The Village Manager Association has announced its slate for the April election, one of the more pivotal elections in Oak Park in quite some time. The New Leadership Party and the Village Citizens Alliance will soon follow suit with their slates. Four seats will be up for election and the board majority hangs in the balance.

The VMA shortened their traditional 12-Sunday marathon and came up with a slate in record time. Perhaps that’s an indication that the tired, old political organization has been re-energized. Or maybe it means there just weren’t many candidates to choose from. Either way, we hope the VMA candidates-and yet-to-be-named candidates on the other slates-know what they’re getting into. Regardless whether the village board manages to bring its meeting mania under control, being a trustee is still a major commitment. As the recent board resignation underscores, we need people who don’t have mixed feelings about the job’s considerable duties and responsibilities.

Serving as an Oak Park trustee is a tricky balancing act. We need people who are sensitive to public feedback, yet thick-skinned enough to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous criticism. We need people who can represent a point of view, but also represent all Oak Parkers. We need people who are passionate, but not just about a single issue.

The biggest issue of the campaign to come will undoubtedly be development. Whichever slate convinces voters they can be more effective in that area will likely prevail.

The VMA chose quickly-one incumbent and two vocal organization advocates with one slot left to announce (the two-year remainder of Geoff Baker’s seat). So far they have no minority representation. While that shouldn’t be a requirement, we do expect all the parties to make a concerted effort to find minority candidates. We can’t overlook the importance of getting more African-Americans in particular, involved in village government.

Overall though, we’re glad to see the VMA out aggressively and early after sleepwalking through the last few election seasons. We look forward to, as they say, a vigorous debate.

Doing the right thing, the right way

Though we’re glad to see Geoff Baker stepping down from the board, he deserves praise on three counts. First, he did the right thing in the right way-getting out soon enough to put the seat up for election next April and keeping it out of the realm of petty party politics. He did the voters a huge favor by giving them a say in who succeeds him, and for that he deserves our thanks.

His resignation also focused attention on the demands of the office, and we believe gave the remaining board renewed impetus to address the issue of “meeting mania.” If the trustees succeed in bringing that bloated monster under control, Baker deserves some of the credit.

Finally, he serves as a cautionary tale for those who are thinking of running but aren’t sure whether they want to shoulder all the responsibility that comes with the office.

The moral seems to be: If you’re not sure, don’t run.

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