If we were dependent upon letters to the editors to judge the state of our Village of Oak Park, we would be victims of a deception. That would be due to a small band of letter writers which has been consistently attacking both elected and appointed village officials, implying that the village is badly governed and in a very sorry state.
Fortunately we have other sources of information. For example, there was the Chicago Tribune story reporting results of a survey which ranked zip code 60302 as having the greatest rate of housing value increases in the entire Chicago area over the period from 1999-2004. Local realtors will tell you that south Oak Park has also done extremely well. Even more recently the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Oak Park as one of America's 12 most distinctive places to visit. The trust's selection criteria went beyond architecture and historic preservation to include "well-managed growth, cultural diversity and an economic base of locally-owned small businesses."
Or we can just go for a walk (Oak Park is also known for its excellent "walkability") and see abundant evidence that the village is steadily renewing and improving itself with attractive residential, commercial and mixed-use developments. As former village officials we are also aware that under our streets there have been recent improvements in our water and sewer systems.
In other years, critics complained that Oak Park had too little economic development and that our business districts were going down hill. Now incumbent officials are being attacked for having successfully attracted new development including shopping opportunities. At one time, the fear was that Oak Park's population would continue declining from its 1940 peak of 66,000. Now that we have settled at a population of 52,500, the critics cry that we are facing the threat of over-population or its corollary, too many cars. The village has responded with a growing inventory of parking spaces.
Finally there is the complaint that the village government is too much under the control of a small number of elected and appointed officials and that the public is generally kept in the dark. Yet few, if any, suburban governments can match us in the number of citizen boards and commissions, the number of public hearings on a given topic, or the number of televised village board meetings.
Some of the letter-writing critics now want to be given positions of authority. In return, they promise that they will save Oak Park. But the simple fact is that Oak Park is not teetering on the brink of decline, it is thriving. Of course there will always be a need for critics, but not all critics are qualified to serve as leaders.
We have each had experience at governing and at writing letters to editors. Believe us when we say governing is much the harder job. Accordingly we suggest you look closely at the qualifications of those who now seek this harder job. We have done so and we conclude that the most qualified slate is the one being offered by "Oak Park First" with Diana Carpenter, Ray Barbosa, Dorothy Reid, Mas Takiguchi, and Sandra Sokol.
Lawrence Christmas, Barbara Furlong, John Philbin Former Oak Park Village Presidents