An ode to the VMA

Opinion: Columns

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By Doug Wyman

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In 1963 my wife Barbara and I moved to Oak Park and we met Dominic Mayo, who was then the CEO of United Way, also known as the Community Chest. His favorite line was, "Every generation must build its own courthouse."

So here's my ode to the VMA (Village Manager Association):

Born 1952, retired 2018 – 66 years

Lots of good memories, laughs, and tears

Let's reflect, reminisce, socialize, and appreciate

Cause we've done a lot to congratulate

Now let's see, what did we do?

What I'm about to tell you is certainly true.

1940 to '52 

We had alderman with patronage and corruption.

Outside interests, party factionalism, alcoholism, nothing got done.

A small group discussed the problem and the changes that needed to take place.

And all the obstacles they were going to face.

Instead of Republicans or Democrats, you know,

We wanted a completely different show.

Let's ask Oak Parkers for complete reform.

The citizens said yes, and it was born.

A professional village manager governed by a citizen board,

A president, six trustees, and clerk. Praise the Lord.

So here is the village manager association. The VMA

Made up of Republicans, Democrats, and independents you say?

Yes, any Oak Parker who wants good government can belong

To the selection committee, no fee, no flag, no song.

Seven people plus clerk were selected

And put them before citizens to get them elected.

From 1953 to 2011

The VMA thought we were in heaven.

Total of 90 seats and we won 88.

Ninety percent and we thought that was great.

But the years 2013, '15, and '17, total seats 11.

We lost five, we were no longer in heaven.

Times have changed, and let's be candid.

The VMA's tired, so it disbanded. 

And now we're celebrating good things we've done.

The changes we've made, and new policies we've won,

Over time, thanks to hundreds of different souls.

Each with different skills, and also different roles.

I'd like to mention those who went before us now.

And are no longer with us — and give them a bow.

We're riding on their shoulders for all they have done.

And all the battles they've fought and battles they've won.

Here are their names:

Christiansen, Brown, Campbell, Hanley, Westcott, Cullicott, Fixman, Hansen, Wentzel, and Shea.

This crew took care of renewing the village I'd say.

 New zoning, anti-blight

 Massive sewer program

 Streets and alleys redone

 Oak Park ResCorp to rehab properties

 Fences over the expressway

Just to mention a few.

Donaker, Gearen, Thomas, and McClure

Callahan, Hoppe, Philbin, Fallon, there's more

McLean, Slaughter, and McMahon.

People who said, "Yes we can."

1968, ordinance adopted, Fair Housing 

 No for sale signs allowed

 Licensing and inspection of multifamily dwellings

 Housing Center collaborates with village, what a great crowd

 Official Community Relations Department, Sherlynn Reid, we heard from her, yes indeed.

 Developing a comprehensive plan

 Mills Tower for senior citizens

 Racial diversity statement, "Yes We Can"

 Ordinance requires lease for tenants

 $1.5 million housing bond supports multifamily rehab

 Relocating village hall to Madison and Lombard

 Equity assurance against loss of home value, village will pick up the tab

 Oak Park puts in mall, then takes it out, villagers ask, what's this all about?

Furlong, Staczack, Schultz, Ebner, Kostopulos

The rest are still alive,

But we say thanks, for these great five

 Racial diversity task force

Add sexual orientation to protected clause

 Historic preservation ordinance implemented

 Protection of solid waste disposal – Let's take a pause

 Holly Court garage complete

 Add more police and local cop beat 

 Attract more developers to build downtown

Give a smile and drop the frown.

Now on to Madison Street

Hope this gets done without much heat.

And we say to all of you here,

Thanks for all you've done and never fear.

The next generation will build their own courthouse, you see,

And they may even ask for help from you and me.

Congratulations, VMA, for 66 great years.

Reader Comments

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 12th, 2018 8:49 AM

The ode makes no mention of the cul du sacs along Austin Blvd. When I started with the Oak Park Police Dept. in 1974 the standard joke was that the cul du sacs were being built to keep the Swedish tourists from trampling on the flowers and grass. The cul du sacs were built to keep west side traffic from driving through Oak Park A possible anti fore runner to driving while black.. A device to help a fragile community thought grow strong, however a possible subtle racist a low floral planter container wall to keep a certain group out. The cul du sacs might have been need successful and needed However, would we allow the police department to beat a confession out of a prisoner. That might be successful and needed but the community would not allow such measures.There is a Jim Croce song with a lyric, after all its what we have done that makes us what we are. Time to think of the VMA, their actions,their hold on government and what the community did or did not do at the time and what not to do or condone now and role that around in your mind. The perfect time to think about the cul du sacs would be during the Fourh of July diversity parade. The parade is on Ridgeland and protected from the east/west traffic by those pesky cul du sacs on AustinBlvd.

Mary Kay O'Grady  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:48 PM

Lovely tribute.

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