New village board, new challenges

Opinion

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David Pope, One View

As we embark upon our new board's first regular session, I would take this moment to thank the outgoing trustees and president for their service, and to look ahead with optimism and hope to the opportunities that lie before us.

It has been my privilege to serve with each of my outgoing colleagues. They have all been deeply committed to the well-being of Oak Park, and they deserve our considerable respect and our gratitude for their contributions.

I also offer my heartfelt thanks to so many of you who supported me during the course of the campaign. Without your support, our effort could never have blossomed from a few simple ideas into a broad-based movement. To each of you, I am deeply grateful.

I would further extend my appreciation to the many others of you who have generously reached out to me in the weeks since April 5 to extend your congratulations and to offer your commitment and your support as we move forward into the future together.

With Geoff, Martha, and Greg joining Ray, Bob and myself here on our new board, I have every confidence that together we can be as effective and productive as any board in the history of this great community of ours.

Further, this opportunity extends beyond just our board, to encompass all of the governing bodies here in Oak Park. Together, we are all jointly accountable for realizing the collective priorities of our community. And today, while we confront a number of important challenges, we also share together a moment of great potential.

Our community's commitment to diversity and our acceptance of people of all backgrounds is our core strength and our highest ideal. Yet today, our escalating tax burden is increasingly placing this ideal at risk, driving out those most economically vulnerable and undermining our community's attractiveness to many prospective residents. If this continues, we may in short order dramatically change the character of Oak Park, and the nature of our community.

To confront this challenge, we must move in the direction of coordinated planning and prioritization across governmental units. What does this mean? Well, it means that we must begin to identify those things that matter most to us as a community, and we must ensure that we allocate resources in a way that enables us to deliver on those priorities.

For example, if we were to determine as a community that educational opportunity was a fundamental priority, and if we determined that expanding kindergarten from half-day to full-day (or instituting early childhood education) was a key way to address the issue, then any inability to implement full-day kindergarten in a reasonable timeframe would be a failure. But it would not be just District 97's failure. It would also be my failure for not having helped to put District 97 in a position to address this need. Similarly, it would be our entire board's failure for the same reason. Likewise, it would be the District 200 Board's failure, and the park board's failure, and the township board's failure, and the library board's failure. We would all be in this together, held accountable to address in a coordinated way the most critical needs of our community, while keeping a close eye on the dollars required from the public to do so. At the same time it would provide a benefit to each of these bodies in coordinating and planning for levy increases in ways that would be more easily defensible, responsibly timed, and positively received by the community, and it would give people in the community a much better idea of what to expect.

Evaluating performance based on outcomes, working together across jurisdictional lines, instituting community-wide planning and prioritization, developing coordinated five-year financial plans, benchmarking ourselves against similar "peer" communities, and publishing objective report cards to help us chart our progress and to ensure visibility into how we're doing. These are the tools that effective and forward-thinking communities are using today to ensure responsive and responsible governance.

I am committed to working with all of my colleagues, and with our counterparts on the boards of our fellow taxing bodies, in an environment of trust, respect, and cooperation, to guide us toward the implementation of such worthy practices, and to encourage and advance the central values that underlie this very special place that we call home. I welcome all of you to join us as together we move our community forward toward the bright future we share.

? David Pope is Oak Park Village President.

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