It has been three months since the election and the new board is wasting no time in implementing some very ominous changes.
The most important action taken to date was the appointment of a new trustee. There is no doubt that Ms. Brady is a person of high personal quality. So, for that, the board deserves accolades. I only wish that some basic criteria had been established for applicants because it is clear that village experience was not one of them.
I agree with the local papers that the board table is not the place to start one's village experience. Gerald Clay, a free thinker, would have brought a great deal more to the table. Trustee Milstein seemed to imply that diversity was all that Dr. Clay would have brought, but I disagree. It is true that diversity should not be the only criteria but it should be one of them.
I question whether there will be any commitment to diversity with this board despite Trustee Brock's strongest efforts.
The basis for my doubts is derived from two additional decisions, which seem to be contrary to the stated wishes of most people in Oak Park.
The first action was to launch an assault on the diversity assurance program. This in and of itself is not bad, as all government programs need to be re-evaluated. But when a program has won national acclaim, one would think a thorough knowledge of its details would be necessary before any attempt is made to alter it. If knowledge is not necessary then at least give us an alternate plan. Unfortunately, the new board majority has provided neither.
The second action occurred at a Monday night board session two weeks ago. This board denied a variance for a private college to occupy two floors of the Marshall Field's building which have remained unoccupied for years.
The NLP trustees raised diversionary questions about signage and provided misinformation about corporate finances or the availability of using Triton. However, the real problem seemed to be that this school was providing an education for people from the West Side and maybe we wouldn't want them in our downtown. This was one of the reasons for opposing the school heard by the Plan Commission, a citizen commission that overwhelmingly supported the school, in its public hearings. Based on the village board's comments, it was agreed to. This seems ironic in view of the fact that a current board member wrote in 2000, "I thought that steering people away from your neighborhood because they don't suit your needs was wrong." My, how things have changed.
The disregard for the citizen commission is also perplexing. This vote marked the second time in the first quarter that the board has overruled a citizen committee. This is in direct contradiction to the NLP Platform, which called for, "delegating more authority to citizen commissions." I am sure the people who voted for the NLP expected something different.
The last issue I wish to raise is also the most ominous. How can the NLP believe that the system of government utilized in Chicago with its corruption and influence pedaling is superior to our own? We have never had the issues facing Chicago since we switched to a Village Manager form of government.
I am sure that the NLP would proclaim that Oak Park is nothing like Chicago, but I am not convinced. I believe that the re-addressing of Mr. Diederich's employment status is solely due to outside influence on the NLP.
We will have a lot to discuss at the next session of, "let's talk."