Oak Park Housing commission plans task force

Anti-discrimination watchdog poised to appoint 12-member taskforce

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A special commission charged with fighting racial discrimination in Oak Park's rental housing market held its first meeting, Tuesday, tentatively forming a 12-member task force made up of citizens and village officials.

The commission was created in response to a report released in February showing that property management companies and other owners of rental units in Oak Park had discriminated against African-American tenants and those with hearing disabilities.

The commission, which includes chairmen of the village's Housing Programs Advisory Committee, Community Relations Commission and Disability Access Commission, along with their trustee liaisons and other village officials, set a tentative date of Oct. 31 for the taskforce to complete its work, but no final decision was made.

Establishing the goals and expectations for the planned taskforce was the primary objective of the commission. 

Commissioners agreed that education of renters could be a key factor in rooting out discrimination when it happens. Cedric Melton, the village's director of Community Relations, has said that the village only received a handful of complaints concerning rental discrimination over the last 20 years and none have been credible.

John Murtagh, former chairman of the Community Relations Commission, a citizen advisory board, said the problem could partly be due to the fact that the Community Relations Department has been reduced to a single employee over the last several decades.

"There was a time when there were 10 or 15 people on that staff," Murtagh said. "When you do that, you make a budgetary decision and an administrative decision; you are hurting the ability to enforce discrimination [ordinances], so you are part of it."

He said that in order to figure out the cause of the discrimination practices, "you have to go deep."

"You don't really want to go deep; you want to say that this was just a hiccup," he said. "Well, I don't know as a resident if it's just a hiccup or not."

Trustee Glenn Brewer said the village will never be able to end every form of discrimination, but added, "In our little slice of the pie, we need to do everything we can to make sure our process works in detecting discrimination and letting people know that there are venues you can use if you feel you have been discriminated against."

Trustee Bob Tucker said the commission could charge the taskforce with reviewing the structural overview of the Community Relations Department.

"What is the proper structure? Is it increasing Cedric's staff? Is it doing away with Cedric's department? I don't know," Tucker said.

Tucker argued that the taskforce should also explore making testing on housing discrimination an ongoing component of any proposal brought forward. 

Village President Anan Abu-Taleb said he wants the taskforce to explore accountability of the various housing agencies involved "to find out where things went wrong and correct them."

The commission will meet again on March 17 at 5:30 p.m. at village hall.

Contact: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

11 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

OPDad  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 3:07 PM

Get over the racial thing already. It only perpetuates victimhood. Oak Park and Oak Parkers truly are stuck in the 1960s.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 7:46 AM

How do we know that the landlords and village officials are not working hand in hand to promote discrimination for their benefit?

Mike S  

Posted: March 6th, 2014 7:40 AM

Although it is tiring to hear from the same old posters, I have to say that Murtagh is right. Its politics as usual to look for someone to blame other than the landlords themselves. We need to move forward to address the problem, not look back.

Melissa  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 9:22 PM

Wow! Are you serious? I've been living in El Paso (Safest city in the U.S) for 8 years and I'm getting ready to move back to my home city of Chicago--specifically Oak Park. Please tell me Oak Park is not behind the power curve here. I mean, we have a rainbow of colors serving in the military and the human race has a lot working against all of us right now. The powers that be must laughing at us working against each other and ignoring what is really going on. Wake up already!

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 9:19 PM

Speedway - would add profiting to profiling and discrimination.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 6:12 PM

From the sound of a human voice to the color of one's skin. Sad to say that profiling and discrimination are still very much alive in Oak Park. The greater sadness is that we have to involve federal and local government to correct these inequalities. Isn't this part of what the dialogue was about on the blog for being black in America.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 4:24 PM

Anon - I feel a bit dumb!

Anon[ymous] Oak Parker  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 3:24 PM

Oops. I'm not Anan.

John Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 2:39 PM

It's odd that the village president would misspell his own first name.

Anon Oak Parker  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 1:05 PM

Part of the problem is reporting. Its very hard for the village or its agencies to combat housing discrimination if it doesn't receive any complaints. Part of the response will have to involve notifying and educating citizens about their rights.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 5th, 2014 11:11 AM

The village board held a Special OP Board Meeting, with four members present, on Monday night to form a Task Force to recommend steps to ensure that the Human Rights discrimination uncovered by the Hope Survey is vetted and failures fixed. Decisions were made. There will be 12 people on the Task Force. The Task Force will complete its work by the fall. It also determined that the Task Force should have two or three board members, three commission chairs, two representatives from the realty business, and a representative from HPAC, the village housing arm. Three more people will be appointed. I do not question the skills, professionalism, and human rights passion of the nine selected, but do question the objectivity and thoroughness of a Task Force when 75 percent of its membership never asked, Are we enforcing discrimination laws properly? Are we focusing enough resources on enforcement? during the last 15 years.

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