An abstention is a real vote

Opinion

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If a trustee abstains during a vote, has he or she made a decision? The answer is yes. Wednesday Journal writes in an editorial that Trustee Baker and I were saying maybe when we voted to abstain on extending the put-call agreement for the Colt Building ("Yes, no, not maybe," July 6). The editors see this choice as wrong.

The Journal wants yes or no and there is nothing in between. Of course, a newspaper probably sells more copies on votes that are yes or no, black or white, me or you, right or wrong, controversial or non-controversial, etc.

A trustee has options that clearly allow him or her to take various positions. We can vote yes, no, present or abstain. One can also do what a former VMA board member chose to do which is to walk out of a board meeting just before the vote.

If the trustee walks out, he or she is considered absent. Of course, the trustee can return to the meeting, after the vote, and then can be counted present. In that manner a trustee can take no position.

In the put-call editorial the Journal fails to mention that at my suggestion we added a series of amendments that would protect the village. The amendments were taken from a letter from Taxman/Focus that was signed by Seymour Taxman. These amendments, among others, protect the right of public participation and protect historic buildings.

As President Pope, who I thought was going to vote no on the extension, was swayed to vote yes for the extension, it became evident that the put-call extension was going to pass. I chose, and I assume my colleague did too, to abstain at the end because we do not favor negotiated agreements. We fully support an RFP process. We also support the protections we placed on the agreement.

Voting to abstain in an imperfect situation is, in my opinion, acceptable. If the world were just seen in yes/no what a boring world we would have. If the decisions were always so cut and dried you would have so little to editorialize about.

Trustee Robert Milstein
Oak Park

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