There is tension on the Oak Park village board. That was clear last Monday night when split votes on referring a matter to the Plan Commission revealed a genuine difference of approach and that some backs are up.
There is real consensus on the Oak Park village board. That was clear Saturday morning when the board met for an extended goal-setting session and was focused and aligned in choosing a small handful of essential goals for the next two years.
Both these things are true and were accurately reported by the Journal. So what does it tell us?
Same thing as always in Oak Park. When you get down to issues, there usually isn't a wide divide on substance. But we are capable of getting tangled up in our words and in our personalities. In a time of transition such as this, we'd all do well to focus on what we agree about and consciously set aside the rhetoric.
No one believes that Village President Anan Abu-Taleb thinks the needs of local businesses always trump the concerns of residents. But his language needs to be more nuanced when he says the views of business people have not been well heard in the past.
After two years of being pretty darned clear that they had issues with how Oak Park makes decisions on economic development, Trustees Adam Salzman and Bob Tucker should not be lectured on local history by Trustee Colette Lueck. On the other hand, the usually thoughtful Salzman needs to check his sarcasm at the door to the council chamber.
A few harsh encounters can turn into a behavior pattern that can run a village board mostly in agreement on the issues right off the rails. This board has too much promise, and voters spoke too clearly to allow that to happen.
Last Saturday, without the pressures of an unexpected vote on an issue, this board, its president and the village manager worked smart and effectively in identifying a small number of critical issues to concentrate on during this term. Boosting economic development and simplifying the processes attached to projects; turning the sour energy at village hall into a customer-focused team charged with directly solving the irritations of taxpayers; bringing technology full bore into an oddly archaic village hall; marketing Oak Park to potential businesses and residents similar to neighboring Berwyn; blocking the expansion of the Ike through the village. That's the reasonable but challenging to-do list.
Two years ago the previous incarnation of this board spent hours and filled pages with its goals and strategies. We prefer this more focused effort. These are the core issues. Addressing them, budgeting for them, will be plenty for one board. Staying focused on shared goals will also have the benefit of diminishing opportunities for unproductive angst.