Salzman, Tucker do declare

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

If you are a fan of the pace of change, the urgency of change that Oak Park's village board has largely embraced in the past 15 months, then I've got two candidates for you. Trustees Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman told me over the weekend that they are running for re-election to the village board in 2015. And while that decision is not a shock, I also get the sense that it was not entirely a foregone conclusion either.

Both have families with young-to-school-age kids and active careers they need to manage. Sitting on an energized village board takes a lot of time. Though after talking with the two, I'd conclude that serving on a revved up board takes about the same amount of time as sitting on a divided or stalled board but is just a lot more satisfying.

In the end, their shared sense of the village's active momentum and the particular roles they currently play on this board made walking away nearly impossible.

"We are poised to take a leap forward," said Salzman. "I'm proud of what we've accomplished and what we can accomplish." 

Said Tucker, "As crazy and difficult and time-consuming as this is, I really love doing it." Both pointed to the gradual coalescing they see on the current board after the tremors caused by the decisive election of Anan Abu-Taleb as village president a year ago April. 

It was Tucker and Salzman who chose the high ground then as they wrote a letter to the Journal welcoming Abu-Taleb as president and pledging to find common ground. Doesn't sound so radical until you remember a core of the competing VMA that had a flameout over Anan's election and were nothing that resembled gracious.

The village president remembers that, you'd better believe, and said Monday, "I'm delighted they have made the decision not to leave me alone." Abu-Taleb said he understood the decision by Tucker and Salzman to again seek the endorsement of the VMA even though he has in the past made noises about running his own slate in opposition to the VMA. "I want everyone in Oak Park to support these two guys and the VMA is part of Oak Park."

For their part, Salzman and Tucker spoke warmly about the VMA but also referenced their efforts to bring many new Oak Parkers into the VMA's fall selection process. "I hope the selection process is robust. I want to see tons of people on the selection committee," said Salzman.

Looking ahead to a possible second term, Tucker and Salzman presented their agendas. Both talked about the need to now move Oak Park's economic development efforts beyond downtown and into the neighborhoods. Salzman said the focus on neighborhoods has to go beyond the commercial strips and include a vigorous infrastructure investment in roads, alleys and sewers. 

Crime and safety was much on their minds as they talked about peoples' perceptions of crime levels in town. 

"There is a tension between [crime] statistics and anecdotal evidence. Statistics don't always tell the story," said Salzman. He wants to consider the selective use of surveillance cameras. Tucker called public safety "the fundamental issue. Nothing else we do works if people don't feel safe."

Both are also determined that Oak Park needs to be the technological leader in making local government transparent and accessible to residents who either want to interact with village hall or transact business with the local government. This will take both creativity and investment from village hall, but they are determined to succeed at this.

Finally, where does this leave Trustee Andrea Ott? She was appointed to the board this year to replace Ray Johnson on his retirement and her seat is up for election in 2015. When we talked Monday, she was enthused that Salzman and Tucker — her mentors, she called them — were running. 

"I'm seriously considering running," she said. "And I wouldn't have taken this position unless I was going to seriously consider running." She promised a decision by the end of this week.

Email: Twitter: @OPEditor

Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Lynn Kamenitsa from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 11th, 2014 10:46 AM

@ Mimi & John: The VMA does not imply that everyone who wants to run needs VMA "permission." Instead the VMA process is open to anyone who wants to participate. Any Oak Parker can join the committee that asks questions of prospective candidates, discusses their merits, and decides which ones to endorse. Voters ?" and candidates ?" can accept or reject that endorsement. Candidates who aren't endorsed learn a lot about what issues are important to voters and often go on to run for office later. Not every candidate the VMA endorses gets elected, but the VMA process ensures that for every open seat on the ballot there is at least one qualified candidate who has been vetted by a diverse and informed group of our fellow citizens. Again, ANYONE is welcome to become part of that group. People can learn more at an informal meet-up this Wed. evening at Trattoria 225. Details on the Village Manager Association facebook.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 8th, 2014 11:11 PM

Joel - yes, as shown by Salzman and Tucker announcing their intention to run well prior to the VMA nominating process. That's as it should be. They don't need anyone's blessing to run. Hope to see other candidates do the same.

John R Murtagh from oak park  

Posted: August 8th, 2014 10:58 AM

Election Step 3 - Is discrimination in Oak Park increasing or decreasing?

JOHN murtagh from OP  

Posted: August 8th, 2014 10:16 AM

Joel - The VMA would like you to believe that you needed their permission to run for the village board, but in fact you do not have to participate in the VMA Selection Process or commit to any questioning.

Joel A. Schoenmeyer from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 8th, 2014 9:59 AM

Is it possible to run for trustee without submitting yourself to the VMA for approval?

jOHNmURTAGH from op   

Posted: August 8th, 2014 9:17 AM

Step 1 -The 2015 Oak Park Village Board Campaign is on! Step 2 - The candidates are good listeners, so lets help them grasps the issues of 2014. Step 3 - Post your issues that candidate need to address. Step 4 - Read and comment on other posters. Let's dialog! Candidate can be posters too!

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 8th, 2014 2:15 AM

John, you are right. TIFs can and have produced benefits for many communities but there are also countless examples of politicians misusing the funds. Some insist TIF districts produce many benefits for Oak Park.Others may cite misguided projects or plans as an example of funds being wasted while neighborhood infrastructure deteriorated and other business districts ignored. An independent analysis would be helpful and might provide invaluable guidance for the current and future boards.

Monica S from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2014 7:49 PM

Oak Park is lucky to have Tucker & Salzman running for re-election. Each brings a voice of reason to the village board and works hard on our behalf.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 7th, 2014 12:36 PM

Mose ?" I am not anti-TIF. There are thousands of places in the country where TIF's have done their job ?" envigorating the local economies. Oak Park had its first TIF in 1984 and used it to make Lake Street a Mall. Streets were covered, cars were deported, and the Mall did not envigorate downtown and the mall's concrete was replaced with asphalt. It was the first of two many failure. OP has spent 175M on Tifs since 1984. Where did the money go? Lots of present and past board members know! Don't bother researching the history of Tif in OP. Concentrate on future use. The board needs a whole bunch of development money. They are not going to get it from banks alone - too much debt already. So they will try to convince OP residents that "new" Tifs will increase our property value. Been there, done that, regret!

SEOP from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2014 7:48 AM

Several years ago Salzman and Tucker knocked on my door on a summer weekend afternoon and asked me how things were going in Southeast Oak Park. This was months after they had already been elected. They took time to listen to me and even had the village address a problem on my block. Since then I have followed their work on the village board, and I have been very impressed. They are excellent trustees. These two have earned our support.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 11:45 PM

Wow! $175,000,000 of our tax dollars spent! Little wonder no board member has ever dared to ask for an independent audit of all collections and expenditures. How much was doled out via an open and competitive bidding process? What's the grand total paid to all those outside consultants and how exactly were they selected? What happened to the reports they should have produced? Who protected our interests against fraud, insider deals and waste? My guess is we will never know. Thanks, John

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 10:28 PM

There is some Tif data available using the Village Website Search. There is only file and that is from 2012. There is a handy historical file that shows data for every year the Tif was active ?" up to 2012. The data below shows the totals for the three Tif's - Madison (from 1996-2012) , Downtown (1984-2013) , Harlem (Volvo) 2000-2012. Downtown had revenue of 170.5M, expense of 162.2M, and a balance of 4.4M. Madison had revenue of 24.5M, expense of 12.6M, and a balance of 13.3M. Harlem (Volvo Site) had revenue of 1.1M, expense of .2M, and a .8M. The detail is better in the report but not so detailed that it can be determined where the money was really spent. No additional file with Tif in its name appeared in the search. In total, nearly 175M have been spent on TIFs.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 9:27 PM

Really?. No, this isn't fun and why do you insist that any individual interested seeking to examine the TIF books has to submit a formal request to Tucker and Salzman? What about the public's right to know? Aren't we talking about the collection and expenditure of tax dollars? Only after the school board took legal action did the trustees agree to open the books. The average citizen has neither the time or resources to fight Village Hall. Have the books ever been open to the public? No!

Johnmurtagh from OP  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 9:13 PM

Mose - I have some Tif data for you. Will send it as soon as my Facebook Verify reappears. It appears and disappears regularly.

John MurTAGH from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 9:07 PM

I find it fascinating that people think they should contact a board member or the village to get information. We have a website. Just go there. Lots of Luck.

Elizabeth L from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 8:24 PM

I've had the opportunity to discuss Oak Park issues of concern to me with both Trustee Salzman and Trustee Tucker. They are both incredibly thoughtful and intelligent. I will not hesitate to vote for both of them. Oak Park is lucky to have these two dedicated officials!

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 8:15 PM

Mose, I think everybody sees what you're about. You are saying people have withheld info from you that you've never even requested. You have admitted this. You reference a lawsuit that was settled. I'll say it one more time because I think it is entirely reasonable: send in a request. Or you can continue to suggest things with absolutely no backing. That's probably more fun.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 7:33 PM

Really?, you are ignoring the fact that OP-RF High School board members did ask to examine TIF books and their request was denied. Can you explain or defend the Village response? Why was some website information not sufficent for the high school board? Why did a judge order the Village to open the books? Why should a citizen have to formally request to see where our tax dollars are being spent? Who's been paid? How much? Is there an open bid process for contracts? Do you know?

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 7:18 PM

@Mose. I'm not mocking. But come on! If you're going to say that people are withholding information from you, at least tell me that you have requested it! That's only fair, right? If you want or need more information than is available on the website (and there is lots of information there), just ask for it.

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 7:11 PM

@Mose. I think you've answered my question. You've never requested this information and you haven't even looked for it on the website. But "it's your understanding." That's great. And just what I thought. Seriously, send the board or the Village Manager an email. It's easy to do!

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 7:11 PM

Really?, don't mock or insult someone just for asking for information that should be available to any resident or taxpayer. Why should a formal request be required? These are our tax dollars being spent without accountability or oversight. The high school made a formal request and was turned down. Why would the response be any different for the average citizen? What you are referencing on the web is not a detailed accounting of all TIF revenues and expenditures. That's not available.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 7:02 PM

John, it's my understanding that the Village board refuses to allow an independent examination of TIF collection and spending and the actual books are off limits to the public. Tucker and Salzman should be able to shed some light on the issue by offering examples of what they will or will not allow any citizen to view. Perhaps one of their supporters would be willling to ask them to go on the record regarding the TIF books. Where do these trustees they stand? I'd like to hear from them!

Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 6:52 PM

@Mose. You are hilarious. Did you send a request to the board for this information? Or do you just like posting in the comments? Please show me where you were told that this information was off limits -- when in fact it's on the web!!!!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 6:41 PM

The TIF Follies - The Village's Chief Finance Officer is an expert at revealing everything with out giving you anything. The accounting of TIF funds is so complicated that you have to be part accountant and part magician. The simple summary is that the TIFs are still in the red and it will be like that until the village gets 100% out of debt.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 6:30 PM

Step Away seems to think to that trying to bully a resident and taxpayer is an appropriate way to respond. The TIF books should be open for inspection by any citizen. The trustees are spending millions of our tax dollars without oversight and transparency. Tucker and Salzman both offered a promise to make government more open. They failed to keep that pledge by insisting that the TIF books remain off limits. Citizens should not have to request that elected officials honor their promises.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 6:21 PM

Jl, I'm not sure of the source you rely upon to make the claim that all the TIF books are open and available for public inspection. You may recall that one of Oak Park's local taxing asked to examine the books and were told by Village Hall, "NO!". The courts intervened and ordered the books open for inspection. If you are able to identify a detailed and independent accounting of all TIF revenues and expenditures; please share that info. A general statement would not be acceptable.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 5:26 PM

Steve Rouse quote "I am tired of special interest candidates (and W J commentators) endlessly commenting on one issue and not engaging in a productive dialog concerning what is best for Oak Park as a whole." OK Steve, we are ready to listen to your issues list. Please provide an estimate of the loans, subsidies, etc that you will need.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 5:18 PM

I am not surprised that a lot of posters favor Tucker and Saltzman in the 2015 election. Both have done a good job in the last two years. My unwillingness to support them is their track record on encouraging and supporting financial subsidies, loans, and financial deals favorable to developers and corporations - Tony's, Volvo, and the New Sertus etc. Anytime now, the board will announce that it needs to add a sizable amount of additional debt to the 100 million they already owe. We need incumbent board members to be forthright and transparent before endorsing them in elections. Be straight with us, and we will be straight with them.

Step Away from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 5:13 PM

@Mose: did you ever think of sending an email to the board with your request? Or better yet, just look on-line? Mose, step away from the computer and get some fresh air. Tucker and Salzman have been great trustees. So glad they're up for another term!

JLR from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 5:09 PM

This is great news. I wasn't actively involved in local politics until Salzman and Tucker came around. Their inclusive approach to politics has been refreshing, and I find myself agreeing with their positions all of the time. I know it takes a toll on those who step up to serve, and for this, I thank them.

JL from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 5:06 PM

Mose - because your statement is untrue. All Village financial info is publicly available by law. Oak Park's is at the Village Hall, and here, if you care to look, including TIF reports and annual audits:

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 4:53 PM

Everyone who posts they are pleased about Tucker and Salzman seeking re-election chose to avoid addressing the question about why they support these two trustees' position that the TIF books must remain closed to any public inspection and that taxpayers have no right to demand transparency and accountability. Millions of tax dollars being spent without independent oversight is perfectly acceptable? How about all the money doled out for outside consultants, no bid contracts and insider deals?

Paul Noble from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 3:27 PM

Anyone who follows these threads knows that the guiding principle is naysaying, but I, for one, am very happy that Adam and Bob are seeking reelection. I have seen first hand their work at Village Board meetings, and also their willingness to engage dissenters in the community. I'm impressed by their vision, their good humor, and their devotion to doing right by the villagers of Oak Park.

Maria Pascarella from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 3:15 PM

I am pleased to hear that Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman are running for re-election. I thank them for their time, energy and hard work in their first term. Their understanding of our community and collaborative nature would be of continued benefit to Oak Park.

From from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 2:24 PM

Happy to see that Bob and Adam have decided to run for re-election. Love the fact that they are willing to work with all board members in the interest of the citizens of Oak Park.

From Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 1:00 PM

I'm glad that Bob and Adam are pursuing re-election. They are both eminently qualified and have made mostly good decisions in their time on the board. They do a good job of trying to listen to the concerns of all of the citizens of OP.

Kristin from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 12:55 PM

I don't think of myself as being anything close to a VMA stalwart, but I am very happy that Salzman and Tucker are running again. They are great at seeking community input and responding to concerns. I also give them a lot of credit and thanks for taking the time to serve our town.

JOHN murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 11:39 AM

Steve Rouse and Sonny Ginsberg, VMA stalwarts are on board for the Bob and Adam Show. David Pope should post any minute.

Steven Rouse from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 11:23 AM

I agree with Sonny Ginsberg's comments. Adam and Bob's strategic cooperation with all board members is in the best interest of the Oak Park and benefits the entire village. I appreciate that they are not allowing politics play a role in their decision making process. I am tired of special interest candidates (and W J commentators) endlessly commenting on one issue and not engaging in a productive dialog concerning what is best for Oak Park as a whole. Adam and Bob have shown the ability to communicate openly with residents concerning all issues, not just issues they voted for, another important quality for any Trustee. I look forward to supporting them in the upcoming election. .

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 10:57 AM

Sonny, so you are pleased with Tucker and Salzman. Does that also mean you fully support policies that continue providing millions for consultant contracts, waiving the competing bidding process and arranging special deals for insiders? That's what is still going on in Council Chambers. How about hiding TIF expenditures from public inspection? Tucker and Salzman want to continue that practice. Millions of our tax dollars doled out without independent oversight or accountability. OK with you?

JL from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 9:49 AM

This is good news. Recall that some elements of the VMA were not obliged to work with Anan, but Bob and Adam put that aside to work with him and make progress. And they take time out of their family lives to volunteer for us. Not sure why they come into criticism for that.

Sonny Ginsberg from Oak Park  

Posted: August 6th, 2014 9:46 AM

I welcome Trustees Tucker and Salzman's decision. Their cooperation with Anan evidences that they do not view the VMA as a political party, but as a means to find qualified candidates. That Anan was elected outside the VMA process should not make him a lifelong outsider. Rather, his ideas, when consistent with smart and necessary Village (transit -oriented) development, should be supported - and that is what Adam and Bob have done. They think for themselves. We all should.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 5th, 2014 10:02 PM

I agree completely with Mose's comments. We have a board that has been together for about 14 months and it has already returned government to where it was during the crisis riddled 2000's. Everything that was said by the new board members in the last two years has become campaign fodder. The seven board members have come together as buddies, while forgetting that there roles are to represent residents. Watching talented people sell their souls for unity is a shame.


Posted: August 5th, 2014 9:34 PM

Definitely a smart move. They'll be able to raise a lot more money with Anan's connections than the old school VMA.

Mose from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 5th, 2014 8:03 PM

Tucker and Salzman talk a good game but both remain strongly opposed to any real reforms that would bring transparency and accountability to Village government. They continue to support millions being spent on consultants, no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals. They fight to keep TIF books closed to the public. Oak Park residents and taxpayers deserve elected officials who will actually honor their campaign promises to make government open to the people. Tucker and Salzman will not!

Patricia O'Shea from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 5th, 2014 6:01 PM

Glad to see this. Would have been even better independent. Why do we need these parties in OP today anyway?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 5th, 2014 5:55 PM

Post below - Word in WJ alphabet is "protege".

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: August 5th, 2014 5:54 PM

Clever is the word. If there is one gift Bob and Adam share it is political savvy. By jumping in early while announcing they will continue to align themselves with the VMA, they are using a scare tactic for anyone who might have been considering a run for trustee. Adding Andrea Ott, Bob and Adam's protégé, to the ticket fills three VMA seats, and ensures that the VMA selection process will continue to be a farce. If the clever ones prevail and get elected in 2015, the board will have six VMA'ers and Anan. The Village Movers and Shakers might as well skip 2015 and go straight to 2017. That presidential race would be a doozy.

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