Of all the candidates running for the village board, I am the only candidate who has firsthand experience running a business and navigating Oak Park's regulatory environment. I am the only candidate who has consistently challenged the status quo with specific ideas for change. In these times, new and innovative ideas should be welcomed.
There is a better way forward for Oak Park.
My opponent, John Hedges, was recently asked by this newspaper why he was running. He replied, "There was no driving issue" and "The time just seemed to be right. … This just seemed to be the next thing."
Oak Park deserves a village president with a drive to lead — away from the status quo and toward a way forward.
We need a change from a village leadership that supports unforgiving parking regulations and perpetuates processes that have driven business away from Oak Park and toward its neighboring suburbs — a change from village leadership that approved a 30.7 percent tax increase for its residents in four years (for the most recent four years between 2008 and 2012, the Village raised property taxes from $17,378,714 to $22,707,972 according to Cook County records). Oak Park's high debt, poor financial condition, empty storefronts and mediocre village services threaten the very foundation of our village.
We can make village government more accountable to the taxpayers, get our fiscal house back in order, encourage smart development, and keep our neighborhoods safe. Oak Park should be collaborating with neighboring communities and other taxing bodies to share resources and tackle costs. We need to streamline the building department so residents and businesses can easily invest in Oak Park. The village should continue its support for the Early Childhood Collaborative and ease financial burdens for senior citizens, so all of our families can enjoy all that Oak Park has to offer.
At my restaurant, we know that investing in the future is the only way forward. I have the leadership and firsthand business experience to lead Oak Park forward.
Instead of investing in expensive consultants, the village needs to draw on the intellect and resources of Oak Park's residents to make government more efficient, transparent, cost-effective and responsive to taxpayers and businesses. Cities and villages across America are opening infrastructure banks to provide financing for critical investments. Oak Park can too. Oak Park's residents and businesses are relocating to neighboring suburbs and Chicago. We should find them a home here and bring jobs back to Oak Park while expanding the tax base.
Next week, the voters of Oak Park face a clear choice. If you believe that Oak Park's future is even better than our storied past, if you believe that village services can be more efficient, and if you believe that your tax revenue can be invested in a more strategic fashion, then I would be humbled to have your vote. It would be my honor to serve as your next village president.