Oak Park residents talk hot-button issues at Citizens for Community Conversation

Conversation and complaints voiced at town hall meeting

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

The night was an "opportunity for no judgment to be made."

That's how Oak Parker Julie Samuels described Sunday evening when the Citizens for Community Conversation, an informal group of residents who organize conversations about creating action plans in Oak Park, hosted a town hall meeting at Unity Temple.

With a marker in hand and an oversized notepad, Julie and her husband Bruce led a group of roughly 40 residents through a night of conversation about concerns in Oak Park. Village trustees Bob Tucker, Glenn Brewer and John Hedges and Village President David Pope were in attendance, though they participated as residents instead of board members.

Julie Samuels explained the group is motivated by three factors: the upcoming village manager decision, the 22-year-old Comprehensive Plan that's being considered for revision, and the April 9 local election when the village president and three trustee positions will be up for vote.

"We're just trying to have a civil conversation," said Bruce Samuels, noting that Citizens for Community Conversation was viewed for years as the opposition to the Village Manager's Association, an organization that recruits and slates candidates interested in running for president or trustee. That's no longer the case. Instead, he hopes Citizens for Community Conversation can unite Oak Park residents behind issues that can later be presented to the village board.

"We're trying to evolve [the mission]," said group member Gary Schwab, a former candidate for village president, who wants to find a more effective way to run local government, which includes reviewing how decisions are made.

"Some of the new ideas have turned out pretty badly," he said.

Schwab would like more forums for residents to voice their thoughts so Oak Parkers can share in a dialogue that can be presented collectively to leaders. Through the group's new website, which is still a work-in-progress, they hope to spark more conversation.

Topping the list for the group were items ranging from the lack of people involved in the local election season, the struggles of the Arts District, empty storefronts, foreclosure rates, high parking rates, inconsistent parking signage, and creating respectful and diverse dialogue to topics such as the development at Lake and Forest, Madison Street, village management, village board spending decisions and transparency, the living wage ordinance, and a long-range environmental plan.

After much open discussion from around the room, the 28 talking points were broken down into four categories: business and development, governing issues, community participation and environment.

Citizens for Community Conversation plans to take the thoughts shared at the meeting and use them in further conversations that may turn into action plans at the village board level and eventually be implemented.

Contact:
Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

13 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 12:17 PM

Reader, John Butch Murtagh does pay very close attention to what goes on in Oak Park. His information is reported with fairness to everyone involved.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 10:06 AM

Reader? Are you actually going to refute anything that has been said or just lazily attempt to introduce doubt into other reader's minds?

Reader  

Posted: September 14th, 2012 9:39 AM

Does John Murtagh publish a newsletter or paper? He seem s to have his finger on the pulse of Oak Park......NOT

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 13th, 2012 12:04 AM

Interested - I assume you are asking how the VMA and VCA were formed. The VMA was formed sixty years ago. They are the dominant political group in the village and have been for all sixty years. The VCA is a mix of people including ex-VMA people who helped form the "party." They have a slate of candidates in most local elections, and usually get beaten by the VMA. The VMA is the powerhouse and get a lot of business financial support. The VCA never has near the money that the VMA has, and usually get beaten 2 to 1. There have been other parties that have faded, collapsed, or been swallowed up. Independent candidate do get elected. President Pope was an independent and then switched to the VMA. Only about 20% of registered voters show up on election day. An independent can win if they have supporters that will vote.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 11:21 PM

OH - There is a village discussion that is active 24/7, is based on news stories, has a great diversity of opinions -- some very sound, and has an archive of new stories and a library of the recent history of Oak Park. You are at the place to go -- The Wednesday Journal Online Edition and Readers Comments. While going to board meetings, commission meeting, public forums etc. are helpful they provide little in terms of knowing the complete story of how OP works.

Interested  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:18 PM

Some interesting topics. How was this group formed? What does "lack of people involved in the local election season" mean?

DOH  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 5:25 PM

Election 101: If someone is planning on running for Village office, they may want to be a part of the Village discussion. No?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 11:46 AM

Tucker was elected in 2010. The other four elected officials are up for election in 2013. I think it is important that elected officials attend meetings like this.

NEOPer from Oak Park  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:35 AM

I'm pretty sure that Tucker ran last time, so I don't think he's up for reelection. I don't think the others ran last time, so they probably are. I happen to think it's a good thing for our elected officials to be engaged with citizens, regardless of the motive.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:28 AM

Observer - the fifth OP elected official was Teresa Powell, Village Clerk. There was a notice on the website about their attendance at the meeting as private citizens.

DOH  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 10:15 AM

There wouldn't have been a meeting if there were not an election coming up. It works both ways. The Village board members seem to be damned if they do, and damned of they dont. God forbid our leaders take part in a Village discussion.

Observer  

Posted: September 12th, 2012 8:55 AM

Pope, Brewer, Hedges, and Tucker all attended to see what to expect as the hot button issues in the next election. They cannot attend as citizens for they are Board Members. It is like a police officer attending a gang meeting as a community member; that just does not happen. Pope, et al have multiple forums to extol their agenda. Their only concern is winning reelection, which is why they were present. They would not have been present if there was not an election next year.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: September 11th, 2012 11:17 PM

The 2013 Elections kicked off on Sunday night at the Unity Church. Nominally, the meeting was to be a savage attack on the Wednesday Journal for being too aligned with the VMA. In fact, it turned out to be a gathering to gather OP issues and debate. It was sorta like WJ Comments Live. The meeting was organized by Citizens for Community Conversation (CCC), a political partner of the VCA (Village Citizens Alliance). (The VCA is the punching bag that frequently runs against VMA candidates.) CCC only emerges during OP board elections, so the election season is officially open. Doubtful of that? There are only eight elected village officials (7 board members and the village clerk). Five (all VMA) of the eight showed up Sunday night and four were 2013 candidates. The rest of the 40 or so attendees were VCA members, local socialist, and members of the Unity Church. The story was not the meeting, it was the meetup as in ... Huh! It is unlikely that the two political groups were plotting a shared campaign. The two organizations do not mix well. The VCA is like honey and the VMA like champagne. Maybe its nervousness about the election on the VMA side and an attempt by the VCA to become election-relevant. Either way the 2013 Election Campaign is underway.

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