Oak Park village board: more united than not

Opinion: Editorials

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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.

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Posted: June 15th, 2013 10:00 AM

MichaelO, as you note IDOT has stipulated that it can expand the number of lanes without widening the trench. The Village has to get over itself and sense of self-righteousness when it comes to improving the transportation for the region. Others in the Village should read IDOT's latest proposal and learn that it minimizes the impact on the community; that includes the members of the board. We've gone through most of the stages of grief over this, now let's accept it and move on.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 13th, 2013 9:40 AM

The most important thing said at Saturday's meeting: "The goals we develop today will set the tone for the type of leadership we want to bring to Oak Park. We cannot forget that the voters chose us to make Oak Park a better place," Abu-Taleb said. "They chose us to get things done, not to put up self-imposed roadblocks. The goals and protocols we establish today must reflect this. And, protocols designed to slow progress and hinder change must be removed." Trustees, THIS is what we voted for.

B from OP  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 2:05 PM

Brilliantly put MichaelO. I can't agree with you more. Glad to see there's some sanity in OP. Trying to get to OP on 290 is awful. It needs to be fixed, and thank goodness IDOT is attempting to do just that.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 1:34 PM

(cont.) Is this simply an ideological opposition: cars are bad, trains and bikes good? The Ike as it is now negatively impacts thousands of Oak Park citizens every day. The Ike overflow is ruining neighborhoods and will continue to do so until the Village Board and the WJ get their heads out of the sand and start paying attention.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 1:24 PM

Why no Ike expansion? Why is the WJ and, presumably the Village Board, against expanding the Eisenhower? I haven't heard a single coherent argument against the expansion. I have heard theories that IDOT will need to appropriate some land, but IDOT says they will stay within the trench. Then there is the, if you build it they will come bugaboo. I understand the alternative transportation agenda, but they only offer vague, wishful, ideological proposals that offer no solution. (cont.)

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 12th, 2013 11:46 AM

The early tension of the board last Monday is a good thing. It provided an early sense that there are barriers to overcome in refurbishing Oak Park's board and staff operating premise. 4-3 votes are also a good thing, discussion is enhanced. 7-0 votes tell us little and raise suspicion about collusion. The goal and objectives session on Saturday was well organized, shed light on the key issues, but lacked vision and did not provide clarity. The fact that the board's goals virtually matched those of the village manager was no surprise. They were the same goals that were raised by previous boards, the 2013 political campaign, and the Envision responses. It is very hard to do goals and objectives when a common vision does not exist. I have participated in a lot of goal and objective and hated most. They surface a huge list of goals and objectives which can be overwhelming to the participants. The list is daunting and scary. How are we going to get all this done? The two year plan for selected goals is good. It provides momentum, but places a huge burden on the village manager who still has to deal with all goals and objectives every day. The issue that the board is going to have problems with is the authority and responsibility of the village manager. The issue is fairly simple. Is the village manager the chief administrative officer that requires constant guidance from the board, or is the village manager that chief operating officer making decision, without supervision, based on the board's vision, policies, and goals and objective? Most likely that will be addressed in the 2014 Budget discussion which is quickly followed by the new comprehensive plan currently being developed. At some point along the way, the board will encounter a Festivus moment (See Seinfeld) where "Airing of Grievances" and "Feats of Strengths" are displayed and long time angst resolved. Who knows there might even be a George Costanza Festivus Miracle.

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