Wanted: independents with fire and guts

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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John Murtagh

There is always room for discreet partisans with a dash of fire and guts. 

We Oak Parkers are discreet partisans. We like our partisan ways to be hidden. We do not do politics in Oak Park. Refer to an Oak Park elected official as a politician and a verbal reprimand appears. Political chats are clinical, not fiery. We do public service and social consciousness, not politics. We are serious about selecting our elected officials, but vote in low numbers. In 2013, just 22.8% of Oak Park's registered voters took part in a wild, crazy, and interesting presidential election between Abu-Taleb and Hedges. The turnout is about right for the discreet, but horrid for those who quietly poke at pet issues.

The ultimate in Oak Park discreet partisanship is "spread around" election money. The money finds its way into the campaign and becomes the gathering space for discreet conversations and decisions. Money becomes the "spread around" that energizes the campaign. 

In 2013, the "spread around" was about $100,000, i.e. $12 for every voter. I have no idea how $100,000 is spent on 8,100 people. It would be fun to dissect.

To keep you all abreast, I am providing some info on elections. Those who want to run for office and do not have a lot of money should consider alignment with a political party. The biggest and most successful political party in the village is Village Manager Association (VMA). The VMA has lots of money to "spread around" sometimes. 2013 was not a sometime. The VMA had only $20,000 to "spend around" and lost big. 2014-15 will be a year of replenishing its war chest, but there will be funds for those who display a high degree of loyalty.

If you want a run with a political party other than the VMA, you are out of luck. Those enterprises closed their shops a few years ago. There were too many parties, and not enough cake. A new party is possible if you can centralize your issues, capture the attention of those who share your view, find a way to create campaign cash flow, and passion – heaps of it. 

There is a problem though. Three incumbent board members (Tucker, Salzman, and Ott) have already announced that they will run together as the VMA slate. There are only three seats open. The VMA wants them all. But there is no guarantee that a VMA slate can capture three seats. Other slates or independents can knock out slated candidates.

You are probably wondering who spent the remaining $80,000 in the 2013 presidential election. That would be Anan Abu-Taleb. Will Anan and his supporters be spending big money in the 2015 election? Considering that Anan has already shown support for "the three incumbents," it would be easy to say no. 

But there is no love affair between the VMA and Anan. Could Anan trust the VMA after the assassination they attempted immediately following the 2013 election? Can Anan complete his assertive development agenda without new trustee blood? Does Anan risk the 2017 presidential election with several VMA incumbents ready to throw in their hats?

While things look dim for non-incumbent independents, I would not drop out yet! There is always room for discreet partisans with a dash of fire and guts.

Reader Comments

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Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 28th, 2014 5:13 PM

I'm a fan! Keep fighting the good fight, Murtagh.


Posted: August 28th, 2014 4:50 PM

I also am a fan of Murtagh though not as much today as yesterday, but hopefully tomorrow

Re: VMA  

Posted: August 28th, 2014 10:48 AM

All this drama about the VMA always. I'm not a fan. But not a hater either. If you don't like it run without them. To Friar Tuck's point, business leadership isn't a problem as long as the candidate is not single-issue, etc. I didn't vote for Anan, but admit he's doing a great job. Including getting the youthful Ms. Ott on the baord. Who is now trying to run with VMA backing. Can't we all just get along? Everybody lighten up.

Friar Tuck from OP  

Posted: August 28th, 2014 9:23 AM

Mr Traczyk, thanks for the very articulate and accurate depiction of the role of the VMA. I'm usually a fan of Mr Murtaugh, but I think we direct too much angst at the VMA. My one comment to Peter's would be that I hope the VMA would consider for-profit/business leadership too just as if not more important a criteria for candidacy. NFP's are nice, & necessary but I think elected officials don't often enough reflect the views of those who actually create the wealth that funds all govt.

Peter Traczyk from Oak Park  

Posted: August 28th, 2014 8:53 AM

Here's my understanding of the role of the VMA in the absence of traditional parties in Oak Park: to ensure that there are at least enough qualified candidates that have participated in a basic vetting process to fill the open seats on the ballot. The very basic vetting process looks for candidates that have experience and knowledge of Oak Park, whether through Village committees or other non-for-profit leadership experience. The VMA looks to avoid single-issue or strongly partisan candidates. That's about it. How shocking then, that candidates or incumbents that have demonstrated a good working knowledge of OP and middle-of-the-road sensibility get slated! Frankly, I want Very Mild Angst in my local leadership. Strong boards are filled with members that can gain the respect and trust of their peers to intelligently discuss, persuade and vote on issues. Save the extreme angst and drama for the WJ comments section; I want reasonable, thoughtful people on our elected boards.


Posted: August 28th, 2014 8:02 AM

You're a know it all (except in how to use their vs. there), why don't you run? I'm sure you could cure all the Villages problems with one stroke of your pen.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 28th, 2014 12:23 AM

Mimi ?" I wrote ..."have already announced that they will run as the VMA slate" because the VMA is a sucker for slates that lack controversy, offer a Trifecta win, and know that VMA stands for Very Mild Angst. I see little chance that the VMA would pass up a young, fun, and eager slate. Fundraising might be a problem, but if there are no independent candidate that is not a big problem. Actually, John Hedges announced his VMA run very early last year and slid right through the interview process. The key to 2015 election is independents!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 11:50 PM

Facts - "Tucker, Salzman, Ott, all VMA , all in on the assassination attempt, or part of a consensus building, productive board? There choice I guess!

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 9:52 PM

..."have already announced that they will run as the VMA slate." Simply not true. They announced they will run. They will participate in the VMA process, but if not slated, will still run. Salzman and Tucker just made 2015 even more interesting than 2013: They announced their intention to run BEFORE the VMA announced its slate. That's revolutionary in OP. John, do Not assume blessing by the VMA is a foregone conclusion.

Facts from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 8:32 PM

John - "but there is no love affair between the VMA and Anan" and " I don't speak for Anan" = contradictory One thing I know is that the VMA judges people individually, not by party. The offensive part was "assassination attempt by the VMA". I think you should judge individuals, Ray J?, but not the organization. Tucker, Salzman, Ott, all VMA , all in on the assassination attempt, or part of a consensus building, productive board?

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 5:13 PM

To Facts from Oak Park - The state of Illinois refers to the VMA as a political party. Got a problem, call Quinn! If you spell out exactly what part of my post offended the VMA, I will respond and if necessary, apologize. I think Andrea Ott is a good board member. I do not speak for Anan. I have no idea of his view on Ms. Ott performance. Does Anan get along with the VMA? I don't know. One thing I do know is that he judges people individually, not by party.

Facts from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 4:10 PM

Bridgett - I couldn't agree with you more. John, could you please get your facts straight, and stop the nonsense with the VMA? The VMA is a political organization, NOT A PARTY. Anan appointed Andrea Ott, and she will participate as a potential VMA candidate, because she "respects the process". So since you speak for Anan, in saying he doesn't get along with anyone associated with the VMA, must we conclude that Anan must be very disappointed with Andrea? What do you have to say for Anan?

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 3:50 PM

I would certainly not describe Anan Abu-Taleb as an independent with fire and guts. It still business as usual with the Village board when it comes to any real meaningful reforms. The president and trustees still are satisified that there is no reason to allow the public to examine the TIF books, move to end the awarding of no-bid contracts, spending big bucks on contracts to outside consultants and halting sweetheart deals. Taking on the VMA machine will fail. The slate will run unopposed.

JOHN MURTAGH from op  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 2:27 PM

Hi Bridgett - I don't see how having a different political opinion is divisive.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: August 27th, 2014 1:10 AM

John, This is a divisive piece of writing. While I am not a fan of how some long-time members of the VMA conducted themselves during the last election, I am hesitant to dismiss a candidate simply because they are members of the VMA, particularly now that I have taken the time to get to know other members of the VMA, including Bob, Adam, and Andrea. I have valued Adam and Bob's contribution to the Board. Andrea as well, though I have a little less to go by because of her newness to the Board.

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