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This is an exciting time to serve the Village of Oak Park -- or as my colleague President David Pope likes to call it, "The best community on the face of the earth." (I am paraphrasing, but only slightly.)
Right now, the village board is in the midst of two processes that will shape the future of our village for years to come. One is the search for a new village manager. The other is the assembly of a new Comprehensive Plan. I want to thank Wednesday Journal for their stellar coverage of both efforts.
In her June 21 article on the formation of the Comprehensive Plan steering committee, Anna Lothson reported on the conversation we had at the board table about citizen representation on the steering committee. It's an important issue, and I am glad she focused on it. I think that the Journal's readers who did not attend or watch the meeting online or on TV6 might benefit from some additional context as a backdrop to the portions of the discussion that Ms. Lothson quoted.
Most importantly, I think it's important to emphasize that the discussion took place under the assumption that the involvement of as many Oak Parkers as possible in the Comprehensive Plan process is not only preferred—it is essential to the plan's success.
The question before us with respect to the steering committee was not whether or not there should be significant resident input. Rather, the question we were asking was, "What is the most efficient and inclusive way to collect resident input?"
Specifically, several of us speculated whether the steering committee would be a vehicle for assembling the plan's content or a tool for overseeing the planning process. The consensus that emerged from this conversation was that the steering committee would essentially be in charge of the calendar and the procedures for gathering community input. The steering committee would not itself be providing input. As such, it did not make sense to overload the steering committee with too many members.
That is what I meant when I said, "What I'm hearing here is heavy on the process, and probably lighter on community input and that's probably OK." I certainly did not mean that a Comprehensive Plan that was light on community input would be "probably OK."
In the Village of Oak Park, particularly when it comes to statements of principle that are intended to guide the decisions of future generations of local leaders, input from as many Oak Parkers as possible, from as many organizations, neighborhoods, and businesses as possible, must be at the core of our planning efforts. Anything less than widespread involvement is unacceptable.
Adam Salzman recently completed his first year as an Oak Park village trustee.