Pope jump-starts extended transition with special meetings

? Trustee Milstein lauds Pope's early outreach, pledges change in tone of governing.

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After taking a brief post-election break with his family, Oak Park President-elect David Pope has been busy bridge-building and planning the longest transition period in village history.

Under a new state law which extends the time frame between elections and the seating of new officials, Pope and his new board colleagues will not be sworn in until early May. Not wanting to lose momentum, Pope has planned two "transition committee" meetings with both new and carry-over board members beginning this week.

The first meeting, tonight at village hall, will focus on development issues. Pope said he wants all trustees up to speed on "the current status" of all development projects and "projected activities." It is also a time for the new board to raise questions it would like village staff to address, he said.

A second meeting will be held to update the new board on village finances.

Trustee Robert Milstein, who was defeated by Pope in the race for village president, was laudatory of Pope's post-election outreach. "David has the intelligence and the will to get things done. There will be a change in tone. David is working now behind the scenes. I've had four or five conversations with David. They have been long and very pleasant," said Milstein. Milstein, who says he is the "senior member" among trustees both by age and length of service [two years], downplayed positions he informally stated last week on a range of issues involving development. "I look back [on those comments] as too strident. Too harsh."

Milstein had said that elements of the Downtown Oak Park redevelopment plan?#34;including demolition of Tudor buildings on Westgate, the reopening of the Marion Street pedestrian mall and the creation of Station Street?#34;were dead. He also said he would recommend that Pope consider a buyout of the Whiteco project to avoid its construction.

Speaking Monday, Milstein said, "There are some very good elements to the [downtown] plan. It needs some tweaking. I believe the National Historic Trust should have some input and that we should look at their Main Street program. I believe that David agrees with me." Of his Whiteco buyout proposal, Milstein said, "It is never going to happen. We just have to move on. Whiteco is going to move ahead. The village will honor the contract."

He also denied rumors that the new board might consider overturning the current board's recent vote to extend the downtown Tax Increment Financing District. "I don't think the TIF is rescindable. You can't rescind the TIF. I may push for an aggressive carve-out process. But that is something for the whole board to deal with. We need to move ahead without rehashing the old stuff."

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