New Leadership Party supports Park District Referendum

Opinion

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Over the next 10 years, Oak Park will be faced with exciting challenges. Responding to these challenges will require a balance of creativity and pragmatism. Whether the issue is balancing the imperative for economic growth with the importance of historic architecture, or balancing the necessity for openness in a citizen driven government with the need to make timely and difficult decisions in the interest of all citizens, your village board has to think and act deliberately, but with respect.

As a voter, you will face one of these critical balancing decisions in the April 5 election. The park district is placing a referendum on the ballot that requests additional funding for the parks of approximately $2.9 million. The New Leadership Party (NLP) slate sees the park district's request as a balancing decision between the funding challenges faced by the institutions that serve us, like schools, or in this case the parks, with the capacity of Oak Parkers to financially support those needs.

After careful consideration, the NLP slate is in full support of the park board's unanimous decision to authorize the referendum. As candidates, we want you to understand our thinking on this issue as it will give you a sense of how we will make decisions once elected.

The district needs these funds to execute a 5-year capital plan that will renew park facilities in every neighborhood. In addition to these needs, the district would also like to, over time, eliminate the need to take funding support (approximately $1.6 million per year) from the village.

As a slate, we do not take a decision that involves asking voters for more money lightly. We considered a number of factors before arriving at this decision.

The parks have not sought additional funds from voters in 35 years. We think that's a reflection of excellent financial management and judgment.

As a percentage of total tax collected, the portion collected on behalf of parks in Oak Park is 2 percent. In Forest Park, they spend 7 percent. River Forest spends 5 percent. Even Berwyn spends 3 percent. We think kids in Oak Park deserve no less than their neighbors.

A committee appointed by the park and village boards recommended the capital plan and its funding. We think citizens who care are an excellent source of good ideas.

Over half the funding requested is meant to replace funding currently provided by the village. That means we can cut the impact in half by simply directing village staff to reduce its levy by the same $1.6 million. If elected, the NLP is committed to this reduction in conformance with the district plan.

Balancing the numeric concerns is extremely important. But the NLP slate is also concerned about quality of life issues. Quality schools, quality parks, diversity, and growth opportunities for business are what make this village a great place to live. The capital plan proposed by the park board represents these values which are also embodied in the NLP platform.

These points taken together, in our view, strike the proper balance between need and the capacity to pay. The parks have managed their money well, and they are planning carefully for the future of our village. If the NLP is elected to a majority of the board, we can reduce the impact of the increase substantially by making reductions in the village budget and still get all of the benefits. From improvements in infrastructure to the critical after school programs for children, the NLP slate wants to see the park district funded to meet its goals.

We think you'll agree with us and we ask that you vote for the NLP slate on April 5.

Robert Milstein
NLP candidate for Village President
Sharon Patchak-Layman
NLP candidate for Village Clerk
Geoff Baker, Martha Brock, Greg Marsey
NLP candidates for Village Trustee

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