Larry, Larry, Larry.
Of all the people the still unraveling VMA could trot out last week to pillory the new, distinctly non-VMA Oak Park board of trustees, there was Larry Christmas, the former village president, on our letters pages accusing the new board of a lack of leadership.
The cur went so far as to say that Village President David Pope’s role has “become largely ceremonial.” If anyone in town should have some respect and empathy for a village president facing a challenging board it ought to be Lawrence Christmas. He lost control of his 1993-1997 board early and often?#34;and they were all in the sainted VMA together. Christmas, as rigid and thin-skinned a public official as I’ve ever covered, ought not cast stones.
Bob Kane and Alan Amato, two other VMA stalwarts, also chimed in with their critiques of the new board. One gets the feeling that the trio of letters is not coincidental. That feeling is accompanied, on my part, by a splitting headache as we all contemplate two years of sniping before the sad sack VMA assembles another third rate slate of candidates to carry its tattered torch.
Among the darts tossed by the VMA Three are accusations the New Leadership Party majority (with the allegedly emasculated Pope in tow) is out to end the village manager form of government (not to be confused with the Village Manager Association political party), that they are out to dismantle esteemed integration programs such as the moribund Diversity Assurance, that Village Manager Carl Swenson is done for and ought to get his resume ready.
Let’s get real. The village manager form of government is not going anyplace. Is the process around it in for some tweaking? Likely so. Is some of that tweaking overdue? Sure. Is some of it political in Oak Park’s silly little political ways? I’ll bet it is. But the form of government won’t go away. And if Carl Swenson wants to adapt a bit and if the new board is smart enough to know that bouncing Swenson means 18 months of “interim manager” lethargy then a productive balance could be struck.
As for Diversity Assurance, and all the rest of the integration initiatives which were cutting edge 20 and 30 years ago, the VMA ought remember that that era was the end of its spark and its claim to authentic leadership. They’re in this boat because they are stuck in the 1970s.
I know, I’ve carped on the VMA for not standing for anything and for shutting up and going away between elections. But if last week’s whiny screeds represent the level of discussion they can muster then they should shut up and go away.
his is not to say the new board is beyond criticism. Not hardly. Some of their interactions have been immature. They’re not doing much of a job of explaining themselves as they take important votes. And Geoff Baker ought really stop insulting the business community.
Christmas retailing is important. Parking spaces are important. And, Trustee Baker, Mike Fox and his family are the largest commercial property owners in Oak Park. Don’t insult him, and the interests (which include those of many small, independent retailers) he represents, for kicks.
In the 30-year economic rebound of Oak Park, there have been no more critical and supportive players than Ron Fox and, now, his son Mike.
Whether the disentangling steps the new board is taking in Downtown Oak Park?#34;derailing the parking garage expansion, looking for an out clause in the Whiteco deal, killing the Corinthian College lease, re-opening the master plan process, negotiating with Taxman Corporation on further redevelopment?#34;have any logic is beyond my power to divine. That those steps reflect a broad dissatisfaction with the deck the previous board dealt them is clear. Making something positive happen, though, will prove harder than the current course of demolition.