Vote Oak Park First, and vote for optimism and confidence

Opinion

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Your participation in the village elections on April 5 will chart a future course for our schools, parks, library and village with consequences far beyond the terms of those you want to elect. What makes this election so important? Why should you be motivated to vote? Why should you participate? Because you need the slate of Oak Park First candidates to win. They are the people committed to building upon the already extraordinarily high level of satisfaction Oak Parkers have with their quality of life here.

I feel honored and privileged to be a current trustee on the village board. I've received so many expressions of the hopes and dreams residents have for the community. Most Oak Parkers are clearly focused on ensuring a better tomorrow for ourselves and for those to come. I know that serving Oak Park requires me to understand all sides of an issue, and to work effectively with people of differing opinions and philosophy of government. I've worked with colleagues who were supported by the Village Manager Association and with those who were not?#34;but the goals and objectives remain.

I've learned that hope and optimism with a focus on the future is what this election should be about. And that is why the 2005 election is critical. For if we were to listen only to some whom attend village board meetings or write letters to the editor, we might begin to believe that Oak Park is on the decline. We might begin to believe that our schools are not meeting high standards. We might even begin to believe Oak Park isn't the community we thought it was. But don't you believe it.

Consider these impressive features of our village that some critics don't want you to know:

? Sound village finances and solid bond ratings.

? Record breaking investment in the business and residential communities. Zip code 60302 has the fastest appreciation in home values in the Chicagoland area.

? Strong intergovernmental cooperation between taxing bodies.

? Recent expansion of joint purchasing and service delivery with neighboring communities.

? Retention and expansion of key businesses.

? Unparalleled quality standards in public safety and emergency services.

? And much, much more.

But still, we hear and read about discord and divisiveness. Consider the source of these accusations. What's the political agenda here? Why foster discord rather than promote discourse? What's to gain by casting your vote for candidates who refuse to acknowledge good news? Yes, we can and should acknowledge our challenges, but we need to meet those challenges head on within a spirit and framework of teamwork and cooperation.

Here's a classic example of the reality editing the opposition does: the scientifically valid 2004 Oak Park citizen's survey tells us Oak Park is meeting and exceeding residents' expectation. When compared to other communities in the Chicagoland region, Oak Park was ranked number one as a place to raise children, number two with neighborhoods as a great place to live and number three in overall quality of life. Yet, some of our opponents derisively refer to it as "the happy talk survey." They are displeased to learn people are pleased.

The progress VMA endorsed majority boards have made is due in large measure to the fact that VMA candidates are not beholden to any special interest group. They are independent thinkers who strive for the common good. The Oak Park First slate follows in this tradition.

A vote for the entire Oak Park First (OPF) slate?#34;Diana Carpenter-president, Sandra Sokol-clerk, Ray Barbosa, Dorothy Reid, and Mas Takiguchi?#34;trustee candidates is a vote for: continued support for appropriate, positive economic development opportunities for an expanded tax base, strong public safety and services, neighborhood police stations, exceptional fire and EMS services, and continued low crime rates. The OPF slate commits to working within a framework of respect and civility towards our citizens, elected officials, volunteers, and skilled village staff. The slate's vision includes achieving even greater efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of village services, and physically reuniting our community with a Cap over the Ike.

If you elect the OPF candidates, you can be confident they will work with the entire board to set new and innovative goals.

Don't make choices on Tuesday April 5 based on what people tell you to be afraid of. Choose the candidates who share your optimism and confidence in Oak Park's future. Choose the candidates who can lead in a way that provides a greater return for all of us.

I'm convinced the right choice is Carpenter, Sokol, Barbosa, Reid and Takiguchi, so join me in putting "Oak Park First" on April 5th. Visit www.OakParkFirst.org to learn more.

Ray Johnson
Oak Park Trustee

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