Village Manager Association slate sweeps Oak Park village board

Challenger Kessen finishes out of the running


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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Click here to see the results.

For the third election in a row, the Village Manager Association has swept every open seat on the Oak Park village board, continuing a streak of dominance that has held since 2007. But it wasn't quite as easy this time around.

Incumbent Ray Johnson was the top vote-getter again, capturing roughly 26.6 percent of the vote for unprecedented third term in a row. Robert Tucker, a fair housing attorney, came in second, with some 25.3 percent of the pie, with 43 of 45 precincts reporting.

The VMA called the election at about 9 p.m., with the three winners popping a bottle of champagne to celebrate the win in their second-floor suite at the Carleton Hotel, before marching downstairs 10 minutes later to the tune of "We are the Champions" and a round of cheers.

"Honored and humbled," Johnson, 47, said when asked how he felt about winning a third term. "The voters have placed a lot of trust in our decisions, and I think it's important to call out that — whether people voted for us or against us or didn't vote — we have to move forward together. We have a lot of big challenges ahead."

The closest thing to a barn-burner was the competition for the third and final open spot on the board, between 32-year-old VMA newcomer Adam Salzman and independent Lynn Kessen, 46.

Salzman eked out a close victory, by about 769 votes, or about 3 percent of the vote. Sipping a glass of champagne, Salzman said the election was about easing the burden on taxpayers.

"This is about keeping Oak Park affordable, keeping the property tax burden in check so people can afford to stay here and not have to leave the community they love," he said. "That's the theme we've stressed all along, and I think it resonated with folks."

The VMA's campaign managers called the three elected trustees down to a Carleton ballroom around 9 p.m., but not before Tucker jokingly answered the phone with "Kyle's Pizza."

He also talked about keeping Oak Park economically diverse.

"When the taxes get so high, it drives people out who have stuck through Oak Park for years and years," Tucker said.

Kessen, 46, wasn't quite ready to call the race as of about 9:30 p.m., with a couple of precincts left to report. She was pleased with the "respectful" and "fair" tone of the campaign and said she'd consider running again after the reaction she received from voters.

"It's definitely been close, so I would probably be looking to throw my hat in the ring again in the future," she said. "In the meantime, I think I have a lot of good to give to the community, and I think I'll be seeking ways to put my energy that I was going to exert into the board to something else."

Eighty-year-old retired dentist and independent Lewis Carmichael finished fifth, with 8.1 percent of the vote.


Reader Comments

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Posted: April 8th, 2011 6:28 PM

Kyle I said the VOTERS. Meaning people who get off their hind ends and pull the levers. This election was one of OP's Largest turnouts for local candidates!!!


Posted: April 8th, 2011 2:07 PM

I don't know if I'd say the majority of voters are satisfied...the winner had 7000 votes out of what 34,000 registered in the village? Most people just don't care and have given up. I'm with you J, I've had items go on the to-do list and it's like they disappear into a black hole. I've lived in other suburban towns in the Midwest with the same size population where sometimes your request is *fixed* the same day. Imagine! lol


Posted: April 8th, 2011 11:23 AM

@J. FP has the style of Govt similar to what you are supporting. Mrs O'Shea might we see your name on the ballot in 2013? Clearly the majority of voters are satisfied. That how democracy works.

J.oak park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 8:18 AM

I have no problems with the staff. op staff to my knowledge does a fine job. my problem is that when ever items are differed to them to "look into", you never hear about the item again. i don't blame staff at all. not sure what FP has to do with anything? i don't pay too much attention to what they, or evanston or any other burb i don't live in is doing.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 8:03 AM

Should be a "plus" in there!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 8:01 AM

Dissatisfaction Vision = Change


Posted: April 8th, 2011 7:54 AM

@j. It seems you dont prefer the prior work of the staff, commission and board vs directly going to the board without any process? Take a look to the West in FP and see how well that's been working for them.

j.oak park  

Posted: April 8th, 2011 7:06 AM

@ kyle.Thank you for offering an alt. form of local government. and if i were sitting at the board table i would want to hear more about your proposal: after it had been through the many commissions, focus groups, planning meeting, zba and receives wide approval by the public. Then it would make it to the board table and be voted down or in the famous words of the board: "we will have staff look into it" and it would never see the light of day. sigh. all that i am still with you, brother.


Posted: April 8th, 2011 6:52 AM

I never meant to imply that things get done on trustee blocks better. I don't think it's dishonesty that got us here. It's inefficiency. The village can't see the trees for the forest. Basic services which are needs we ALL have a right to have met by our local government. And most of us don't care who is in Village Hall as long as that stuff gets done. The only thing I'm arguing is that we have a right to not have to see 5 commissions and the Village Board for what should be done anyway.


Posted: April 8th, 2011 3:16 AM

Kyle, you can argue no one alderman would know on a block by block basis. I agree with OP, if a non VMA candidate would have won you wouldn't be seeing any of this. There are dozens of groups in Oak Park, many neighborhood groups that work with the Village and are very succesful in getting their points across. SEOPCO comes to mind. If you don't feel represented try working with your local neighborhood group. People get elected to served the Village as a whole not individual blocks.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 11:43 PM

Never said the status quo was perfect. Dont reinvent the wheel at the expense of the taxpayers because it MIGHT meet your personal needs. Never a good idea. It just seems to get old when the opposing viewpoints seem to be the same people complaining about yet another thing until it goes away. Misery loves company. If the non VMA candidate had WON, my guess is that not one person would be discussing a new form of govt!

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 10:53 PM

OP. I find your approach to be so close-minded. Instead of always insisting the status quo is perfect and being so harsh with people, could you try a little listening and common respect for other viewpoints?


Posted: April 7th, 2011 9:12 PM

Kyle, Your representation is YOU. That is how is works in Chicago(with Alderpeople) You bring your concerns to YOUR alderman and they help you or not. Just in the same way you bring your concerns to the Village, then Commission, then the Board. It can either work in your favor or not. If you are assuming that things get done more so around the trustees blocks, think again. Just ask any of them or drive around where they live and see for yourself. There is a system in OP and it seems to be fair.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:49 PM

I too would like to congratulate the three white guys for winning....

Whining about the Whining  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:13 PM

And the self-righteous whining about the whining continues. God forbid anyone should have a thought, much less express it, in opposition to the establishment. Let's pass an ordinance to prohibit that!


Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:12 PM

For the record, OP, regardless of who is in charge of the village, I would argue that no trustee could possibly know what is going on all over a community of thousands on a block by block basis. My neighborhood has different needs than one across town perhaps. And it would help if all citizens had representation to the village based on knowing their neighborhood best.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 9:22 AM

The whining continues. Not surprised. Greg Marsey to my knowledge is the only trustee that had lived in an "area" that was in a main district in OP. I believe he recused himself from those votes for legal reasons. All to most trustees live in residential areas and don't vote just on their own blocks. The board votes on all matters regarding ALL of the Village and they take that seriously. Just because people lose elections doesn't mean we have to change our whole form of government.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 5:15 PM

@History Buff, Not to call our Oak Park forefathers from 60 years ago kinda silly and lacking in wisdom, BUT... lol The new system is just as bad. Who is my rep? All of them? None of them? Where should citizens first go for concerns? The problem isn't the VMA per se. The problem is Oak Park picked a rather bad form of local government and then the VMA is just an extra layer of weird on top (speaking as a non-native of Oak Park, it's way too complicated with depts and committees).

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:01 PM

History Buff-I am certain that sixty years ago, OP was a tight knit village -- everyone knew each other. So electing "trustees" to guard against malfeasance, etc. made sense. You selected people you knew personally and trusted. Residents of the village still trust it officials, but the village has changed. It is bigger, more diverse,much more complicated. Over time, government has become centralized and out of touch. Having representation by district gives us a chance to become connected again.

History buff  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:22 PM

The corrupt incompetent aldermanic system was thrown out in 1952 when a citizen referendum was passed to establish a new form of government and have a citizens committee select good government candidates to govern the village. Who can tell what this was called?


Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:35 PM

@Manning, I'm guessing most of yesterday's turnout was driven by the school vote, too. @John I like your thinking. Local politics should be a block by block ability to help decide neighborhood/community issues. Or at the very least maybe Village Hall could have more accountability to the needs of neighborhoods. I'm sure every block has its own wishlist of things they need help from the village with.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:09 PM

I am not sure it is Alderman style voting but electing trustees to allow for geographic representation makes a lot of sense. It would bring the trustees closer to all voters, create a more diverse board, provide better focus on non-downtown issues, improve voter turnout, and reduce the cost to individual citizens who wish to run for office. The VMA could still exist by helping to select geographic candidates, and continue to promote good government.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:31 PM

Gah, sorry, my numbers were totally wrong in the previous post. It looks like about 12K voted in this election, compared to 20K for last fall. Still, not bad.

Manning Peterson  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:22 PM

Congratulations to Bob, Ray, and Adam for their success. I've known Bob for 30 years and know he will serve this village he loves with intelligence, integrity, and fairness. Congrats also to the other candidates, and to all who participated by voting and attending coffees and candidate forums. Apathy is in fact not a problem in OP. Turnout was relatively high for a local election. About 30 thousand votes were cast in OP-- 50% more than voted in last fall's governor/senate election.

Apathy still rules in Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:02 AM

Why would anyone run against the VMA? Why bother in this Village of one party rule for the past sixty years?! What an exercise in futility, time and money wasted in a town of educated but apathetic people who tolerate one party rule. If you get in, you would systematically be driven off, no diversity ever tolerated on the Village Board. VMA only welcome, nothing to be proud of in the electoral process in Oak Park. Just work to keep the VMA in check and the corruption down as best as possible.

Pat from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:16 AM

I'm disappointed that Lynn Kessen lost, but kudos to all of the candidates who ran a respectful, issues oriented campaign. I love the idea of an aldermanic system. I'm not convinced at all the continuation of the VMA stronghold will result in more open governing. I expect it will be business as usual, but I hope to be proven wrong.

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:52 AM

Maybe we can have a different referendum next election. One to change the structure of village government from a trustee system to an alderman system. I'll be one of the first to run for my Ward or Dist. This is actually possible to do. I would LOVE to see this occur.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:20 AM

I was an anti-slate voter sad to see Kessen come up short. I like the alderman idea, TJ. Too much of the focus in the village is on downtown and downtown business. Not to mention that I'm uncomfortable with the monopoly on village affairs from the VMA. One of these days we need to get the diversity of Oak Park displayed in leadership positions.

Frank Vozak from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:27 AM

I am shocked and embarassed by the vitriol in some of these comments We were fortunate enough to have a well qualified VMA slate, a new comer w/ lots of talent Lynn Kessen & an interested newer citizen in Mr Carmichael to choose from These candidates all carried out a respectful, issue oriented campaign highlighting their different view points Peo always complain why arent there more candidates running Mean spirited comments don't help The grace of these peo in victory & defeat do. .........

Frank Vozak from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:52 AM

With this election OP would be the winner. Ray Johnson has served honorably and capably and the other two candidates were excellent choices. Lynn Kessen is a very thoughtful and bright citizen. Congratulations to the VMA for its successful slate and congratulations to Lynn for her close loss. We were wll served by an excellent group of candidates, all of whom are very qualified

Dylan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:48 AM

T.J. - That sounds like a very interesting idea. Start getting involved and build consensus to something like that. I would be open to it through discussion. Joe - Did you help campaign for either of the independent candidates? If not, then I encourage you to do so in the future. Have you ever gone to the VMA meetings? If not try and see what they are about. Are you part of any Commission for Oak Park? If not, get involved. Come to the table with ideas, and make your voice heard.


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:25 PM

It seems unfortunate that Lynn wasn't even in it for herself. It seems Mr. Barsotti was behind her campaign from the get go. One of these day David Barsotti can try to run for himself. Congrats the the Victors: Ray, Adam and Bob.

Sal Governale  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:13 PM

Big Johnson Reigns! Congrats and to the haters, have some cheese with your whine. You can even buy it at Trader Joe's.

Jack Chalabian from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:53 PM

Congratulations to Ray Johnson, Robert Tucker and Adam Saltzman for winning this year. Most importantly, I would like to congratulate Lynn Kessen for running in this year's election and being one of the independent voices to choose from!!! Her effort and drive should not be discounted!!!

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:29 PM

We need an alderman type system in Oak Park. Forget trustees. We need to elect people from various sections of Oak Park. This would give the underdog a chance of winning.

Joe from Oak Park  

Posted: April 5th, 2011 10:12 PM

I might as well live in North Korea. I hate the VMA and everything they stand for and force on Oak Park residents.

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