Those of us who live in Oak Park reside in one of the most highly-sought-after communities in the Chicago area. We have terrific schools, our homes continue to appreciate, we enjoy a great social environment, wonderful public services and an ever-expanding restaurant community to choose from. Through my personal and professional endeavors, I encounter people all the time who refer to Oak Park with admiration and affection. It is one of the most desirable places to live in suburban Chicago.

But in spite of all of the positive aspects of life in this community, it is not perfect here. Most of the people I know in the community pay very high property taxes. Our schools are terrific but in need of more sustainable funding. Our businesses continue to struggle, and village hall seems embroiled in bureaucracy and unable to provide any relief.

By the time small businesses get up and running and actually develop a sustainable brand name and business plan, they are so fed up with the village that they migrate west. Regardless of the amount of disposable income that exists in Oak Park, small businesses continue to struggle in Oak Park and leave for our neighbor to the west. Forest Park seems all too willing to accept Oak Park’s businesses and welcomes them with open arms along with a climate and culture that embraces success. As a result, Oak Park has a very difficult time building a healthy and sustainable commercial tax base.

To add insult to injury, Oak Park trustees paid an outside consultant to come up with a comprehensive re-development plan for Oak Park’s downtown retail district in order to address the troubled retail environment downtown, a smart move since our elected leaders cannot figure out what to do to improve the situation. Then our trustees chose to ignore all of the suggestions made by the consultant. That was, as I understand it, after paying them hundreds of thousands of dollars for their expert opinion. This was taxpayer money. (For now, let’s not get into the stupidity of spending public funds to buy the Colt building.)

Needless to say, I am not a fan of Oak Park politics. Most of the people I know or socialize with in Oak Park feel the same way. Unfortunately, far too many of the people I know here in Oak Park are so busy with their professional and family lives, they don’t have the time or don’t make the time to follow the local politic debate.

However, I do have the time and am pleased that there is a slate of candidates running for the trustee board who truly appreciate the unique opportunity this community possesses. The Citizens for Progressive Action (www.progressiveaction.net) understand that Oak Park can be better. Ray Johnson, Jan Pate, John Hedges and Jon Hale clearly understand what has held Oak Park back in the past and have a clear vision to strengthen our community. If you want trustee leadership that does not sway with every discordant wind that blows through village hall meetings, or are looking for leadership that is based on common sense, then please take a close look at Ray Johnson, Jan Pate, John Hedges and Jon Hale’s platform. They bring a sensible approach to leadership that this community sorely needs. I encourage everyone I know and everyone who reads this and agrees to vote for the Citizens for Progressive Action. There are a lot of us here in Oak Park who desperately want a more sustainable commercial tax base to ease the burden on Oak Park’s families.

John H. McIlwain, Oak Park

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