Two candidates, one choice in Oak Park village president race

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

It's the village government veteran versus the newcomer. That's the choice Oak Park residents will make when they go to the polls April 9.

John Hedges, the retired Park District of Oak Park executive director who has been village trustee for six years and served on a handful of boards and committees, says his campaign message hasn't changed from Day 1: Experience matters. Hedges has reminded residents at forums that it's important to have a leader people will follow, and his track record backs that, he said.

Anan Abu-Taleb, known by his yard signs simply as Anan, is a local businessman who owns the Oak Park restaurant Maya del Sol with his wife. He's had his share of interactions with the village board going through permit processes and such for his establishment, but he hasn't served on local boards or commissions. He sees this as an advantage, and he has said from Day 1 that he'll bring a new vision.

Hedges, who is 68 and has lived in Oak Park for 33 years, is running on the Oak Park Together slate with current trustees Glenn Brewer and Colette Lueck, Village Clerk Teresa Powell, and current D97 board President Peter Barber (also running for trustee). Abu-Taleb is 53, has lived in Oak Park for 23 years, and is running as an independent.

Hedges thinks village president is not the place for a newcomer to start since local government isn't like running a business or similar venture. He said that recently implemented plans have put the community on a trajectory forward and now is not the time to go in a different direction.

Abu-Taleb thinks otherwise. He doesn't think Oak Park is on the right path and said it's time for new leadership. He said his outlook and input will be valuable because he knows how to listen to people and advocate for those within the community.

The voters have two candidates and one choice next week. Here are their final thoughts as the campaign season winds down:

Hedges: 'We're not just talking; we're doing '

"The final pitch is the same as it's been from the start. It's important to have someone as village president who has been involved in village government and such. Anan hasn't run at all in village government and doesn't have an understanding of how government works. It's not like being a mayor. … It's a whole collaboration."

Finances: "[Anan's view is] kind of misleading — the bond rating, the negative outlook on a double AA-2 bond. It's a very high rating. We're two spots away from a AAA rating. Our cash situation is sold. We don't have financial problems. … He talks about pensions being unfunded — we fund better than anyone, especially the state."

Priorities: "We're really in the position to do some great things. … Taxes are high, we know that. But we're only 11 percent of the taxes. We've done our part [by not raising the levy]. [Anan] doesn't talk about anything specific or concrete. He hasn't said anything about specific plans. … We've got things in motion. We're not just talking; we're doing things. … In terms of priorities, I want to continue on the trajectory of economic development and services at village hall, both from an employee standpoint and services outside village hall. … Also, look at sustainability. We've done a lot, but there's more to do to save money."

Abu-Taleb: 'Oak Park deserves more'

"Basically, what's going on in our town is people are really [hungry] for new leadership and they want change. It's an opportunity for us to look at government with new eyes and a new lens. People come to me and say we have not had this much excitement in local elections for so long and they say 'thank you' for running."

Change and finances: "As a business owner, I understand the needs. I've lived through poor leadership when there is no planning. … We are going to be looking at things from a realistic point of view. ... Meaningful change rarely happens from within. What will John bring today that he hasn't brought … [The village has] created a burden for residents. … Oak Park deserves more. … We have bad economic development and have made bad financial decisions.

Priorities: I want us to go out to sell ourselves to the right businesses and right developers. I'm a tough negotiator. … Over the past few months, I have learned so much about the community. … I want to reach out to trustees and decide what's best for the community. … I can bring people together. I want to give the public a clean report on our financial decision. I want to reach out to the board, to the village manager and I want to give a true report about financial decisions."

Contact:
Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

52 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Speaking with votes   

Posted: April 9th, 2013 10:10 AM

I also abstained from voting for any VMA associated candidates. The VMA should pay close attention to counts.

President Hedges  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 9:57 AM

I voted for John Hedges this morning. Every one of the fellow voters I spoke to this morning at my polling site voted for John Hedges too. I think that Hedges is going to stroll into the end zone easily and will be our next Village President. And thank goodness.

After lots of thought...  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 9:52 AM

I'm voting for John Hedges. He is the better person for this position.

No Luddites Here  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 9:24 AM

@21st century: still chuckling. Great post.

Prediciton - Anan Wins from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 9:15 AM

Prediction - Anan wins big. By way more than 2k votes!

21st Century  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 8:58 AM

Can you post those letters to the village website?

Prediction- Hedges  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 8:31 AM

Hedges will win by about 2,000 votes.

Henrietta  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 8:28 AM

An Independent victory just like in 2005. Well Done Anan!

Teresa Powell  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 8:17 AM

Critics of Village Hall constantly repeat the old story that Village Hall is "hard to work with in this echo chamber. For the real story, stop by Village Hall (by my office) and read the comments from business owners and residents about our services today. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Jim Bowman from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 7:31 AM

http://wp.me/p2cpa4-1L3 has comment on Milstein on Hale, FYI.

Jmg  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 7:17 AM

I will abstain from voting any vma candidates this election, much like I wihheld my vote for Harmon in his uncontested race. It will be the first time I have done this and I do it to be heard. The people who run the village and work together at village hall have become an insulated club worried about others usurping their power. i feel they govern more for themselves than the community. Please analyze the outcome and see how many abstain. I may vote vma again when they start listening.

NO MORE VMA. EVER. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 6:48 AM

The VMA has had more than a fair chance to bring about its vision of Oak Park. Sadly, I don't like that vision (and questionable way of bringing it about) much and I think it's time for a change. I will not vote for a VMA candidate ever again. Not even for dog catcher. I will abstain or vote for the other guy (when there is one). Maybe Anan didn't vote because he is as frustrated by the choices as I have been....

OP Executive  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 5:56 AM

This is an ideolgical choice - insider/outsider - old school/new school - traditional/modern. Either candidate will face challenges in the execution of strategy. As an outsider, Anan may face the sea of red tape etc. that many of us face. Hedges will face a skepital group of OPer.

OP Guy  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 1:15 AM

I'd probably be more inclined to vote for Anan if I knew his stance on tackling ALL village problems, and not just the ones that serve as ammo for his campaign and illustrate his business credentials. What's his plan for public safety? I have no idea, because he hasn't addressed it. If he did, and it was a good plan, I'd vote for him.

OP Guy  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 1:08 AM

murtagh, I'll explain it again. It's not about "fear", it's about Anan not outlining what he's actually going to do in reference to a lot of issues. I'm sure he's a good businessman, and Oak Park needs that, but what about the other things Oak Park needs that he either won't address, or can't? Yes, no one knows the future, but I'd like to at least know a potential president's ideas about tackling Oak Park's problems beyond business. Is that too much to ask? Cont...

Robert Milstein from Oak Park  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 12:21 AM

You can spin all you wish. Mr. Hale and the VMA continue their history of last minute attacks when response is limited to those of us who use comment boards like this one. The bottom line is the tax issue only became an "issue" when the VMA began to smell a possible upset victory brewing for Anan. Fearful that 6 VMA Trustees would not be enough to keep power they chose to attack without cause. Is the VMA that desperate? As to a vendetta...no, just a strong ideological dislike of 1 party rule.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 9th, 2013 12:18 AM

OP Guy - No one can forecast the performance of either candidate in the next four years. It is time to stop being afraid of life without the VMA boogyman. Do you really want to have seven VMA board members considering the performance of seven VMA board members in the last eight years? Some times, you have to bed on the underdog rather than depending on the favorite.

OP Guy  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 11:35 PM

whether or not John will follow through, or go beyond what the village has already done, provide more transparency etc... is another thing, but when it comes to Anan, I just don't know how he'll deal with other issues facing the village. This isn't fear talking, it's simply the logic of knowing more about what one person aims to do in comparison to the other. If I know more about what Anan planned, maybe I'd side with him, but he has stated what he'll do in a lot of areas.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 11:31 PM

Murtagh Loves Hale - Yep, I wrote the quote you posted. Everything has context. The Context? I was comparing him to the other six board members.

OP Guy  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 11:30 PM

Sense, I was an undecided voter for the longest time, and I still don't feel I have a true grasp of either candidate, despite doing plenty of research. I don't fear opposition, even though I "may" side with John. I just don't know what Anan is about other than business... I want to know, but I just don't, because he hasn't said much other than how he'll stimulate business. I don't have full confidence in either Anan or John, but to my eye's, at least John has a point by point plan, cont...

VMnAsty  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 10:35 PM

It would be great to see a poll on OP.com on who started the nastiness of this election. Just to measure public opinion on that point. The VMA needs to stop resting on it's laurels, reading it's old white papers about how great it is and consider how the incredible harm they have caused to their reputation due to pettiness (e.g. you can't be elected and hold a liquor license! Nanny nanny poo poo!) can be repaired - if it can.

VMnAsty  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 10:11 PM

Gail Moran has to be the most self righteous VMA member. Often wonder if she's the source of the VMnAsty approach that comes out when faced with challenge.

Sense  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 10:07 PM

Hey guy after Murtagh...you might consider that Murtagh has had two years to learn what REALLY goes on around here. There's about a billion stories in the world of changed opinions after digging deeper. Again and again you show how fearful you are of opposition. Where's your confidence?

OP Guy  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:59 PM

I wanted to believe in Anan, because Oak Park needs some sort of change, or push, but I'm also not convinced that John is in the pockets of the VMA. My difficulty with Anan is that, other than a proven business record, I don't know what he have offer Oak Park, and I'm uncomfortable that his web-site doesn't, line by line, address other issues like crime etc... At least John's website lists everything he's planning to do, with each issue... It feels like Anan thinks there's only a couple issues

Murtagh Loves Hale  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:55 PM

"Jon is the best member the board has had in my eleven years in Oak Park. He made a great contribution with his business knowledge and insight. His best trait was his willingness to ask hard questions, go against the tide, and ignore meaningless gesters and patronizing verbiage. He will be missed. Hopefully, the new trustees will emulate his independence." John Murtagh, April 2011 http://tablet.oakpark.com/News/Articles/4-19-2011/Vocal-Oak-Park-village-trustee-stepping-down-after-four-years-to-s

Chris from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:53 PM

@Character The problem with Hedges is that he's been part of the system for the last few years. So if you like the direction OP is going in, by all means vote for him. But don't be fooled into thinking a vote for him is not a vote for the VMA machine. I am aware of Anan's issues and past. Despite this, he is the best choice for OP's future.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:47 PM

Let gets some clarity on Jon Hale political career. Jon Hale served on the planning commission with Pope, Johnson, and Lueck. They were the designers of the disastrous Downtown Oak Park TIF extension and expansion. In 2007, when the VMA spent $70,000 on the slate, Hale joined the village board. In 2008, Lueck was appointed to the board. All four voted together on every TIF issue and used obstruction to keep their plan on track. The VMA had a great victory. Businesses and resident were the losers. All four hate being called politicians. They want to be called public servants. No Way.

Character Matters  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:44 PM

Hedges' ethics are unimpeachable. So proponents of Abu Taleb are pretending that this is a campaign against the big bogeyman VMA. You're trying to distract from the very real ethical blemishes on your candidate's record. Bridgett, you're twisting and omitting facts. Anan did not "owe" 4k in taxes. Anan admitted to deliberately attempting to defraud the federal government. They took away his right to vote. They don't do that for accounting mistakes.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:36 PM

@SSS: Nope, not minimizing it, just putting it in to context and giving all of the facts, not just a select few. :-)

OMG  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:28 PM

@Spin - We know about it and most of us decided that it was a long time ago, he paid his price, and we trust him to do what is right for Oak Park. We already know that the VMA does not do what is right for our village. And now to show their true colors, they are hitting these boards and bashing Anan's character. Good grief! If there was ever a doubt that the VMA is power-hungry and could care less about our village, they are certainly showing us that now.

Voter  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:27 PM

I have a lot of problems with the way things have been handled at Village Hall. The PeopleSoft scam has not disappeared from the minds of villagers. Your Chief Financial Officer was involved but found not guilty by an outside consultant, hired by the Village Board to do the investigation. The States Attorney should have investigated it and the board should have welcomed a real investigation. Is it too late?

Spin, spin, spin  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:24 PM

And yes, Bridgett, we've read your attempt to minimize the tax fraud again and again too. You can spin and spin and spin but you can't just bury the facts because you don't like them and don't want voters to know about them.

Interesting  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:22 PM

I find it interesting that the VMA members are hitting these forums so strongly. Makes me wonder how afraid they are about the results of this election. I haven't been comfortable with the VMA for years now and am glad to have some serious competition in this race. I don't see the VMA paying attention to what villagers want, they have their own agenda, and play to certain developers. That's not what I want for Oak Park. I attended forums and liked Anan's style and inclusion of others.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:15 PM

Yes, Jon, you've made it abundantly clear that this is a problem for you, as you've now repeated the same thing over and over and over again, multiple times, on multiple threads, even writing a letter to the editor about it last week, that you have a problem with Anan owing $4K in taxes 23 years ago, paying it back, with interest and penalties, and seeking clemency, from a committee, while Blago, whom he's never met, was in office. We got it, for the 20th time.

Jon Hale from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 9:04 PM

Anan pleaded guilty to tax fraud and then was granted an unusual form of clemency by Rod Blagojevich only a few years ago. These are not accusations. They are facts. He has minimized his original crime, but the attorney general's office thought otherwise in opposing the clemency. This may not be a problem for a lot of people, but given what we've been through in the state of Illinois, it is a big problem for me, and as I've said every time I've mentioned this, I have little else to evaluate Anan on because he has no other public record to recommend him. Perhaps Anan will be a public servant of high character, but we have another choice who is beyond reproach. I am sorry for bringing up something that is so uncomfortable to many people, but voters should make an informed choice.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 8:59 PM

H=I "Allegiance?" I didn't know of Anan until last month, I met Hedges briefly three years ago, and didn't know what the VMA was, really, until last night. So if my "allegiance" is to anything, it's to seek out the truth. At the WJ forum, Anan said, if elected, he'd divest his interest in Maya Del Sol. It was Hedges who added to the village ordinance to include Anan's ENTIRE FAMILY. That is simply not the way the ordinance reads, and so the reason for Dan Haley's follow-up was dubious.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 8:27 PM

Mr. Milstein: This election is about John Hedges vs. Anan Abu-Telb for Village President. It is not about your personal vendetta against Jon Hale or the VMA. The choice of President is an easy one for me - the one with a proven career of public service and public engagement.

Stay Classy from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 8:04 PM

"sleeze", "hatchet man", "coward"? Stay classy, Bob Milstein. I've known Jon Hale for years, and he is one of the smartest and most thoughtful leaders our Village has seen in years. You may not think his points are relevant to your decision making process, but they are to mine and many, many others. John Hedges is an outstanding leader and man. He will get my vote tomorrow.

Jennifer H from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 7:46 PM

This reminds me of Mr. Milstein from several years ago: attack the messenger. This is why Oak Park voters rejected Milstein so loudly at the polls. The fact is that one can only personally attack Mr. Hale because what he says is all true. But why bother with facts?

Robert Milstein from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 6:59 PM

We received an an email blast by Mr. Hale accusing Anan of misdeeds 23 years ago? Hedges publically said that it has no bearing on the election. He accepted Anan's explanations and even the Journal walked past any inkling of a problem. But sleeze rises to the top and Hale appears to be the new VMA hatchet man. Striking at the last moment like a true coward, John sought to besmirch a man running an honest, transparent campaign. Voters in OP are not stupid, they will see thru John and vote Anan

Jon Hale from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 5:49 PM

I know some around town think of John Hedges as a genial guy who has been around a while and won't make waves while his opponent has cultivated an attractive image of an entrepreneur who makes a good margarita and has decided to quit complaining and do something about it by running for office for the first time. Image aside, the reality is that John Hedges is the better choice hands down. Literally every current and former Board member I know whether from the Village, school, parks, or library board is supporting John because they know what experience brings to local office (namely, deeper insight on issues, ability to make complex decisions, and overall effectiveness) and they know what problems inexperience brings (lack of commitment, time wasting, and tilting at windmills). John Hedges has more, and more varied, experience than any Village President has had in years. His opponent has, literally, none. That's a big difference. John Hedges also has an actual track record as a fiscal conservative, which we desperately need on all of our local governing bodies. I served with John for four years. He opposed numerous non-essential expenditures (remember the local shuttle? Brick streets?), voted consistently for lower headcounts at Village Hall, and was a tough negotiator when it came to the 11 unions the Board has to deal with at Village Hall. The Village operating budget is lower today by about $2 million than it was when John first joined the Board (and in real terms ?" important because a lot of Village personnel costs rise with inflation ?" the budget is about $5 million lower). John's opponent has sent out expensive glossy fliers screaming that taxes have increased, but has failed to cite a single way that he would hold the line on spending. He says he will "think outside the box," which is a clever way of saying, "I have no idea." Please consider a vote for Hedges as the experienced, trustworthy candidate with an actual record of fiscal

Hedges = Integrity  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 1:07 PM

Bridgett, I can see where you allegiances lie, but that's not true. When Haley asked Abu Taleb to whom specifically he would transfer the liquor license, Abu Taleb said "I don't have to tell you that." Since Haley was questioning the candidates on behalf of the residents, it's fair to say that Abu Taleb feels that he is under no obligation to be transparent with his constituents about his financial interests and potential conflicts. That is the very definition of corruption.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 1:03 PM

@H=I, Actually, Anan Abu-Taleb *did* tell Oak Parkers how he would deal with the liquor license issue. I was sitting right there at the WJ forum at the library and heard his answer. And that answer was heard by Hedges, who, when asked by Dan Haley if he he had an issue/problem with that, Hedges said, "No."

Hedges = Integrity  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 12:31 PM

Abu Taleb is not Bloomberg. Bloomberg is strictly regulating liquor and tobacco in New York City to protect his citizens. Abu Taleb won't even tell Oak Parkers how he'll deal with the liquor license issue.

True  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 11:38 AM

I think John Butch Murtagh has self interest and a big ego. JMHO. For him to say the board is that way is Funny He He

J. Srutstein  

Posted: April 8th, 2013 11:15 AM

Like The Daily Beefing, I like Anan. Then again, maybe The Daily Beefing was being its zany satirical self in endorsing Anan. Or maybe The Daily Beefing wanted me to see through the satire in its inimitable sophisticated and totally non-Oniony way. Either way I'm hopelessly and happily captivated, a/k/a, Beefed. Daily. The.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 6th, 2013 10:48 PM

Either one (Anan or John) will have his hands full. The VMA did a good job of Kumbaya-ing through the campaigns, but in fact factions will arise. There is a lot of self interest and egos on the board.

Robert Milstein from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2013 9:55 PM

Robo calls or not, Anan offers a fresh new perspective. Yes, the VMA gang could pile on and make his life difficult, but that is not a reason to not vote for him. Even the VMA Trustees know citizens want the government to work. Anan is has an MBA from the U of Chicago. He is bright, personable and understands that leaders listen. Voting on principle is important. An Independent President would do Oak Park good...a real Independent.

One Small Step from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2013 9:09 AM

Even if Anan is elected he will struggle with the rest of the Trustees. If only we could vote the VMA out of town completely...oh well, one step at a time. VOTE FOR ANAN and vote against the failed agenda of the VMA!

Janus  

Posted: April 4th, 2013 10:55 AM

Local elections are great. The details of the annoyances become publicly discussed and candidates are brought to the table to address the residents on their individual concerns. This election really is the only one in recent elections where there are candidates with clearly distinctive differences in their views.

Daniel Meyer  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 5:22 PM

I was thrilled that someone might get rid of all the stupid parking rules. But Anan doesn't have a slate so he can't accomplish anything, and he robo-called so he's an idiot.

Vega$  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 10:10 PM

Anan (-2K) Over 5K total votes. Take your bets to Vegas

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