By Dan Haley
It is one thing to campaign against an $80 million investment in your downtown. We'll see if it proves to be another thing to cast the deciding vote that drives that investment straight out of town.
Talking Friday with the three Oak Park village trustees elected in April — Deno Andrews, Simone Boutet and Dan Moroney — elected in notable part on their opposition to the Albion high-rise proposed for Lake and Forest, I had the feeling they were more than a little surprised that a close vote, 5-4 by the Plan Commission, went against Albion and not for it.
So rather than potentially railing if Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and his three purported rubber stamps — Andrea Button-Ott, Jim Taglia and Bob Tucker — pushed Albion through on a close vote at the village board, there is now the possible scenario that all three would have to cast affirmative votes to uphold the Plan Commission's anticipated anti-Albion recommendation. That's because it takes a super majority, five votes, to override the Plan Commission or the local zoning board. That's state law.
The trio, sincere all, remain a bit mesmerized by the echo chamber of emails and Facebook which have effectively galvanized Albion opposition.
Boutet told me Friday about her emails: "hundreds opposed, a handful in support" on Albion. Andrews is taking note of the opponents' ability to turn up the flow of anti-Albion emails on a dime.
Moroney seems to have begun to absorb the truly distinct difference between campaigning and governing. During the spring election, he told me he campaigned on a theme that it was "Easy to identify a problem. Hard to identify the solution. And hard to get from Point A to Point B." The opposition response he's received during the plan commission process, he said, has been "hundreds and hundreds of emails telling us to vote no. But none have suggested how to get from Point A to Point B. That's a major flaw in the 'No' campaign," he said.
And here's the money quote: "There are people who want me to join hands with Deno and Simone and say, 'Albion is dead.' Well, I'm studying it."
Good for him.
Governing is different than campaigning. Being against Albion in March was smart politics as it distinguished the three newcomers from the incumbents. It also played to an active base of anti-development forces who were adept at organizing and turning out voters.
Now Moroney has figured out that being against Albion isn't the same as figuring out what to do with the empty and obsolete retail building at Lake and Forest. It's "atrocious" and "unacceptable," he told me. He's figured out that the ridiculous idea pushed by some of having a taxing body buy the parcel and turning it into a park is nuts. This is prime commercial land in a landlocked downtown. It needs to generate revenue for taxpayers.
That, you might remember is the other common theme of the newly elected: Something has to be done about property taxes. They're too high. We have to bring them down, they said. Now in office for several months, working on a village budget and the options for cutting taxes are revealed to be hard and complicated. That makes kissing off a million dollars in annual property taxes and 300 new and well-heeled tenants a tougher choice than during campaign season.
Finally, has anyone else noticed that, at the same time the park district has had some success in running Albion and its tax income into a ditch, they are simultaneously pitching a brand new $45 million community rec center paid for by taxpayers?
That is an audacious move.
Answer Book 2018
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