Congratulations to Anan Abu-Taleb on winning Tuesday's election for Oak Park village president. After a long and hard-fought campaign, the voters have spoken. Their message is clear: Oak Park's government must work faster, smarter, and more effectively to meet the needs of its residents and businesses.
In Wednesday Journal's endorsement for village president, both of us were called upon to help fight government inertia and genuinely refashion the way we recruit and retain businesses in Oak Park. We welcome and happily accept this challenge.
We will miss John Hedges terribly. For two years he has been our mentor. He has served Oak Park with distinction for more than three decades and touched the lives of every Oak Parker through his work with the park district and in village hall. Although, together with Trustee Hedges, we found ourselves on the losing side of some challenging 4-3 votes, we found strength in having him with us. Trustee Hedges' dogged dedication to monitor the use of every tax dollar is a model for all elected officials.
Trustee Hedges was an invaluable resource to us when we arrived at the board table two years ago with so much to learn. We are committed to serving as a similar resource for Anan as he continues to work to get up to speed on the huge range of issues he will encounter in his new role. Governance in a community like Oak Park has to be a collaborative process.
The village board operates best when each member can build on each other's strengths and areas of expertise. Anan's experience as a successful business owner in our community will be of great value and brings an important and needed perspective to the board. We knew Anan well before the election. He is bright, passionate, and bubbling over with ideas for how to improve Oak Park.
We, Anan, and the rest of our colleagues on the village board share one primary goal: to continue to make Oak Park the best place in the Midwest to live, work and raise a family. To do that, we will have to focus on two key areas that Oak Parkers have repeatedly emphasized.
First, we must fiercely combat the increasing tax burden on Oak Park residents. High real estate taxes are a real threat to the diversity that sits at the core of our identity as Oak Parkers. While the percentage of your tax bill that actually goes to the village is less than 15%, we still are charged with finding ways to provide a good level of service at a lower cost. Additionally, to make a real impact to the bottom line for Oak Park taxpayers, all of the taxing bodies must make the hard decisions to share staff, purchasing power, and equipment. We are excited to start working with the newly elected officials from other boards as well as returning board members to achieve consensus on reducing the cost of local government while meeting the service needs and expectations of our residents.
Second, Oak Park must strengthen its working relationship with businesses, both those already operating within our borders and those looking to open or develop within our borders. Oak Park can't be viewed as the community of red tape, delays, and processes gone awry. We must be seen as a village of innovation and action.
On April 9, the voters reminded us that, in Oak Park, our policy priorities come from the neighborhoods and business districts, not the halls of local government. We will continue to listen closely to the community, and we pledge to work together as a board for the common good of Oak Park.
We are all in this together.
We look forward to working with Anan over the next few years. And when it gets really tough, we know a good place
to grab a margarita.