Oak Park is positioned for progress

Opinion: Columns

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John Hedges

I would like to thank Wednesday Journal for its endorsement of my candidacy for village president. Yet it is voters, not newspapers, who will determine the election on April 9. Experience has been a major issue in this campaign. As the endorsement pointed out, I am the experienced candidate who can make change happen. Why should that make the difference in your voting decision?

First, in my experience on the board for the past six years, I have a solid record as a fiscal conservative. I've challenged village staff to do more with less, but at the same time to be more customer-friendly. I have challenged colleagues on school and park boards to work together to save taxpayers money, and our local development officials to take a more rational, forward-looking approach. We've made progress on these issues, but there is more work to be done. When I say those will be my priorities as your village president, it's not idle talk. It will happen.

Second, I will be able to lead this board because I will have the support of the trustees. I have earned their respect and trust as a colleague, and the feeling is mutual. We have not always agreed on everything, including budget issues, streetscaping, and development on Madison Street, and I expect there will be disagreements ahead. But I do expect to have their support on major initiatives because we share the same priorities for moving Oak Park forward.

Finally, when unforeseen issues arise, as they do with amazing frequency, you need a president and trustees who have proven they have the judgment to make decisions in the best interest of the entire community, without derailing their broader priorities. When those tough decisions arise, you can trust that I have the experience to make sound decisions in your interest based on my years of civic engagement in Oak Park, my understanding of the myriad of interests that exist in our community, my appreciation of our heritage, and my optimism about our future.

My opponent has tried to convince you that Oak Park is in crisis. The fact is, our community is thriving and well positioned as the broader economy continues to improve. The village is in its best financial position in years. Since I've been on the board, our parking fund debt has been reduced by $7 million; we have built reasonable cash reserves; we've maintained a strong bond rating. Downtown Oak Park was just selected as one of the best in the Chicago area. New businesses are opening every week. These are the facts and these are the real accomplishments that we will build on over the next four years.

On Election Day, experienced, tested leadership really does matter. I am the experienced candidate who can keep Oak Park moving forward. We can't do that by standing still or spinning our wheels with those who need on-the-job training. I ask for your vote on April 9 and commit to always putting Oak Park first. Visit www.voteopt.org to send in a question and to view our Oak Park Together Action Plans.

Reader Comments

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Adam Salzman from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 4:54 PM

John Hedges is the right man for this job. He has a vision of where Oak Park needs to go. He knows how to get there. He will lead a board committed to maintaining a high level of services while attaining greater operational efficiencies; he will engage in the collaboration necessary to keep our tax burden in check; and he will use his unmatched experience in local government to position this Village for the future. John is going to win tomorrow. He's going to be a great Village President.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 4:04 PM

In the last few days I have received three unsolicited emails from non-VMA members, each urging support for Mr. Hedges. The theme that runs through each of these endorsements on behalf of John cite his history of civic involvement, his integrity, and his deep knowledge of the community. I think that speaks volumes as to how the greater community views John Hedges, and I am proud the VMA selected him as their candidate to run for President of the Village.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 3:28 PM

My perspective is we can all close this campaign out on a high note -- no matter who we support. As an example, I met Mr. Anan Abu-Taleb's brother and niece yesterday while canvassing as we approached two voters who were gardening -- I was heading North / they were heading South. It was one of those moments where we all shook hands, said this is what small town democracy looks like, and made our case for our respective candidates. No harsh words were necessary; no personal attacks; no nasty comments. A simple 'good luck' to each of our sides as we continued. While my focus is to elect Mr. John Hedges, I always comes back to this vibrant community; our values and the needs of all citizens. I've obviously witnessed John in action working on behalf of our community. My time with John goes back 15 years when we both served on the Community Chest Board of Directors. The gentleman I sat beside then is the same one I see today: fully committed to Oak Park; excited to be giving back to a community he believes has given him much, thoughtful and caring in a natural way -- so people feel like they've been heard with the utmost respect. It's the John Hedges I know -- and the one I believe will make an outstanding Village President. He will lead a board committed to his goals of improving services, looking long-term, while carefully spending your dollars. His record is clear -- a fiscal conservative with a social conscience and commitment to equity, fairness and a sustainable future. That is the John Hedges I know and one I hope you support with your vote tomorrow.

The Oak Park way  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 5:39 PM

Glass Half Full, my prediction is that whether Anan or Hedges wins, Oak Parkers will find something to whine about. There will always be one more sled hill, pothole, surplus, or failed development to complain about. It's what we do! Embrace it, come to the dark side! Know what? I'm upset you're so happy here. lol You should be miserable while living in a great place like the rest of us.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 5:21 PM

I chose Oak Park over many other locations, and I have never regretted the move. I guess that means I love it. To me, loving where you live requires involvement in the community and that includes taking an active rule in supporting candidates that share your view.

Glass Half Full  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 5:12 PM

I'm sorry that so many of you are so unhappy here in Oak Park. Perhaps a landlocked village that manages to provide excellent education, prides itself on its diversity, cherishes the charms of old buildings, enjoys the convenience of public transit to Chicago (even if that means we live near a high crime area) and has pride in community isn't really what you want. I don't recognize the picture you paint. Perfect? No. But some of us still love it, flaws and all.


Posted: April 4th, 2013 10:34 AM

"@Tired has Memory Issues ... the village was required to buy the Colt Bldg. from Taxman as per the terms of the 2001 Put/Call Agreement," You have memory issues, they did this because of the Schwab led cabal that refused to let Taxman redevelop it. It is now the Schwab memorial parking lot.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 9:55 AM

Sertus, Madison Highlands, the Opera, Madison Avenue's destruction, TIF Funds, Lawsuits, Red Bricks, $100M Debt, Remediation, Colt, Whiteco, Leaky Sewers, and Pigeons.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 9:48 AM

Every post I have read this week from the Current and Past Board Members brings the final words of Springsteen song, "Glory Days" to my mind. FEEL FREE TO SING ALONG! "Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days"


Posted: April 4th, 2013 8:41 AM

Mr. Hedges, leadership is not tested on a board of syncophants. Your "leadership" has gotten where exactly? Dysfunction in Village Hall, wasted resources, rudderless economic development and disdain for the taxpaying residents. And your plan is "more of the same"? No thanks.

Tired and Memory  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 8:27 AM

And don't even mention parking, Mr. Hedges. I have more parking ticket horror-stories and surprisingly none of them are every dismissed even though I have legitimate complaints. I am sick of the parking situation in Oak Park and if Mr. Hedges wants to brag about increased revenue, that's a huge issue for voters. Remember your words!

Tired and Memory  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 8:23 AM

Let's face it, the village is in the hands of certain developers and spend lavishly with those developers. Crumbling streets and alleys mean nothing but let someone get an idea of putting bricks on Marion and yep, we are all for that. Who the heck cares? Meantime the rest of us (especially south Oak Park) are begging for some decent development on Harrison, Madison and Roosevelt. Does the village care? No. That's on the president & trustees which includes Mr. Hedges

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 8:18 AM

@Tired has Memory Issues ... the village was required to buy the Colt Bldg. from Taxman as per the terms of the 2001 Put/Call Agreement, a highly flawed contract from the Trapani era. As far as squandered development opportunities, Taxman's proposed massive downtown project was scheduled to coincide with the housing bubble of 2006 and economic recession of 2007-10, and would have assuredly shared a similar fate of the unfinished SoHo project and other development projects of that time period.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 7:56 AM

Ray Johnson ... all your examples of progress are relative to a baseline year, which you have not provided. Are you comparing 2013 to 2007, the bottom of the recession, or a pre-recession time period? Also, are you including the loss of property / sales taxes and over 20 businesses that were previously located at the Colt Bldg and Sertus sites, that are now parking / vacant lots? Also, how do you differentiate between village policy -based progress and that would have occurred on its own merit?

Tired has Memory issues from Oak Park  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 7:52 AM

If you have lived here 15 years then you should remember when non-VMA (Milstien et al) ran the Village and had a different voice. That different voice bought the Colt building, squandered multiple opportunities for quality development and depleted the reserves. I you want to ride that ride again? OP has weathered the recession and is ready to go, we need a leader who can and knows how to do the job. This household has a memory and strongly supports Hedges

Yes, Flawed from Oak Park  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 7:27 AM

So, Ray Johnson, you're apparently proud of the VMA and your record. Please provide a detailed analysis of just how much each of your favorite projects cost OP taxpayers. Don't forget TIF districts, WhiteCo, the Colt Building, that hotel that will never be built, the costs of both sides of Marion street (and any new tax revenue it has generated)....

Tired from OP  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 7:15 AM

For the 15 years I've lived in Oak Park, the VMA has avoided the real issues, done whatever they want as part of a vision that makes little sense, and claimed that we are "positioned for progress." The progress never really comes, but we are always right there. This is proof that they don't get it, never have, never will. I just want a new voice....VOTE ANAN.


Posted: April 4th, 2013 6:46 AM

yup barrie: drug deals and iphone sales and resulting armed robbery. ray jay, the term "flawed" is spot on. vacant stores on marion, crumbling streets around the village. harrison street left fallow west of lombard. oak park ave with empty store fronts for years now. parking rate soared to pay for negative parking fund balance. law suits from the school district vs. the village, disputes over fees the library was to pay the village. ray jay you have short-term memory problems.


Posted: April 4th, 2013 6:37 AM

Barrie Park is vibrant again? With what? Drug deals?

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 3:23 AM

Flawed? Excluding pensions, which the state "controls", village spending declined, sales tax revenue increased, vacancies declined in our core business district and private investment increased. Marion St. is revitalized, there is more parking downtown, and Barrie Park is a vibrant area again. We weathered the great recession better than most, while reducing the parking fund deficit and rebuilding our reserves. Police, Fire and EMS respond in less than 3 minutes. Yes, we have more work to do, and John Hedges has the leadership qualities and experience to get us there. But flawed? No.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 11:05 PM

JBM ... you are absolutely correct in saying that VMA board members, esp. Ray Johnson (Jo) and Colette (Co) Lueck, fully supported Pope's (Po) flawed economic development policy initiatives for most of the past 8 years, including the ongoing Sertus redevelopment project and Downtown Lake St. streetscaping plan. The question is how is John Hedges going to distance himself from Pope's ongoing legacy projects while working with Johnson and Lueck, 2/3 of the PoJoCo coalition?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 10:49 PM

The highlight of the campaign for me occurred at the Buzz Cafe. Anan was pushing John Hedges hard on the development failure in Oak Park and the fiscal condition of the village - $100M debt, an empty commercial development piggy bank, etc. Hedges ignored Anan and segued with a warning to the community on the riskiness of electing a President without the requisite experience. He said, "the last time we elected a president without experience, we had chaos." Someone interrupted Hedges saying, "Are you referring to David Pope?" The rest of the statement was lost in a lot of VMA screams. For the record, the next sentence was to be -- He (Pope) was the last president elected as an independent. It was a light moment in a serious debate, and I admit I was the interrupter. The point I was making was that the VMA board members followed David Pope's lead and if there was any challenge of Pope's faulty visions, it was not at the board table.

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