Board critics should quit carping and embrace an open government


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Your customary placement (i.e. massing) of negative letters two weeks ago has once again drawn my attention, because I have seen, and experienced, this journalistic tactic so many times before. Even the players repeat. Balance is needed and is requested.

A respectful period has now passed since the truly shape-shifting election resulted in the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees races being announced in these pages a few short months ago.

In the interim we have been treated to the long-overdue pleasure of being served by a group of entirely new faces, intellects and temperaments at the village board table. Congratulations and welcome aboard: Greg Marsey, Martha Brock and Geoff Baker. Welcome back, Bob Milstein, our venerated veteran. And, congratulations Elizabeth Brady; your selection honors the diligent efforts and insights of this newly elected village board, led by freshly-elevated David Pope.

When I observe that Oak Park's voters resoundingly cleared the boards by electing new faces?#34;with both vibrant ideas and deep roots as constructive local activists of many years engagement?#34;my understatement is of the magnitude of saying that Michael Jordan played basketball. Because Michael Jordan's freshly executed athleticism redefined basketball! And, because our freshly engaged voters, with equal clarity, redefined Oak Park's future!

The good humor, engaged judgment, reliable openness, respectful inclusiveness and characteristic hard work of the new village board is bracing, heartening, enjoyable and productive. We are challenged to think in new ways. We are talking and working together as we have not for far, far, far too many years. We are engaging respectfully, challenging long-held priorities as we explore, test, select, revise and reconstitute policies, procedures, priorities and ways of doing our community's business.

Does this upset long-dominant, traditionalist elements? Of course it does. And the pinched pleas to pollute by invective and carping criticism is predictable. Unfortunate, but predictable.

Why unfortunate? Unfortunate because the paradigm of local municipal inspiration, planning and execution has shifted. And, given that reality, I suggest that joining is infinitely preferable to losers' grinding groans of curmudgeonly carping and complaining.

For a period of time practically beyond the memory of most of us today, it has been virtually impossible for energetic, independent citizens to engage with those governing, who often worked in secrecy to shape (i.e. control) Oak Park. Prominent in those years were code words, such as "traditional priorities" to justify/explain decisions and public expenditures calculated to further the aims of those controlling and exercising power. Secrecy and knowing winks substituted for open discussion.

Questioners/challengers were isolated and rejected, over and over and over again. Those risking entering the political arena independently always risked, and experienced, vituperative, and very personal vilification and intensely negative criticism; carefully crafted?#34;and placed in print?#34;to achieve the maximum effect upon readers/voters who might consider supporting or even joining efforts at opposition not sanctioned by the local political elite. But, that has all changed.

Now it is possible to participate, to question, to influence and to be influenced. Come on down. Come on in. An exciting era is launching; we are all part of this liftoff. Negativity as a governing style has been rejected, resoundingly. Openness as a governing style has been embraced, resoundingly.

And, if you know a negative vilifier, tell him/her so, bluntly and unambiguously.

Then, invite him/her in, for there is much we can do. Together!

John Frederick Troelstrup
Oak Park

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