It was great to see Wednesday Journal endorse so many of the New Leadership Party candidates, particularly Robert Milstein for president, plus Martha Brock and Greg Marsey for trustee. Of course, we’re anxious to let voters know that our other two candidates?#34;Geoff Baker for trustee and Sharon-Patchak Layman for village clerk?#34;will do just as good a job.

In the end, however, only one endorsement counts. So for those of you who haven’t yet decided who to vote for next Tuesday, here’s a quick summary of what you will gain by electing the five NLP candidates.

The short version: You can expect Oak Park to keep changing, but in a way that accentuates all the reasons you enjoy living here.

This is not to say that our opponents don’t care about Oak Park’s future. The people who have set the course of our village over the last few years have done their best. And perhaps that’s the point. If you want something better, it’s time to elect new leadership.

Specifically, you can expect these improvements:

More support for small business: We believe it’s critical to keep locally owned businesses in town by giving them easier access to financial support and permits. This will also allow us to recruit more independent owners, not just franchises.

More money for schools: Even with the downtown TIF extended, there are ways to direct more of our tax dollars to Districts 97 and 200. The framework has already been established; let’s use it to fund education.

Full value for your tax money: The NLP candidates to more tightly monitor the village budget so that our costs for municipal services will be as low as possible. This oversight ?#34;combined with an expanded tax base?#34;will give us the best chance of preventing “sticker shock” at tax time.

Better protection of historic buildings: The downtown master plan has just been approved by the most of the current board (with only Milstein against), but that doesn’t mean we have to tear down every one of the 22 buildings now targeted for demolition. By voting for the NLP slate, you can expect more of those buildings to be saved.

Homegrown progress: Paid consultants are useful, but the plans they develop should be directed by our 25 citizen commissions and committees (not just the village board). The commissioners themselves are Oak Park’s true experts. After all, they live here, which is why the NLP wants to give them more authority.

Independent parks: Every one of the five NLP candidates support the park district referendum and want to reduce the village budget by $1.6 million so that the parks can get the money they need to become independent.

Broader vision: Downtown is important, but there is much more to be gained?#34;including tax revenue?#34;by paying attention to our other 10 business districts. We can learn from Forest Park’s success on Madison Street, for instance, and work with Berwyn to start revitalizing Roosevelt Road. Perhaps most important, we need to update Oak Park’s 15-year-old Comprehensive Plan.
Competitive bids on all village-owned property: Whiteco has already been approved, but it taught us something. By voting for the NLP slate, you can be sure that?#34;from now on?#34;competing developers will have the chance to bid against each before Oak Park signs a deal. The money saved can then be used for new roads, streetscaping, and rebuilding our older, most attractive buildings.

A decision on the animal shelter: It’s a problem that cannot wait any longer to be solved.
Tighter direction to the village manager?#34;particularly when creating Oak Park’s annual budget. We believe that citizens?#34;by talking to their trustees?#34;will find more of their priorities met. No one wants to cut services. The question is: Are you getting the services you want?

Real commitment: to affordable housing and diversity (of all types). We’re all proud of our reputation, but need more concrete programs and budget allocations if we want to maintain it.
It’s been a long time since Oak Park voters have had a significant choice on Election Day. Should we stick with the same policies, or try something new? The decision is yours, but before you vote I’d like to point out one last thing . . . by voting for the New Leadership Party candidates, you will be electing people who are ready to listen.

Gary Schwab
New Leadership Party Campaign Manager

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