David Pope: a consequential president

Opinion: Editorials

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You could make a list of what David Pope has accomplished in his 10 years of village board service — eight of those years as our village president. Or you could just ask Mr. Pope for his list because, yes, he has been keeping track. He could likely produce that list as a spreadsheet or on the back of a napkin — we've seen both versions.

That's because keeping track — he would call it performance measurement — is important to David Pope. It's part of his intriguing mix of humanism and MBA ways and it goes a long way toward explaining why we have such admiration for the man and for his work and why he can, sometimes, be both the smartest and the most annoying person in the room.

Likely, David Pope did not sign on to be village president as the head of the most divided and frustrating village board in memory. And yet he soldiered through his first two years with a board that was continuously dysfunctional and frequently mean-spirited. Pope also didn't anticipate being village president during the most brutal recession of his constituents' lifetimes. But in the spirit of never wasting a crisis, Pope, his board and Tom Barwin, the former village manager used the financial crisis to reshape village government as a much smaller and more focused entity.

Beyond what he was saddled with, we look on his terms as having great intentionality. He knew what he wanted to accomplish and he set out to accomplish those very things. It all starts though with David Pope's keen sense of Oak Park's dynamic history, especially as it relates to race and diversity. That appreciation of the bold choices, the perseverance and the vision of village leaders from 40 years ago, informed Pope's goals and his sense of Oak Park's vast possibilities.

We look back at his determined efforts to extend Oak Park's influence on a regional, even national basis. His focus on Oak Park as a leader in sustainability was purposeful. His focus on inserting Oak Park into a position of influence on the future expansion of the Eisenhower Expressway has been determined and fruitful. His leadership in creating a culture of measurable results within village government is just underway but is critical to containing future tax increases.

We've always felt that he had too much faith in the magical powers of expensive streetscaping projects, but we will allow that Marion Street looks great. And while Pope believes in his bones that collaboration between local governments is essential, his record is brutally mixed. The expensive and divisive TIF lawsuit among the two school districts and the village was emblematic of the distrust at work. And while we've always assessed the blame more harshly on OPRF, the fact is that the village lost in this lawsuit. The notable success, though, accomplished only last week, is the three-government agreement to fund an audacious attack on failings in early childhood education.

While David Pope talks too long and communicates inadequately at times, he gets very high marks from us for knowing that two terms as president was enough for him, and for any future village president. We also have the deepest respect for Mr. Pope's efforts over the past month to smooth President-elect Anan Abu-Taleb's path to office.

It is going to be some time before we know all that David Pope did as Oak Park's village president. He has worked so hard and with such purpose, and we express our deep appreciation to him, and to his family, for those efforts.

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Posted: May 8th, 2013 10:43 PM

Pope is great at listing his accomplishments. Things that are not on his list are his failures and the consequences of his accomplishments and failures. He did preside during a rough economic recession, but he spent money like it was still boom times. Oak Park might be in the national spotlight on some initiatives, but Oak Park has one of the highest per capita debt obligations in Illinois. Accomplishments are great, but consequences are equally or more important, which Pope ignores.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 5:40 PM

See yo at George's in 2018 to discuss consequences.

Dan Haley from Wednesday Journal  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 10:01 AM

Hey John, we're a newspaper with an editorial page. We pass judgment every seven days. History has its place, too. And the old cliche is that newspapers are the first draft of history. So consider this the first draft on the Pope presidency..

Lori Malinski  

Posted: May 8th, 2013 9:30 AM

David was always very supportive of efforts to improve Roosevelt Road, which included a very necessary streetscape project and absolutely required municipal partnerships. He was definitely one of the many individuals whose support and dedication helped make Roosevelt Road a success. There is still much work to be done, especially on the Oak Park side and I hope we can count on our new village president to pick up where David left off. I'm glad to have worked with David.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 7th, 2013 11:21 PM

There are a lot of consequences missing as well as some consequential damage missing in the editorial. I think it is best to wait five or ten years to pass final judgment.

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