New village government: Finding a way forward together

Opinion: Columns

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Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman

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.

We agree.

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.


Reader Comments

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Citizen X from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 7:55 PM

Great to see this. Togetherness will be important in mapping the future of Oak Park.

Kristen Comm  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 6:46 PM

Thanks for being the voices of reason. The election is over and it's time to get to work keeping Oak Park a great place to live and work!

Jenny Jocks Stelzer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 6:04 PM

Once again, trustees Tucker and Salzman, you have proven yourselves true civil servants. We're lucky to have you!

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 5:52 PM

The elitist policy of "Government Knows Best" championed by Pope and supported in lockstep by Trustees Johnson & Lueck, is archaic and obsolete, esp. in light of the elections and joint statement by Trustees Tucker & Salzman. The policy of a collaborative civic effort that empowers residents and local businesses to excel and prosper at what they do best, is a return to the spirit of a Jeffersonian democracy which served Oak Park so well in the past. Trustees Brewer & Barber, are you listening?

Dan Doody from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 4:56 PM

Words are the first foundation of bridge building. The voters have told all elected officials we expect more from local government, and that we want our voices heard. Anan has challenged everyone to be responsive and respectful, elected officials and an engaged citizenry. Let's get working!

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 4:37 PM

"We are all in this together". Trustees Tucker and Salzman have set a great tone for moving forward in a progressive fashion. I know that the Library Board will fully cooperate

Joe Lyons from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 4:13 PM

I'm even more optimistic now that concerns about electing Anan would result in the work of the Village Board grinding to a halt were unfounded. Thank you Trustee Tucker and Trustee Salzman for expressing your commitment to the broad interests of Oak Park residents.

Brett Burwell from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 2:04 PM

The open-mindedness and proactive effort towards collaboration on display in this article is exactly what I'd hope for and expect from our local officials. Bravo to you both Trustees Tucker and Salzman.

OP Transplant  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:58 PM

DeJordy - I own a single-family home in OP, but I also have a condo in another state. I'd never have bought a condo that didn't have off-street parking. When you buy a condo that doesn't have parking, you knowingly put yourself at the mercy of the VOP.

drmr from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:53 PM

While the trustees are certainly accurate in stating the village portion of the tax bill is only 15% of the total burden,would they like to tell us just how much percentage- wise the village taxes have risen in the past 5 years?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:53 PM

Mimi - Voting increased by 5% this election to 23% of the registered voting actually voting. That might sound like a low vote - it is, and a small increase - it's not. Local voting has been in the teens for a decade. The increase is confirmation not only that people want change -- they will vote for it. The better we get, the more voters that participate, and the better we get, etc. etc, etc. Next target is a 32% turnout. That was the turnout in River Forest this year.


Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:42 PM

I hope for 3 things: --A common sense approach to retail. No more near-literal pie-in-th-sky hotel projects. In Hemingway District, I used to be able to walk to a grocery store. Now I can walk to a vacant lot. --Get out the word that it is the school that is devouring the middle class with ever-rising taxes. --Finally overhaul the parking system, which gives privileged status and cedes public assets (street parking) to one group of property owners (houseowners) over another (condo owners)

Kibler from Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:39 PM

Bravo!! Two trustees that GET it - that this election was not about John Hedges or Anan. This was a landslide vote for change - away from the oak park-is-the-center-of-the-universe ethos and towards a more nimble, customer-centered approach that gives us a chance to maintain what is so special about our great community. Thank you in advance for your contributions to our future.

RTW from oak park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:30 PM

Kudos to Adam Salzman and Bob Tucker for reaching out to President-Elect Anan! Looking forward to some great accomplishments for Oak Park ahead--starting with getting a handle on taxes, as you have said.

Scott Wallace from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 1:28 PM

The competition of a campaign has to give way to the cooperation of governance. Cudos to trustees with the courage and grace to reach out. Many of us echo their thanks to John. Anan set the tone early and consistently: it's not personal, it's about ideas. We're a little village, without the anonymity of state or national politics. Respect, cooperation and compromise are what we teach our kids, and what we look for in local government. This editorial is a great step to a better future.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 12:48 PM

It is this spirit which drew me to Anan's campaign. I have no doubt that in this spirit the Village Board will be able to accomplish the goals mentioned above. I would also add that we residents and taxpayers also have a responsibility to get involved. Let's not squander the positive energy generated in this campaign.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 12:34 PM

Great to read these trustees mentioning Oak Park's neighborhoods. The results of neglect and delay are having an negative impact on the community. Addressing the business district needs and expectations is important but not at the expense of our neigborhoods' crumbling streets, sidewalks, sewer systems and alleys. If we are truly "all in this together" let's see the board take action and develop a plan to repair and rebuild.

Manning Peterson from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 12:32 PM

Change isn't always huge and obvious. Trustees Salzmann and Tucker have been making small, meaningful changes to our village within their roles as trustees and through the way they honestly communicate with villagers. Congrats to both of them for extending an olive branch of cooperation, and I hope the rest of the board will join them in working with our new president to tackle problems we face. We need to work together, Oak Park!

Concerned Citizen from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 12:06 PM

The majority of Oak Park's citizens voted for change. I hope the board of trustees honors that and is open to new ideas. I've too often heard the phrase "There is a certain way you do business in Oak Park". It's time to pull back on the high paid consultants and Utopian projects. Let's concentrate on efficiency and broadening the tax base. It is a great thing that democracy is alive in Oak Park, at least on the presidential ticket. It's time there was opposition in the trustee race as well.

Steven Rouse from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 11:57 AM

Adam & Bob: I admire the spirt behind the position you have both taken. We all need to find the areas we can agree upon and move forward, despite the fact that our candidate did not win the election.

Joe L from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 11:28 AM

This reasoned and positive statement is a continuation of the thoughtful independence that Tucker, Salzman and Hedges have demonstrated during the past few years. I hope Anan realizes the opportunity here, and tries to lead towards the type of common sense consensus that Tucker and Salzman have already been trying to forge.

Oak Park Mom from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 9:43 AM

Paul, I was about to say the same thing. I voted for Hedges, but this article sets the perfect tone of cooperation. Our national leaders could learn a thing or two!

Paul Noble from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 9:39 AM

I happened to vote for Hedges as well, but it's good to see that those already situated are reaching out. If only we could find a modicum of this good will at the national level.

Maureen Spain  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 9:19 AM

Kudos to you, Trustees Salzman and Tucker on taking the right approach! We are only going to move forward if we work together. I am excited to see the progress that I know you and the rest of board will make in the coming years.

Adam Wallace from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 8:33 AM

Sitting on a beach in Panama reading this, and this article will be the best part of my day! I fully supported Anan in the campaign, and am thrilled to hear such strong support from the board. Time to buckle down and get to work. No one can do it alone. Together, We Can Be More!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 12:23 AM

Your training from John Hedges is showing. You are class acts!

Cheryl Muņoz from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2013 12:11 AM

Although I supported John Hedges for Village President, I welcome AND support our elected Village President Anan Abu- Taleb 100%. I admire his tenacity and commitment to small business and respect the opinion of the majority of voting Oak Parkers who voted for him. My concern regarding Anan's ability to govern our village is his lack of experience. I am heartened to know that both Trustees Salzman and Tucker are committed to bringing Anan "up to speed". Now, let's get to work!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 16th, 2013 11:34 PM

This is great! LOVE LOVE LOVE

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