2013 election taking shape in Oak Park

In Oak Park, three trustees, village president and village clerk up for grabs next April

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

The March primary is barely in the rearview mirror, and a heated U.S. presidential election looms in November. But already some Oak Parkers are talking about who is going to lead the village at the local level, with the election coming up next April.

Voters will get to decide the next Oak Park village president, three spots for village trustee, and the next village clerk. Comments about the April 9, 2013, election have flared up on the Web, mixed in with contentiousness over brick streets, downtown high-rises and the recent ouster of Village Manager Tom Barwin.

One of those frequent commenters is John Murtagh, a 10-year village resident, political observer and former head of the Oak Park Community Relations Commission.

He said he doesn't plan on running in the April 2013 election, as some have suggested, but he hopes to get involved raising interest in the races and talking about the issues.

He hopes Oak Park avoids the low turnout and scarcity of candidates that plagued recent municipal elections.

"This has the potential to be a dynamic political year in Oak Park," he said. "And if that doesn't occur, I think we're even in more trouble than we are right now in the village."

At the top of the board, Village President David Pope could vie for a third term, after first getting elected as a trustee in 2003. Pope, 45, said he was unsure as of Monday whether he'll chase four more years. He plans to have a conversation with his wife, Beth, over the summer and could decide by the fall.

"I think, as a community, we're making pretty good progress on a number of fronts," Pope said. "Obviously people continue to be working hard to help ensure that Oak Park continues to be a wonderful place to live, and there's been a lot that's been achieved and there's more yet to do."

Also up for re-election on the board are trustees Glenn Brewer, John Hedges and Collette Lueck, and Village Clerk Teresa Powell, all whom were backed by the Village Manager Association political organization. All three trustees said they were unsure whether they plan to run again. Powell, 63, meanwhile said she'll "likely" pursue another four years as clerk.

There has been talk about other board members possibly stepping up to run for president. Ray Johnson, 48, a trustee since 2003 who was re-elected in 2011, said he has considered running for president.

"It's crossed my mind, of course. I would be joking to suggest otherwise, but right now I have a very full plate at work," said Johnson, who is a program manager for HSBC North America.

Johnson said it's too early to determine whether he'd throw his support behind Pope for another term.

He and other trustees questioned why Oak Park previously applied for $26 million in federal grants to redo the area along Lake Street when that grant carries a $17 million match in local dollars, which wasn't debated by other elected officials.

"I've had some concerns about David's focus on day-to-day operations versus focusing on policy and trying to make sure the board — and that includes me — stays focused on policy," Johnson said.

Lueck, 63, said she, too, is still weighing whether to run again, and will know by the fall. But the former longtime head of the Oak Park Plan Commission, who was first appointed to fill a vacancy and then elected in 2009, said she isn't interested in running for president.

Hedges, 67, a former head of the Park District of Oak Park who was first elected in 2007, said he, like Johnson, has considered running for village president.

"I've heard people mention it before," he said. "I wouldn't say no right now, but it's something I would have to think a lot about."

Outside of current board members, independent Lynn Kessen, who came in fourth in the 2011 election, said she plans to try again. She lives in a condo near downtown Oak Park and has been a vocal critic of the 20-story apartment high-rise planned for the corner of Lake and Forest, which elected officials approved last year.

Kessen, 47, joined a volunteer commission in the village to get her feet wet, and is looking for possible running mates, though interest has been low in the early stages.

"A lot of people have lost faith in democracy. They feel, why bother, we're not going to make a difference anyway," she said.

The other political party that last challenged the VMA in 2009, the Village Citizens Alliance, has been holding meetings recently. But President Gary Schwab said they, too, have seen low interest a year out. At the very least, they hope to help spur local conversations about the issues in next year's election, such as the use of tax increment financing dollars for development, the swaths of unused properties that Oak Park owns, thousands in legal bills tallied by several long running lawsuits, and a perceived lack of openness and transparency at the board table.

"At this point, I don't know that there's any real interest," Schwab said, "but we'd like to try and get people talking about issues, and then maybe some candidates will surface out of that."

The VMA, meanwhile, is already starting to "beat the bushes," looking for possible candidates around town, according to President Brad Bartels. They'll conduct their slating process this fall to pick five candidates to run in April. The process is open, he said, to anyone interested in applying. The traits they're looking for in candidates are diversity, "sensible" economic development and good governance.

Bartels said, come this fall, the VMA will weigh whether it wants to back any incumbents or add some new faces to the ticket.

"It's very situational," Bartels said. "We're not going to exclude someone simply because they have been the village president for X number of terms."

Reader Comments

124 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 6:14 PM

MOP, the surface rating for the Village network in 2011 was 69.2, I believe. That's out of 100 where other communities consider faulty pavement at 80 or 90. Our streets come in at 48's or 50's. I can show you photos from multiple streets in multiple resident neighborhoods all over the Village.

MOP  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 6:02 PM

My block along with many Oak Park blocks are in fine shape. I am not sure the outcry from someone who lives on a bad block is a accurate depiction of the entire Village. Time and money.

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 4:37 PM

Kyle, sure, there are other options, but those options would require management skills at the board level that are presently lacking - the ability to develop a long-term plan and budget, the ability to assure funding for the plan and budget, and the ability to prioritize. You've got people who have no expertise in much of what they do making bad decision after bad decision. That doesn't do anyone any good.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 4:18 PM

Yes, Enuf, but if you point out how a few have been singled out for special treatment while others are neglected you'll be accused of not recognizing how much the investment paid off & how great Oak Park is because of it. Ignore that man behind the curtain! lol (BTW, I think sidewalks should be included in street costs for the Village.)

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 4:01 PM

@Kyle ... in Oak Park, if property owners on residential streets want brick pavers, they are required to pay 50% of the cost. If any individual residential property owner wants any portion of their concrete sidewalk replaced, they pay 50%. Of course, DTOP property owners get brick paved street, bluestone slate walks, and granite curbs for free.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:41 PM

I'll throw this out there...I don't agree, but it's how some do it so I'll play devil's advocate. Some cities you pay for your own street. If Lake St wants brick pavers, they pay for it. If I want my block done, my block will be billed for my portion of the total project. You want your sewers done? Sure! Here's your balance divided by # of residents on your block.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:36 PM

OP Rez: Yr words "Businesses generate tax revenue which helps fund things like keeping our streets functional without increasing residential taxes." Your view on business taxes is a bit warped. Business has as much responsibility for the streets in OP as the residents. That basic common sense. But TIF's (DTOP since 1973, Garfield and Harlem, 1993, Madison 1995) diverted any property taxes over and above the original tax base to the TIF districts. That is; we (the residents) have been subsidizing TIF area business development for nearly forty years. How much street paving could have been done with that money?

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:32 PM

Ha! If someone offers to come pave my street they get my vote, true.

MOP  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:26 PM

Someone who is willing to spend $25 Million on paving streets.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:24 PM

My criteria? Someone who treats every corner of Oak Park the same. Works to solve problems. Dedicated to making Village government simpler, more user-friendly, easier to keep track of. Hopefully someone w/an understanding of our everyday concerns or willing to reach out and listen. Someone who'll abandon past idiocy for sound, balanced policy.

MOP  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:22 PM

Election season usually doesnt officially start until March before the election. Why the WJ wrote this article is beyond me.

MOP  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 3:20 PM

Murtagh's Oak Park. LoL

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 2:57 PM

It is time to get back to the original subject - the 2103 elections. The VMA, meanwhile, is already starting to "beat the bushes," looking for possible candidates around town. The traits they're looking for in candidates are diversity, "sensible" economic development and good governance. The traits are the same as the VMA has held in their 60 year as a political party -- nothing new here - same old platform. Isn't it time for FOP to begin to discuss the traits they want in a board candidate?

Michael Iversen from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 2:50 PM

The 7th annual 'Green Tuesdays in the Village' starts tonight, with The Story of Water: Regional, featuring Tim Loftus, Principal of Water Resources, CMAP. This is an especially relevant session for Oak Park residents, as the session addresses CMAP's 2050 Water Plan, along with specific Oak Park local issues, such as City of Chicago supply water rates, full-cost pricing, and recent green infrastructure legislation. Tonight's session is 7:00-8:30pm, OPPL Veterans Rm., and free

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 2:45 PM

Its always been a even balance for both. Anybody who says the investment in DTOP hasn't paid off is not correct. The issues isnt ALL streets to me. It balancing all the issues of the Village on behalf of the tax payers. Does Chicago repave all its roads in 10 years?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 2:19 PM

There is no significant TIF money left, our debt is high and new debt is already being added, and our general funds are weak. We have been spending money to improve Greater Downtown Development Plan at the expense of the neighborhoods for thirty years. That was a decision made by our civic leaders. Our tax bills and failed infrastructure indicates that the residents have not received a significant ROI (Return on Investment) from thirty years of DTOP investment. The choices are to keep funding business development or address the needs of residents. The board has created a team made up of village and Oak Park Development Corp planners to compose a new Comprehensive Plan for the village. They will be the deciders of OP's future. Will that favor business or neighborhoods?

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 1:27 PM

Do you think there is a possible 3rd option, OPRFDad? Between hands-off & massive redevelop? Why not put in place a structure that rewards for coming here the kind of businesses we all want to see? EG Small indie shops w/nothing like them OR major business that can pull in tax dollars?

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 1:21 PM

OP Resident, sounds nice in theory, but the Village meddles far too much in local retail to allow for the development of functional and successful retail. Either allow the market to run its course or come up with a plan of mass redevelopment that allows for shopping. But their hodge podge approach results in an retail environment that is unattractive to any business with a bottom line focus. But hey, we need 2 ice cream parlours and 3 sweet shops within a 2 block radius.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 9:15 AM

As far as what gets cut & what should be spent? Unfortunately infrastructure spending is coming one way or another. Do you spend now or later? We're victims of bad management that let it get to this point. I mean, I wasn't even a resident 5 years ago, not my fault. A few other cities get by on $12 million a year for roads. That's still 4 million more than us. I dunno the "right" number. Whoever the next VM is needs to do some serious reduction/slimming to get priorities straight.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 9:09 AM

No offense, D97, but everybody please go read the budget. It's online. It's boring, but it's how your money is spent. Can't read it? Too long and complicated? Yep, that's my point. To answer though, I believe the whole CIP is like $8 mil then PW spends like $500,000 from the general fund. It all gets chopped up & transfers one place to another. What do you consider streets? Street lights? Sign replacement? Just paving? We need street sweeping too.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 9:03 AM

My point is you have to eat your veggies before you can have cake. Why do we have $100,000 set aside from the CIP for public art when our roads are falling apart? You have to do the essentials before you can think about anything else. My take is if you shrink down, do only the basics well & get back to baseline, then let's as a community talk about priorities once we catch up. OP Res I'm w/you about other sources of revenue besides prop taxes. It's a whole cornucopia of needing better focus.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 9:02 AM

If we spend the $25 Million on streets, what gets cut? What is the number of what we spend on streets every year?

OP Resident  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 8:47 AM

Exactly why building a solid business tax base in Oak Park should be a priority. Businesses generate tax revenue which helps fund things like keeping our streets functional without increasing residential taxes. Seems that Oak Park is better at chasing businesses outside of our borders. We can't improve until we reverse that trend unless you're volunteering to up your already ridiculously high property taxes.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 8:42 AM

CIP aside, isn't the total OP budget around $100 million? IMO spending 1/4 of a city's revenue on streets is reasonable. Esp when you realize you're going to eventually have to do the roads anyway. Could I live w/double what we're spending? Sure. I think it's about showing more effort. Now, Glen Ellyn's was put to the voters as a bond issue that was approved in 2000. Frankly, I think OP could cut waste & make a big dent in this issue though.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 8:29 AM

Now talk with John Murtagh about fund balance deficiencies. $25 Million /year? Lets put THAT to referendum. Now lets find out what we do spend /year and how much.

Kyle  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 6:49 AM

The average life span of a city street is 10 years. You can extend that if you do it right. But who wants to drive on bumpy roads 20 or 50 yrs old? Since you were looking for a number, I'll give one locally. Glen Ellyn is in the 2nd half a 20 yr redo. Their plan is 26 miles for $65 million. The math for OP puts that at 25M a yr to do all 100 miles. That's 3x more than current spending. Or we could have just been spending a little more all along. They have to be done.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 3rd, 2012 1:24 AM

If newly asphalted roads in Oak Park cant last more than 5 years we are in trouble. Think about it.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 7:18 PM

D97, many cities put their roads on a 5 year resurface plan. 10 is pretty standard around the nation. Most cities also publish on the web a list of all roads, the individual score for that road, and the anticipated date of resurface along with notes on condition.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 7:07 PM

OP Rez - the Madison Ave TIF was ended in 2011. No additional funds will be dedicated to it. The $7M is the surplus from the TIF Account.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 6:23 PM

Clearly you know very little about urban planning. I like your thinking, but its not realistic in any City, Town or Village. MHO

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 6:11 PM

How about this, D97, figure out the total cost of repaving all Village streets & alleys in the next 10 years. Divide by 10. That's how much should be spent next year with a promise to residents that everyone will see new road by 2022. Make a grid & a schedule. Let residents see exactly when the trucks will be on their block.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 5:55 PM

So whats your number? Its not this complicated? 100 million? 10 million? 50 million?

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 5:48 PM

(cont) And streets is just my little piece of annoyed. Others it is sewer. Madison is a great example. Those who insist everything in OP is peachy have their heads in the sand. And I realize the laundry list isn't going to go away quickly. All this has to be balanced. But that's the current problem is there is no balance. Throw some money here, throw some money there. We need a real financial plan that maybe is a little heavier on needs than wants.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 5:43 PM

D97...It's bit complicated b/c you have the $8.7 million for Capital Improvements. Then you have Public Works which gets $1.7 million for streets. $50,000 goes to streetlights. Yadda, yadda. Double it? I mean, what percent of municipal funds should be infrastructure? 25%? Half? My take is if they're doing 12 of 550 alleys this year that number should be closer to 1/4 the alleys & repaving 1/4 the streets. Bring the system up to date then do better maintenance to avoid this happening again. cont.

OP Resident  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 5:14 PM

Madison will continue its downward spiral if the Board goes with Option #4, do nothing. Considering the board just ignored the pleas of the neighbors of Madison when approving the Comcast building I'd like to hope they'll do something nice for this otherwise ignored and barren strip of Oak Park. A TIF is in place to improve an area that would otherwise head for urban blight and we pay taxes here too. It's about time we see some return on our money.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 5:04 PM

Tonight at the Board Meeting (I will not be there - NCAA BB #1), the board will have a review of the Madison Street Corridor's final TIF Dollar Expenditure. The report submitted for board review states that there is $7.7M to finish the year old improvement project. The board (draft budget summary) shows only 6.2M, but $1.5M is chump change. The village gave the board four alternatives. The first is "Behind the Curbs" - the renovation of parkways (curb greenspace), sidewalks, and crosswalk repairs. No roadwork in this alternative which will cost $6.9M. The second is the "Budget Street Diet - it eliminates two driving lanes and adds two bike lanes while removing the center medians and does major street work.. It's cost is $15.2M. The third is the Premium Street Diet which is the same as two, but has "protected" bike lanes (Fed grant finances $650,000 for the bike lanes.) It's cost is $17.3M. The fourth is to "Do Nothing" as in leave good old Mad Street the way it is. So the question is: Does the Street Diet and Bike Lanes justify taking on an additional $8m to $12M debt?

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 4:05 PM

Trip, I noticed the same - Lombard, Greenfield, and the street one street east of East was bad. Our street has basically turned to gravel.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 3:54 PM

Scoville, Thomas, Columbian, Berkshire, Harvey, Lombard, Ontario. All North of the HS and Lake street. I will have to drive the route.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 3:50 PM

SO you never answered my question of how much you would spend on bringing all the roads in Oak Park up to what you think is appropriate? Give me a dollar value.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 3:40 PM

Don't Trip, I believe the avg surface score for our roads is high 60's. Most communities consider anything lower than 80 or 90 to mean resurface is necessary. I'm not even sure if we have a 10 year plan to get our roads done. Some cities do a repave every 5!

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 3:37 PM

I believe they do already prioritize the roads and which are in need first. Thats how its always been done. I seen good streets and I've seen not so good streets. Thats the way it always will be. I'm not sure we will ever be in a position to do all the bad streets at one time. Some of the street projects have to wait until the sewer and water pipes are tended to.

Don't Trip!  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 3:35 PM

On the roads I really got to see it as I ran the Race for Life on Sunday. It's best to keep your head up when running to get air effeciently into your lungs, but I had to keep mine down to make sure I didn't trip on the horrible roads. I recently marched a parade in Elmhurst. No such problem.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 3:05 PM

See my earlier comment from the budget about clothes & laundry line items for Public Works, Dist 97. Yes, the Village spends on roads. But the problem is that such a basic service gets neglected for other things when it should be first priority. And it could all be paid for with a reduction in frivolous spending & better focus. Do we have a regular schedule where all streets are repaved every 10 years? Are all rain gutters swept free of debris once a month? Are sewer grates cleared?

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:50 PM

Lay out how much money you think we should spend on roads this next year? Total dollars. Then talk to John about balance deficiencies. LOL. The village does spend money every year on roads.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:39 PM

The house is not on fire, Dist 97. It's crumbling. Have you seen our roads? lol It seems to me the easiest way to make everybody happy here is for the VMA to do a much better job of choosing responsible candidates.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:36 PM

If the TIF had expired 2 years ago it would have only returned a small amount of money-less than the referendum. Without the TIF, the state will give that much less to the schools and its almost a wash.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:35 PM

The house is not on fire John. However you want to spin it, it nots burning or in jeopardy of burning.

WOW  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:22 PM

Dist 97 Ref-- you do realize that the tif funds, which the vma controlled board was loathe to give up, sucked millions of tax dollars away from the general funds: like school and park and libraries and infrastructure and gave the money to the pet projects of your beloved vma board members---right? don't try and blame the schools to save face for the vma.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 2:02 PM

Dist 97 Referendum - I understand your view of the VMA totally, but the people they chose for the board are in a hell of a mess. The 2012 budget has a minimal fund balance. Most municipalities consider an 8-10% fund balance as the proper level. 5% is low. OP has virtually 0%. A fund balance provides emergency funds for unanticipated expense or a cataclysmic event - say a couple of five or ten year rain storms in the village. It is anticipated that 2012 expenses will exceed the budget requiring expense cuts, increase in revenues, or a loan. Borrowing by the OP government is not desirable right now as the village already has one of the highest municipality debt per resident in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. Additional loans could cause our credit rating to decline and our interest rate on all debt to increase. The loss of the TIF lawsuit has emptied the village's development coffers. The village would like to resurface Lake Street using Fed govt funds, but they have to produce 17M of its own money if the Fed approves the project. Where does that come from? I agree that "Anyone opposing VMA has an uphill battle", but find it hard to believe that traditional VMA voters wants to bankrupt the village.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 1:35 PM

11K for local election is SUPERB. Wont happen with out big issue like Tax increases/referendum. People are not as unsatisfied as some may have you believe.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 1:28 PM

Is the D97's 11,000 voters a good turnout? I believe it was. In 2008, 85% of those registered (about 29,000 people) voted in the Presidential elections. Five months later in the 2009 village elections, about 5,800 or 17% voted. (In the 2011 village elections, less than 20% voted.) The D97 turnout of 11,000 (32%) was nearly twice the village board elections in 2009 and 2011. There are several factors to consider the school and village board elections. Historically, school elections rarely have as high as municipal election. Many voters without children at home do not vote in school elections as they are not familiar with the issues. They do vote more in school referendums, because of tax issues. The D97 referendum did not have a spectacular turnout, but those who voted had passion - a very good sign for the village.

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 1:16 PM

Most of your tax bill doesnt go to VOP. You can thank the schools for that. If residents have a problem with taxes being too high, that should take it up with the taxing body that gets most of their money. Its not the Village.

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 1:12 PM

John Butch, when the point of political structure is to obfuscate, people eventually turn off because they realize their efforts are futile. Why is the property tax system so convoluted? Because it makes it difficult to understand and change. Why is there a village board who directs a village manager? Because it allows shifting of responsibility and accountability. If you want people to be involved, make the structure simple and able to be held accountable. That's not the case at any level.

Dist 97 Referendum   

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 1:12 PM

The reason the VMA wins more time than not is due to their candidates. They get people who have been involved within the community for years and they in turn know a lot of voters who know a lot of voters who come out and vote. Name recognition is key. On top of that, they collect a lot of money-the main ingredient in any campaign. They are very well organized and work extremely hard for their victories. They have the support of many who help as well. Anyone opposing VMA has an uphill battle.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 12:25 PM

In 2009, John Hubbich. WJ Columnist, challenged the readers to identify the most powerful organization in Oak Park. Replies included the board, board president, Oak Park Development Corp, VMA, commissions, Downtown Oak Park Association, businesses, and traditional cultural organization. Not mentioned were the police, and fire departments, public works, which might have been in the running, if John had asked what the most important organizations in Oak Park. I have concluded that OP has a political infrastructure that is an octopus in form. There are plenty of tentacles acting independently, and sometimes in concert. Some of the tentacles are functional - others are not. The head of the octopus is the collector of all information sent by the tentacles and the decider of how the tentacles should be used. Should they get food, find shelter, run away from a shark, etc. Oak Park's tentacles are largely functional, but the head is only receiving and using information that fits its goals. It is processing information from the tentacles poorly and as a result fails to meet the needs of the entire body. When that happens, the octopus is in danger. Who is the head of the octopus in Oak Park? The voter - they have the power to decide how the village works, they have the power of change. The problem is the head is asleep.

Tax increases  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 11:46 AM

OPRF Dad -- we do disagree on the mechanism. Any assumption of a uncast vote as an affirmation in either direction usurps the democratic process. It requires an action by supporters on one side of an issue and rewards inaction on the other side. Other cities and towns defeat referendums and ballot initiatives. At some point it will happen here. But it needs to be done at the ballot box.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 10:55 AM

I will say this, OPRFDad, we have all those fancy advisory commissions they want volunteers for...why is there no Budget commission for citizens to sit on & make recommendations to the Board for prioritizing spending? Yes, there is a Plan Comm & a Development Comm. I mean one 9 member panel that says, "hey, you're spending too much of our money on the wrong thing." (Of course the Board will prob ignore whatever they say.)

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 10:39 AM

@ tax increases, we obviously disagree. My final point: the majority would basically be saying ON SPENDING (aka tax) INCREASES ONLY - our vote is no unless you convince us otherwise. That's not an abridgement of the democratic process, especially if the presumption of a negative vote is voted upon, but rather a balance to a system that is inherently designed to encourage empire building and presenting a "story" in a certain light to garner votes.

Tax increases  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 9:42 AM

OPRFDad -- Although I don't fully agree that government should be run like a business because the goals and purposes are different I do agree that government must be held accountable for the money it spends. A super majority requirement allows for a minority to thwart the will of the majority. There are times when that may be appropriate. But the answer to greater government accountability isn't diminishing democracy with the super majority requirement. We get the government we accept.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 9:37 AM

OPRFDad, I see where you're coming from...this vote was 6,000 to 5,000 which is hardly an overwhelming majority for higher taxes. But targeting parents is just good campaigning IMO. Not "fair" but totally legit. Back to budget specifics...I'd like to see every voter in OP be able to go to the Village website & see exactly what the scheduled investment is in their neighborhood. I want to know what sewer work is scheduled, how many cops are assigned to patrol, etc..

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 9:33 AM

And I suppose that if 51% of those voting supported a super majority, that would be binding on the remaing 49%. But, you know what they say about democracy - two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 9:14 AM

What is the harm in saying to all forms of government - no more money? Work within the budget you are given. The problem with all these organizations is empire building. And, given the all-time corruption and lack of faith in government at all levels, requiring a super majority on tax increases and more spending is a viable solution. Essentially do what business does - require those asking for the money to demonstrate how the money will be effectively spent. That's not happening now.

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 9:06 AM

If the school board is lobbying its constituents without informing the general populous, as it did during the past referendum, that is wrong. And giving parents signs to post in their yard is not informing. While 55-45 seems like an easy W, the margin of victory in prior referendum elections was much higher. Many more people turned out to try to stop this money grab than the last.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 8:36 AM

Correction, sorry...the total registered voters in Oak Park is 34,000...that should be 23,000 not voting.

Kyle  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 8:34 AM

Well said, Tax Increases. I agree w/you--I think--even though OPRFDad's heart is in the right place. 11,000 people make a choice for the other 34,000 registered-yet-non-voters who live here. I think a lot of people have written the process off as something they're stuck with. The trick is convincing the non-participatants that the game isn't rigged & is open to everybody & real change. Or is it? Sometimes I have my doubts.

Laughing  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 8:13 AM

When you cant win, change the system.

Tax increases  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 7:24 AM

...referendum was small." or that it "barely passed." It was passed roughly 55-45. By proposing tax increases be approved by super majority, or worse, by crediting non voters as "no" votes is the wrong solution. What is needed is greater involvement, awareness, and participation. I can't make someone pay attention or vote, I can only make them aware. We have to depend on adults to act as adults and be involved. Let's not trash the democratic process because an vote or two go the other way.

Tax increases  

Posted: April 2nd, 2012 7:19 AM

I'll begin with stating that I don't like tax increases any more than my neighbors and I'm not presently a memeber of the 1% so I feel the effects of the increases. But I recognize that taxes are a necessity for government to function. It was pretty difficult to be in the village, read the paper, drive around and see the yard signs, etc and not be aware of the referendum. It was a contentious issue. I respectfully disagree that "the number of people who actually new (sic) about the ...

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 1st, 2012 7:09 AM

Tax increases: simple majority of all who are eligible to vote or a super majority of those who actually do vote.

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 1st, 2012 7:08 AM

cont - but the number of people who actually new about the referendum was small. There was a lot of target marketing (i.e., people in D97) who were aware of the referendum. And even with the questionable tactics, the referendum barely passed. My super majority requirement would prevent interested and unethical groups from slipping revenue raisers by the goalie.

OPRFDad  

Posted: April 1st, 2012 7:06 AM

Resident, it would be interesting to break down OP by (1) where dollars are spent (police, fire, schools, streets, brick pavers, etc.) and (2) by employees who are compensated in compensation brackets up to the VM. I also think a referendum should be floated to require all tax increase items (e.g., library, schools, etc.) to require a simple majority of all voters in OP or a super majority of 80%. I'm sure D97 would tell you that people were adequately informed about the last referendum ...

resident  

Posted: March 31st, 2012 10:54 PM

The budget is very interesting. Why is there a department head with no employees that gets paid $100,000 per year.

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 12:27 PM

And if you want evidence of why OP needs to reduce its spending and re-prioritize, here's a chart that shows each state's debt unfunded pension obligations as a % of income. Illinois is horrible. The state really needs to petition Congress to change the laws so that it can bankrupt itself. http://senategop.state.il.us/images/stories/2012/Fitch_debt_charts_only.pdf

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 12:02 PM

And Kyle, why do we spend $96,000 on the head parking meter attendant? To my earlier point - someone could run on reducing spending by 20% and have no trouble at all finding waste to cut.

Kyle  

Posted: March 30th, 2012 11:52 AM

Maybe I'm reading the 2012 Budget wrong, feel free to correct me. But why are there all these line items in, say, Public Works for Clothing & Laundry? Uniforms, I'm guessing? I'm not against spending...I just see that as an extra $7000 that could have gone over to the "roadway maintenance" line. Why do we have all these departments? Why do I have to scroll through 147 pages to figure out how our money is being spent? It's the bureaucracy & lack of wisdom that bothers me.

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 10:03 PM

In New York, there was a giant billboard with a running tally of the amount spent on the war. I'd like to see a similar approach to spending in this community. We have a government for a municipality of half a million, and we spend like the average income is seven figures.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 9:51 PM

Actually, I don't care who the VMA picks or how they decide to run their horses.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 8:31 PM

Cont... be responsible for spending tax payers money. There needs to be a complete financial overhaul to determine why there is a need to constantly raise taxes in Oak Park. You have to spend tax payers money as if it was your own, and to do that, you have to account for every penny spent and be able to show tax payers what has been spent. You don't need to spend 100 thousand dollars making up books of expenditures, you put it online.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 8:28 PM

Cont... and develop an approach to let tax payers know the importance of their vote. There needs to be a website that tax payers can give their opinions on what they feel will better Oak Park. There needs to be a selection process to find the new board members and president who is best qualified for the position of cleaning up Oak Park. If you are concerned about having just another VMA type party, then you aren't going to be organized to put in place the people that will Cont...

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 8:23 PM

It's obvious that to put in new people, there is going to be a new to campaign for the people and let Oak Park know they now have a choice. The current group is not responsible with Oak Park's money, and if you add up all of the projects that no Oak Parker could possibly agree was a good use of their money, and divide it by the amount of tax payers, it will give each Oak Parker a real understanding of how their money was wasted. There needs to be a group of people who can seat and talk Cont...

VMA ... Please Slate Pope  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 7:36 PM

If you don't want a VMA-slated president, then you better hope VMA slates Pope for re-election. This guy has proved himself so incompetent, that he is virtually unelectable. He has spent millions on the Colt building site and promised development by the end of 2011, and all we have is a parking lot. He has spent millions on the Sertus project, and all we have is a vacant lot. He will have to spend $17M if he gets the TIGER grant, or justify the $108K he spent if he doesn't.

Kyle  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 7:15 PM

I've thought about diving into that issue of referendum before, OPRFDad, but it's a rat's nest. I'm sure someone more in-the-know can explain, but IL isn't the most friendly state for the powers of initiative, referendum, & recall. We like to keep our citizens at arm's length. lol I agree about not being anti-VMA though. Perfectly able to run a positive campaign simply on issues of focusing the Village in a different direction.

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 5:14 PM

I also happen to think that it would be a good idea to get a referendum on the ballot imposing term limits. Could that be done this fall to keep Pope from running again?

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 5:07 PM

The anti-VMA thing isn't necessary, I imagine you could run several people on an anti-establishment ticket and they would do just fine. However, if the intent is to get 4,000 new people to show up, presumably, you'd lure them in with a unified message.

Donald Trump  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 2:05 PM

Its a cab partner

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 12:41 PM

Hey Trump - I am waiting at the elevator. Where's the limo to take me to the airport?

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 8:58 AM

I agree with Kyle. To make it easier, I created a new email address for those interested in getting involved in the 2013 elections with a group looking for change. EMAIL changeoakpark2013@yahoo.com IF YOU WANT TO BE INVOLVED. I'm sure we'll start with email conversations and then decide when it's time to meet.

Kyle  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 7:50 AM

Re: slates/platforms I agree that alternative candidates have a ready-made agenda. I'm not sure a unified platform or single slate is the way to go. Everybody is going to have issues that matter to them more. I may want to run on better police enforcement. You may think sewer infrastructure is your main issue. All this is better worked out in a meeting of concerned citizens rather than here, no?

Donald Trump  

Posted: March 29th, 2012 12:25 AM

Murtagh......Your fired.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 10:57 PM

OPRF Dad - I agree completely with your thought that the key to changing the board is to increase the turnout particularly of groups already active (flood folks,for instance - Madison Sufferer, Un-repesented minorities, etc. Regarding a platform, I don't think it's a good idea. 1)It would saddle candidates with an unreasonable burden since we, or seemingly anyone, in the village knows the exact state of our finances. 2) we would be charged by the VMA with not being responsible. There is also a sense that building a slate is preferable. The VMA eats slates for breakfast. They attack the slates rather than the candidates. Anyway, we don't want to become a version of the VMA -- we want new candidates with no political connections that are capable of developing issues on their own. No offense to you here, I am just trying to give the pro's and con's on different election strategies.

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 10:06 PM

A platform would be easy: eliminate all superfluous spending, cut the Village budget by 20%, and spend on streets and san, police, and infrastructure and everything else would have to be self-sustaining. Motto: Making Oak Park great again.

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 10:01 PM

Roughly 5,000 people vote in each OP election. If you really wanted to change things, you'd only need about 4,000 voters to have a controlling block (say a total of 8k vote). Target the people in NW and NE OP where Popeco screwed them, and it wouldn't bee to hard to oust the board.

OP Resident #634  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:59 PM

New trustees might at least pull their head out of the stand. A proposed law outlawing eating and driving, more bricks and losing money selling the village manager's house and then firing him to lose more on severance hardly set an impressive track record. On top of Comcast, the high rise debacle, the parking garage debacle, suggesting Village Hall is architecturally interesting. Continuing to bleed businesses to surrounding 'burbs. I can continue if you wish.

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:35 PM

...and thanks OP Res #634, you raise great points. Our taxes have gone up (a lot even), and the Village continues to ignore several serious situations that ARE their responsibility -- the open air drug markets, the homeless issues, squatters, etc. Meanwhile, they do everything they can to lower property values and attract crime and problems with their housing project on Madison. Yes, maybe if we put enough bricks in the nice part of town, no one will notice the serious issues elsewhere. Sad.

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from OP  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:31 PM

Oh Bricklicious, you know darn well that the VOP doesn't have anything to do with most of those things. Park District, sure. It's also apparent that you don't want to well-run village that efficiently and effectivel spends out=r tax dollars....you want the trappings of suburban living. That's great, but it's not what the Board should be working on....it's what they DO work on (brick pavers we don;t need and all), and that's the fundamental issue.

Voter  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:20 PM

I suppose different trustees would make a difference in your examples? I dont see it.

OP Resident #634 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:13 PM

Bricklicious - and when do the heroin addicts gather at McDonalds and Thorntons to shoot up? When will someone else die at the flophouse on Lake across from the library? When will they break ground on the board's pet public housing disaster-to-be on Madison? When are you going to open your property tax bill and realize that we have, in fact, raised taxes recently and that decreases in property value has left many underwater in OP? I too could go on and on and on...

Voter  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:13 PM

On the other hand, I am not sure that everything that people dislike all falls in the Villages lap.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 7:30 PM

Go back home silly, you are done and there is a new Oak Park coming.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 7:28 PM

Bricklicious.com you are so wrong. The pool is not at all crowed like it use to pool. Day In Our Village use to be packed and the same with music in the park.Youth baseball is what it is and has nothing to do with what you do at the board. Summer camps for kids are not at all crowed like they use to be. Nothing is like it was because it is a name without the proper people behind it making things successful.

Brick Head  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 7:27 PM

@sillybrick - ... and anything that is good with the Village the Board gets the credit. The more you write, stupidier you sound.

Bricklicious.com  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 6:26 PM

The proof is all around you. Step outside on any given day or weekend and see what is going on in your Oak Park. People are out and about and enjoying this community more than ever. When does Music in the Park start? Or when does the Farmers Market start up again? Or youth baseball? Or the pools open? Or the summer camps for kids? Or Day in our Village? Or the SEOP fest? Or the Roosevelt Rd fest? Or the Micro brew review? and I can go on and on and on......

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from OP  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 4:03 PM

Silly: "Oh Well. Sucks to be you." and btw the epression is "FOOL all of the people some of the time". It's great that you repeat the exact feeling that more and more OPers feel everyday as our taxes rise, our property values fall, and our Village Board plans another irrelevant and unnecessary paver project with funds that they don't have. My neighbors have had it with this garbage. The next local election will be interesting. If Pope runs, he will lose. He can't fool the people this time.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 3:52 PM

Silly and Bricklicious, just by saying it doesn't make it so. Snow plowing is bad and it just has become acceptable. Pot holes are all over the place. Sewers need replacing. Giving away land to bring a builder who does't have money to build it must mean there is something else behind it because no responsible adult gives away tax payers land. Enjoy the last of your fun with tax payers money.

Bricklicious.com  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 3:50 PM

You can please come of the people some of the time and some of the people none of the time, but you cant please all of the people all of the time. You just happen to be part of a small percentage of people who think everything is terrible, it always has and there is no end in sight. Oh Well. Sucks to be you. More of the same from the same group. Ha.

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from OP  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 1:32 PM

Silly: Does it fulfill? My taxes are high, snow doesn't get plowed on a timely basis, my streets are full of potholes, and the Village Board is spending TIF money it doesn't have, has overspent for DPW building, gave away Village land for $1, fought OPRF on TIF, etc. Perhaps you should survey those OPers who have left or been forced out? Or those who might have moved here but moved to Elmhurst instead. In short, those who haven't been drinking the Kool-Aid that you and your ilk mix up...

Bricklicious.com  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 1:07 PM

Funny-Oak Park does fulfill just those things: It's a nice place to live, it's safe, it lives within it's budget(and hasnt raised taxes recetly), it raises property values, and it doesn't have an agenda outside of making Oak Park a better place for all. Perfect. The survey from the people said very different from what is being said on these comment pages as opinion by the majority of Oak Parkers. Time to see the truth.

OFF WITH THEIR HEADS from OP  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 12:58 PM

Silly/Bricklicious: I know exactly want I want...it's to stop useless vanity projects driven by a Board out of control. I just want the village to be a nice place to live, that's safe, lives within it's budget(and doesn't raise taxes), doesn't lower my property values, doesn't push an agenda. You and the Village Idiaots on the Board only see this as an attack because they've well overstepped their scope. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 12:49 PM

Everyone who wants a new responsible Oak Park government where your tax money is not wasted on Pope's legacy of bricks go to https://sites.google.com/site/concernedmadisonoakpark and contact the webmaster. Her name is Patricia and she is forming people together.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 12:40 PM

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois, if you run for President or a member of the board, you have my support. The timing on this story is only brought up now because the W.J. now realizes that people have had enough of Pope and the rest, and there is a new party developing that will win.

Silly Bricks from OP  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 11:37 AM

The person who posts as silly, bricklicious, happy, goofy, etc., does not seem capable of engaging in a nuanced discussion that considers both sides of an argument. Rather, he/she/it views things in reductionistic, either/or, all or nothing way, appearing to be a propaganda posting court jester. Is he/she/it on the payroll? I tire of him/her/it ...*sigh*

Bricklicious.com  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 10:50 AM

Brick Haters United for Oak Park. BHU. Boo Oak Park! We dont have anything to give. We just know what we dont like. Be very careful what you wish for because you may get it.

Taxpayer a/k/a Boss  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 10:38 AM

The Village Board is analogous of an employee. I hire what seems like an intelligent, good employee and give him/her general direction. If the employee does a good job consistent with company goals, I leave them alone. If the employee makes bad decisions and/or take actions in accordance with their own idealism which is inconsistent on why I hired them, then they must be micromanaged and perhaps eventually let go if they don't change. It's time to let go of Pope, Johnson and Lueck.

j.oakpark  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 10:26 AM

Brain research tells us that only twenty percent of human beings have a sense of irony, which means that eighty percent of the world takes everything at face value. Doug Coupland Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/irony.html#ixzz1qQRtac2P

OPRFDad  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:56 AM

It has nothing to do with micro managing and everything to do with overall strategy. The Board neglects maintenance to pursue flashy items like streets, and the downtown business district, which it is absolutely obsessed with. I don't think anyone elected officials based on the premise that the house would be neglected, but there would be a shiny new car in the driveway.

Kyle  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:49 AM

I think what it boils down to, Bricklicious, is your view about the local level democratic process. If you like the idea that you elect reps & they run the town, fine. They need to make sure the sidewalks are clean & the roads are smooth. If you think everybody needs a voice in the governance of their municipality, they we all need to step up & play a part. It's our government, it works for us.

Bricklicious.com  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:42 AM

I find it ironic that people are upset that the board micro manages but yet they (constituents) want to micro manage every aspect of the village themselves. They want a village wide vote on everything. Either you dont like micro managing or you are for it? What is is?

Kyle  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 9:06 AM

Re: Mr. Johnson's point about daily operations vs policy & Mr. Pope...isn't part of the problem in the Village right now that we're too focused on largescale policy issues? I know Mr. Murtagh has talked about micro-management. But it seems like the current Board likes to bite off big projects rather than focus on smooth, effective basic function. If the VMA is serious about the end part there, I applaud them.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 8:59 AM

Hi Brick - good questions. Without question, views that I have expressed will be challenged. So will the views of others. In my view we are attempting to bring more openness to the village board and the discipline to follow the tenets of our form of government - VM responsible for day to day issues and the board providing direction to the village with strong, clear, and consistent policy decisions. Position on issues should be the responsibility of candidates who emerge. To do anything else would be the adoption of the VMA style. To succeed we have to commit to a 100% transparent, non-partisan approach. The ROI is a high quality, objective, village board that understand the implication of decision and seek assertively the view of residents before committing the village to programs. The $ ROI cannot be quantified or forecast now, but will emerge within a few months. Finally, leadership of any organization fighting for better government must be committed to consensus in developing a plan.

Observer  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 8:52 AM

This will be an interesting election for it will be interesting to see how the VMA will spin the dissent in their political ranks. The VMA has been good at corralling dissenters in their own party, but everyone knows that Pope is on the outs. The VMA is excellent at manipulating the facts, and it will be interesting to see how they manipulate the decision by Pope not to run. Only if the VMA implodes, like the Republicans are in the presidential election, will the VMA be ousted in April

Bricklicious.com  

Posted: March 28th, 2012 8:33 AM

Should we all prepare ourselves to be schooled in what we "should" talk about and how we "should" vote by John Murtagh. Im sure if any Oak Parker's dont see it Johns way, we are all a bunch of fools. I think there will be a lot of "outside of Johns" world issues that should and can be addressed. My 1st question to John will be what will his ROI be if his candidates lose?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2012 11:19 PM

Good and timely article -- there are a lot of issues on the table that need serious discussion by residents. There is a group called ROP that is organizing to ensure that there are more candidates to select from, and a wider and more open discussion of issues. One of the major goals is a significant increase in voter turnout. The regular turnout of less than 20% is an embarrassment to OP Civic Involvement.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2012 11:13 PM

It great to start off an election discussion with a DTOP advertisement!

Economy  

Posted: March 27th, 2012 10:35 PM

The economy is on Oak Parks side. Business is picking up, shoppers are out and the summer will bring even more people out to Oak Park's great restuarants. Real estate is improving and our schools are flush with cash. No major construction in any of the shopping districts. Things are looking up. Can things get any better?

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