The Village Citizens Alliance chose three trustee candidates on Sunday for the April election, bringing the field to at least 11 for the four open seats on the board.

Incumbent Trustee Robert Milstein leads the VCA slate, with attorney Jim Balanoff and preservationist Gary Schwab rounding out the ticket.

The group is still accepting applications for the two-year seat on the board that opened when former Trustee Geoff Baker resigned in November. Trustee Galen Gockel is filling in until the election.

Balanoff, 58, says development is his No. 1 election issue.

“I’m kind of disturbed by a general trend in the village in terms of development,” he said. “People are not looking ahead to consider the consequences of the massive new developments.”

The downtown business district gets too much of the village’s focus, he said, at the expense of other business districts. He said Harrison Street hasn’t gotten enough attention (“The village is really letting it founder”) and that more can be done on Madison Street (which is “in many respects maybe more crucial than downtown”).

Balanoff is an attorney practicing with his wife, Rebecca. His practice is based on defending people with disabilities, and he has worked on union issues, too.

“There are many working-class people in Oak Park, many who are union members,” Balanoff said. “But the village ignores them in favor of businesses.”

Balanoff has served four years on the township’s Community Mental Health Board.

Schwab, 55, was a founding member of the Citizens For Change, named the Villagers of the Year in 2005 for their influence in that year’s election. In the dizzying world of Oak Park election acronyms, the CFC joined with the VCA to create the NLC, or New Leadership Coalition, which won all three open positions on the board in 2005.

Schwab, who was traveling in England and could not be reached for this article, was once a central member of the Village Manager Association (VMA), like Milstein and other organizers of opposition parties in the village.

“Schwab wants to preserve and strengthen historic character of residential neighborhoods and business districts,” according to a VCA statement. “He wants to foster continuous community discussions on issues of long-term strategic importance. These are the decisions which will determine Oak Park’s future.”

Schwab has served on the village’s Community Development Citizen Advisory Committee and chaired the Community Design Commission.

Milstein, 55, seeks his second term. In 2005, he lost a bid for the presidency. During his first two years on the board he was a gadfly, one of a few voices supporting historic preservation and other VCA mainstay issues. During the past two years, after control of the board was wrested from the VMA’s hands, Milstein appeared on paper to have the votes to set the board’s agenda. However, some contentious issues did not turn out in his favor, including the selection of a consultant to lead a study of the downtown Colt building and a partnership to create a combined animal control/shelter facility.

This is the second time the VCA will slate candidates for a local election. The first time, in 2003, the party was successful in getting Milstein elected. During the last election, in 2005, the VCA joined with other groups to form the New Leadership Coalition. The NLC has slated candidates for the 2007 election, too.


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