On VMA loss, two dollars gained


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VMA VS. BLUE COLLARS, VMA VS. SELF: Twenty years ago, when Oak Park's Village Manager Association lost its first election in its then thirty-some years, licensed sociologist and past and future school, township, and village government office holder Galen Gockel voiced a trenchant opinion in the matter.

"It was social class," he said in a guest essay in this very publication, adding, "Money. Occupation. Prestige. Status." The outs were saying, "We've been ignored?The local elite is imposing its agenda on us," he wrote. "Oak Park's dominant liberal group" was deciding things. Enough voters felt left out to swing an election, though not so sweepingly as last April's, when no VMA candidate but the tried and true village clerk survived.

That was then. What does Gockel say now? Readers are warned: This is an exclusive.

The VMA slate, failing to grasp voters' "hunger for change," never had a chance, in Gockel's opinion. Too many disagreed with major decisions, from the Whiteco subsidy to non-ban on smoking. There was extensive umbrage-taking at "arbitrary and unforgiving parking enforcement?chronic building permit delays," and other annoyances and indignities emanating from Village Hall. From unpopular decisions came a zest for "new leadership," a phrase shrewdly incorporated into the opposition's name. From annoyances and indignities came a "coalition of the offended." New leaders and offended both gunned for the incumbent party.

It didn't help that critics had been pegged as mere "nay-sayers" who would find out on election day how wrong they were. "Citizen unhappiness was wide and deep, and the local [VMA] elite (shades of Gockel '85 here)?didn't understand that." VMA candidates would have had to disown major board decisions of the previous four to eight years, when VMA people ran things. They didn't, and voters themselves became nay-sayers. VMA had done the foul deeds, and VMA paid.

SANDWICH MAN: Man sits waiting in car in Osco parking lot, dinner time, while lady of the house buys greeting cards. Scruffy young man wants money "for a sandwich," asking around, pleading. You can buy it for him, he says, heading off the assumption that he will use the money for drugs or booze. Getting nowhere, he heads for Dunkin' Donuts a few steps away, is turned away by another young man, its proprietor or of the proprietor's family. This young man is triumphant: He got the panhandler out.

The panhandler returns to the parking lot. He's in dirty shirt and pants, in his early 20s, not shaven but not bearded either, nor is his hair long and matted. But he smells of no-bath experience (not of booze). He pleads some more, of anyone in the lot. Aforementioned man waiting for wife resists as usual but finds himself vulnerable. The beggar is of his ethnicity, for one thing. He looks like people the man knows very well. He finds it less easy to ignore him.

He leaves his car, enters Osco, finds wife still looking for cards. He is deputed to buy one, does so, is told it does not pass muster. Distracted, he says buy it anyway, giving it to wife, who continues her search for the perfect card. Mind made up, he leaves the store, re-enters the lot, and strides toward the pitiful young man, not even looking at him, and slips two dollar bills into his hand. "Thank you, sir," the young man says. Both turn and walk away.

PRICKLY: Haughty shopper of the month award goes to woman 40 or so at Dominick's speaking to man who indicates by body language that he wants out of line briefly and wants to get past her cart. She, failing or unwilling to pick up on the body language and not pulling her cart back, requires him to say he wants to get by: "You should articulate that," she admonishes. He agrees wholeheartedly and is let through.

If she had expostulated, "Why don't you effing say so?" she would have sacrificed hauteur but would have gotten "A" for candor.

HOW MAILMAN GETS ALONG WITH DOGS: He has a way with him, first, but second, he has goodies they go for. When they see him coming, he presents himself not as something to be eaten (chewed on, as soft flesh of calf, or at least barked at) but as someone who gives something (nice) to eat. Dog says not a word (barks not), liking this nice mailman.

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