who wrote them?!

OP Resident  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 12:50 PM

Ray Johnson is right. It's difficult to fully explain a position when you're limited to 500 characters. But I think Bob Tucker could easliy address the questions of his alleged conflict of interest. I'm sure a lot of us would like to have this resolved before we cast our vote. The only thing we have to go on right now are the rumors/innuendos that have been previously posted. Maybe Ray could convince Bob that his refusal to go on the record is not acceptable. You can bet Ray wouldn't be quiet.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 11:02 AM

@ Mr. Murtagh - Detailed and thoughtful responses on complicated village issues generally can't be done with only 500 characters. As noted many times throughout this campaign, citizens are encouraged to view Citizens for Accountable Leadership positions at: www.votecal.com We also post all answers to questions received, so voters can better understand each of our individual positions. To my knowledge, few if any candidates are using this forum for policy discussions.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 28th, 2011 12:24 AM

The Johnson, Tucker, Salzman slate refuses to discuss village issues on the WJ blog, but have no problem using it as their personal publicity machine to garner votes for the election. That's a bit hypocritical, isn't it?

Johnson, Salzman, & Tucker 2011  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 3:56 PM

Please get out and Vote on April 5th for Johnson, Salzman and Tucker for Oak Park Trustee. Thank You

Joe... on a car phone  

Posted: March 27th, 2011 1:05 PM

@Jeff, Kathryn Jonas uses her real name when stating her opinion. How about you, Jeff. Are you a VMA shill? One of the candidates? For years, many of us have witnessed the dirty pool of much VMA politicking, including the very "confronting" you describe done by VMA people and attributed to others!! Sticking to the issues is the best course of action for intelligent people. You can't believe everything you read here, especially the vitriol. Covered in anonymity is nice, isn't it?

Op Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 4:35 PM

Luke, let me try again. Your rant against big government as the enemy is the mantra preached by all on the Fox News network. They also rail against reform of our health care. You cannot seriously condone the idea that a person with cancer is a commodity. Think about what you are saying. I do wish you would listen to Tom Hartman's show and recommend you read "A People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn & the reports by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone. All available thru the OP library.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 3:24 PM

Nothing else going on,all very factual. I didn't know who she was until witnessing one of these incidents first hand several years ago.

Luke Scottwalker from oak park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 2:33 PM

OP Res, I get = amts of FOX MSNBC & NPR (which I'll pay for but won't force my neighbor to against his will) so my thoughts are well reasoned and researched. I do know the enemy, and it's big GOVT. The real class war today is between govt and the people who pay for it. And yes, it's OK for profit to be part of buying healthcare. You're telling me GOVT wouldn't profit from that? Monopolistic behavior is bad whether its a company or a public educ/health system. Choice helps the mid-class/poor.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 12:11 PM

Jeff, I am not defender-in-chief for Kathryn Jonas but expected you would post comments that are accurate and factual. I doubt your claims that she "accosted strangers in the street" or was "screaming at a group of people". There's something else going on here besides a civil disagreement. Check your meds.

OP Resident  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 11:59 AM

Too much Fox News in your diet, Luke That'll corrupt a reasoned thought process. Do you really think that a corporation should be able to profit from someone's illness? Health care is not a commodity. The attacks on teacher unions are designed to destroy public education. Have you read Matt Taibbi's reports in Rolling Stone? Tune in to the Tom Hartman's show broadcast in the afternoons on AM 820. Know the enemy. It's not the middle class or working poor.

Luke Scottwalker from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2011 10:10 AM

OP Resident...please, don't invoke Bill Maher as anything but the mind-numbed, knuckle-dragging knee-jerk leftist boob that he is. He's the last person that anyone with a rational thought should consider as a source of information. He may have had a unique approach 15 years ago but has morphed into a silly mean old man. And people didn't vote against their self interest in Nov, just your (and many here) wharped view of what that is, like govt health care, union thuggery & unsustainable debt.


Posted: March 25th, 2011 8:54 AM

OP Resident,Kathryn Jonas has so many opinions on so many topics its hard not to see her at Village Hall, read her growing list of complaints in the paper, or, my favorite, watching her accost strangers in the street. Screaming at a group of people down the block about an election or Marion Street, or, better yet, 4 inches from someone's face that she does not know only because they testified at Village Hall. She is a thoughtful, sincere and intelligent intimidator when disagreed with.

Op Resident  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:48 PM

Jeff, are you old enough to watch Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO? He says we are a nation of idiots. It's hard to argue with that statement when you consider the wingnuts who were elected in Nov '10. Too many people against voted their own best interests. The candidate you support does not seem to be of that ilk & will get my vote. But I do think you can disagree without being disagreeable. I've seen Ms. Jones speak before the Board and she was sincere and knowledgeable. A good citizen.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:11 PM

@OP Resident. You may be the fist person to accuse Kathryn Jonas of being thoughtful. She has distinguished herself in this Village by her rude behavior. Many Oak Parkers can attest to her belligerent and malcontent nature. Why has she never apologized for calling the voters idiots? How could she endorse anyone and be expected to be taken seriously? The less she says the better.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 9:49 PM

Adam Salzman is WHAT Oak Park needs right now. Lynn seems like she needs to get her feet wet within the Village in some form or another. Not just her Condo Board Secretary. Adam has experience with Municipal Government and has the ability to deal with the Villages problems head on for the future. Vote for Adam April 5th!

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:37 PM

@For the record from Oak Park: You are correct. I was too fast on the trigger and hit "Post Comment" before I reread the post. I hope you will head to the polls and vote on April 5th.

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 6:33 PM

@OP#1: You bet you haven't seen my name running for public office in the village. I don't need to run! I just need to endorse any candidate I wish to support. That's my right! If you don't like it, TOUGH!

OP Resident  

Posted: March 24th, 2011 4:28 PM

Take it easy, Jeff. Kathryn Jonas posted a thoughtful comment with her endorsement of Lynn Kessen. I'm certain that the candidate you are supporting would not appreciate nor condone the attack you launched against Ms. Jonas. As far as you running far away; that's a fine idea. A good workout benefits the heart and mind. Now, off you go!


Posted: March 24th, 2011 12:12 PM

LMAO, Kathryn Jonas should be quiet with her endorsements. After calling the voters of this Village IDIOTS 2 years ago and her constant and shrill commentary about everything from rotting 2 flats , Trader Joe's, Marion Street, micro-managing tree placement, the list goes on... She has developed a following that can be called a permanent minority. If I were in Lynn's shoes I would run far away.


Posted: March 24th, 2011 11:51 AM

I met Adam and his family just before they moved to Oak Park and I am a strong supporter of Adam in this campaign. Grounded and intelligent are two words that come to mind when I think of him. He will bring a needed voice to the table at Village Hall, furthermore, his professional and dedicated volunteer experience are unmatched and the skills that he brings will be needed. This Village deserves someone who is ready and doesn't need training.

For the record from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:04 PM

@jack: I believe you mean "garner my vote." Garnish is what a pickle does...


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 9:38 PM

Haven't seen your name on a ballot Jack?

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:53 PM

elected!!!! I wonder if there are others that blog on this site can really make that claim!!!! I want to personally thank all of the candidates for running!!! GET TO THE POLLS ON APRIL 5TH and VOTE!!!!

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:51 PM

I'm very happy that there are independent candidates running in this election. With that said, I'm primarily supporting Lynn Kessen. I am still going vote for two of the three other VMA candidates. I just haven't decided who's going to garnish my vote. We should ALL be proud in this community that we have excellent candidates running in this election, regardless how you may feel about issues facing our village. More importantly, they are WILLING TO SERVE ON THE BOARD if indeed they are


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 5:38 PM

Hey Mr. /Mrs.Pat, Politics 101. Raise capital. How much money has she raised. Its hard to get your name out there with out it. Even Village President Pope knew that much when he ran as an independent. It just goes to show you that money, organization and hard work can and does PAY OFF in OP!! Really.

Pat from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 4:55 PM

Kathryn and John, I totally agree with you. Lynn Kessen has a strong, reasoned viewpoint, and would be a valuable addition to the Village Board. I respect the fact that Lynn is financing her campaign totally on her own. No political contributions from friends, local business, property managers or developers. Can the VMA candidates say the same? We need an independent thinker and voice on the Board. It is way overdue. And Lynn can provide that voice.

Jenny Jocks Stelzer from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 3:08 PM

I am dismayed at the WJ's presumptuousness in suggesting that Salzman's age impels deference. His intelligence and strength of character will, indeed, make him an admirable addition to the village board.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 1:37 PM

I think John & Kathryn BOTH miss the pt. ALL candidates irrespectful of who they run/don't run w are unique. The VMA is entitled to NOTHING. Never has been. The only thing they are entitled to is WORK!! I've said it many times. They earn the votes they receive. Not just during election season but always.This isnt about the VMA- Its about good decent candidates & I happen to like Johnson, Salzman and Tucker. BTW isn't Lynn's profession sort of ironic considering shes opposes the hotel project?

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:52 AM

The answer to your question is Yes, and it is based on Democracy 101. A majority is weakened when it does not have active opposition to challenge its decisions. Am I a Republican or Democrat -- none of your damn business.

kathryn jonas from oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:51 AM

Lynn Kessen has my vote. I've spoken to her a number of times and find her knowledgeable about important local issues. She is engaged and energetic and I believe will be a strong advocate for the common good. This town needs someone who will bring a different perspective to the Board. A one party system is not healthy on a national level or on a local level. Issues should be debated and an apathetic public engaged. The sense of entitlement that the VMA has does not produce good government.


Posted: March 23rd, 2011 11:19 AM

John, IMHO you are way off base here. Are you a Democrat or a Republican? Do you vote against the ruling party of the Congress or Presidency based on that? You wrote "I want to have someone who will challenge issues and be willing to offer views that might vary with the mass majority that exists today" Does that mean you want someone who wont represent the majority of OP'rs? ALL trustees can challenge issues and have their own voice.

Leslie Sutphen  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 10:04 AM

@Sanctuary Condo Owner. You just convinced me to vote for Kessen. Anyone who can prioritize getting the most important things done would be a welcome addition to the Board. Getting minutes out is not on my list of the most crucial tasks. Showing up for meetings and being engaged most certainly is! The fact that she would even serve on a condo board which has to be the most thankless task in the world (next to serving on the Village Board) speaks highly of her dedication to her community.

She's NOT perfect!?! from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 7:53 AM

@Sanctuary Condo Owner. What, she's sometimes LATE with the condo minutes?!? Automatic disqualification!!! Can I guess that you're a VMA supporter? Are the other candidates perfect? Me? I'm concerned that she left the radio on when she went to work the other day - along with the light in the kitchen!!! You seriously took the time to make THIS comment? As if we can only have PERFECT people on the bd?!? Full disclosure: I don't know ANY people running for the bd. None.

Sanctuary Condo Owner from Oak Park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 6:21 AM

Wednesday Journal needs to do more investigating before endorsing Lynn Kessen for Village Board. She has been on the condo board of The Sanctuary for several years and as Secretary, she has trouble getting the minutes to the residents in a timely manner. I can't imagine she is up to the rigorous study required of VOP board members.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 23rd, 2011 12:34 AM

It is simple for me. A 7-0 board irrespective of the group that elects them or the individuals that serve is too subject to lock step thinking. I want to have someone who will challenge issues and be willing to offer views that might vary with the mass majority that exists today. I think the board is too cozy with each other as is. They are good people in a very awkward environment. Because I agree with the editorial does not mean Ms. Kassen has my vote. Got to know a bit about her 1st.


Posted: March 22nd, 2011 11:00 PM

John, Listen to what you wrote "We are anxious to learn more about you" How can you really agree with the endorsement and NOT know her??? Adam Salzman has a unique style just as Lynn does. All the candidates are unique. Read the above article and it sheds some light how the VMA candidates DONT VOTE IN LOCK STEP. Hello

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: March 22nd, 2011 10:40 PM

I think the WJ has got this right. It is time to have another style voice on the board. Welcome Ms. Kassen. We are anxious to learn more about you.

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