As communications coordinator for the New Leadership Party (NLP), I am responding to Ethel Cotovsky's letter attacking the character of Trustee Bob Milstein, the NLP candidate for village president ("Milstein's not the same Bob she remembers").
The NLP knew these types of attacks would be coming from the Village Manager Association (VMA) but we hoped both parties would take the high road and focus the campaign on the many concerns residents voice wherever we go.
Ethel is right that the 50-year-old VMA has done some wonderful things. The early VMA leadership took strong positions on good government, fair housing, affordable housing, diversity, the gay registry, historic preservation, and strong citizen commissions.
The VMA in recent years, however, has turned its back on good and open government. This past year, its own candidate selection caucus was by "invitation only," not open to the majority of Oak Parkers. It has become the party of the elite, representing special interests at the expense of the public good.
To the contrary, the NLP caucus was widely published with 65 members representing business owners, civic leaders and recent and long-time residents from all neighborhoods.
Members discussed many of the current issues and developed a platform addressing exactly where they stand on these issues, and they selected candidates who support those positions.
Based on meetings held throughout the village, we believe the majority of residents question the direction village government has taken in recent years, from dismissal of citizen input and overturning decisions made by Citizen Commissions to an unprecedented channeling of tax dollars from public projects to the hands of individual developers?#34;highlighted by the Whiteco give-away.
Basic city services and maintenance of our downtown are put on the back burner while selective development projects consume valuable human resources and tax dollars at the expense of our schools and parks which are under-funded.
The Roosevelt Road Farr Study sits on a shelf while more tax dollars will be pumped into downtown in spite of a 23-year TIF.
There is still no master plan for Madison Street, though we continue to lose high quality small businesses to Forest Park.
There are serious labor issues at Village Hall with many employees filing lawsuits that should be settled by arbitration, again a waste of tax dollars and human resources.
So, Ethel, you ask "Have you seen this man, Trustee Bob Milstein?" The answer is citizens have been watching Bob Milstein the last two years as he has worked to implement the platform he ran on two years ago with the Village Citizens Alliance?#34;who are not the "malcontents" you describe, but a group of residents who have stayed involved between elections to work for the same things that used to be important to the VMA.
Here are a few of the issues Trustee Milstein has advocated with his voice and his vote on the village board, which he will continue to advocate for if elected Village President in April: Plan before developing; transparent government; protecting our historic buildings; represent all of Oak Park; help small businesses be heard and get results; seek economic development and grow the tax base in all business districts; support the park district in its right to self-governing; promote policies that strengthen OP's racial and economic diversity.
Ethel, I participated with you on the VMA candidate selection caucus two years ago, and I remember you then as an issue-oriented person, not the mean-spirited person exhibited in your letter.
I believe this tone represents what the VMA has become, which is why so many citizens will be voting for the New Leadership Party candidates in April.
New Leadership Party