Here's a killer statistic: In the upcoming April 5 local elections, guess how many fewer voters are likely to go to the polls than turned out for the national election just this past Nov. 2? If recent history is an accurate indicator, would you believe more than 20,000?
In the April 2003 local elections, 7,311 people voted. In last November's presidential election a whopping 28,066 cast ballots. That's quite a difference. Just a year and a half later, 20,755 more people voted.
Which may mean 20,755 fewer voters will show up next Tuesday.
The village has approximately 52,000 residents, of which approximately 34,500 are registered voters. That's up almost 4,000 since April of 2003, the last time we voted for the village and school boards. In the 2003 village election?#34;where people got pretty worked up, you may recall?#34;only 23.6 percent of registered voters punched cards. In November of 2004?#34;when, you may recall, people were even more worked up?#34;81.4 percent of registered voters turned out.
What does it mean when 57.8 percent of the voters in your community?#34;who have proven themselves perfectly capable of exercising the privilege?#34;don't bother to go to the polls to elect the local boards that most directly and immediately spend their tax dollars?
One would have to assume they don't care?#34;or find it too boring.
Hard to understand, especially for a community journalist. Believe me, as towns go, this one is particularly interesting.
And the most interesting race is the one for village president. Three people running, very different personalities. We could end up with President Pope, which sounds like a contradiction in terms. He might try to annoy his critics by asking, "Who died and made you Pope?"
Or we could end up with a president who's a Carpenter.
Or a president named "Bob," which isn't quite as casual as "Bobby" or "The Bobster," but we haven't had that level of informality since "Larry" Christmas left office. Back then, however, people were far more intrigued by having a president named "Christmas."
His successor was named Furlong (also a unit of distance measuring 220 yards or an eighth of a mile), but despite my urgings, on election night 1997, this paper refused to run the headline "VMA wins by a Furlong."
If Milstein wins, he may insist we address him as "Robert" instead of "Honorable Bob," which is a daunting prospect. But if Pope wins, he might try to make us kiss his ring. And if Carpenter wins, her supporters, or her opponents (or WEDNESDAY JOURNAL, for that matter) might start calling her "The Hammer."
So there's a lot at stake. I don't think anyone can predict this election, which makes it even more interesting. Milstein's New Leadership Party seems unified, energized, insurgent, and surly, but in a controlled, amiable way. The VMA's party seems old, dispirited, and crotchety, but in a controlled, amiable way. Pope's party ... well, the Pope doesn't need a party.
But this Pope used to be with the VMA, and everyone's wondering how he'll split the vote. Will he take away VMA support and throw the election to Milstein or will he attract enough anti-VMA voters to throw the election to Carpenter? Or will he attract enough support from both camps to win the election himself?
The outcome will tell us much about where the political power now lies in Oak Park, and which direction we may be heading: No-holds-barred development, development blended with historic preservation, or an excessive pursuit of the process that may render us developmentally delayed?
At the very least, that seems reason enough to cast a vote on April 5.