By John Hubbuch
The Village Manager Association's three candidates rolled to victory last week. That's barely news. The VMA has rolled to victory for the last 50 years. One-party rule is the edict in our community. But the East Germans tore down the Berlin Wall, and dictators are on the run in the Middle East, so anything is possible.
Don't get me wrong. I often have voted for the VMA, and probably will in the future, but everyone knows competition brings out the best in us. Plus no one wants to read blogs and columns complaining about VMA hegemony. Boring. So here's my first effort at a playbook on how to beat the VMA in 2013 — or at least win one lousy seat on the village board. Baby steps.
Trying to be the opposite of the VMA, or hypercritical of it, is a proven recipe for defeat. Same thing for putting together a bunch of angry dissidents, such as NIMBYs, greens, preservationists, et al. These voters hate the VMA and will vote for the challengers anyway. The way forward is VMA Lite. Use their template, but be a little different. Take the high road, but make it clear that it's time for a change — new people, new issues. Instead of McDonald's, think Burger King, not vegetarian. Instead of Walgreens, think CVS, not homeopathic medicine.
You need all new candidates with good résumés. Do not trot out the losers from previous campaigns. They can be workers and strategists, just not candidates. You need friendly "nice guys" and "nice gals." We need good paper — Northwestern and U of C grads with real jobs would be nice. Voters like smart, affable candidates. A little diversity would be nice, but is not a requirement.
Now here are some items for consideration in the platform. First, the new party has to be the most conservative fiscally. The VMA will be onto this, so the insurgents need something dramatic, like a two-year freeze on expenditures, or 5 percent cuts. Nothing crazy, but it has to be real. We will do more with less in the New Economy (whatever that means).
Second, you need to criticize the VMA's approach to business development, and focus on all the empty lots and vacant buildings in town (great visuals for campaign literature). You pledge to rationalize and streamline all the various business districts, rather than the current hodgepodge of balkanization. You emphasize the importance of local ownership of buildings and businesses (except, of course, Lake Theatre's Willis Johnson).
Third, you promise to clean house at village hall, and get rid of all the surly workers who have acted like it is an imposition to wait on resident voters for all the stupid stickers and permits we can't get online.
Fourth, you promise to streamline the building-permit process so that you can add a porch to your house without the permit process taking three months and four meetings at village hall. Improving your home should be encouraged, not made into something akin to removing nuclear waste.
Fifth, you promise a top-down review of parking, including rescinding the overnight ban, and elimination of parking meters in certain areas.
This is just a start. No doubt, there will be new issues to emerge in coming months. As Jack Fagan once told me, "Friends fade away, but your enemies accumulate." All of the VMA's enemies will vote for the new guys, and there's no reason the new party couldn't sway half of the rest of the electorate if voters could choose fresh, attractive candidates with positions slightly different from the VMA's. The newspapers would love to endorse such candidates.
One thing is clear: Pursuing the same strategies with the same candidates appealing to the same constituencies and expecting a different electoral result is insanity. Time for a change. Let's have a real election.
John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one. Read his blog at www.oakpark.com/Community.