The overwhelming work imposed on village trustees, which led to the second trustee resignation within months, only reinforces the belief that Oak Park has evolved out of a village and requires a city form of government.
This is why:
1) With crime, economic development, taxation burdens, and demographic issues requiring expertise and experience beyond that of housewives, musicologists, and architects, we need full-time professional alderman.
2) Oak Park may be “diverse,” but it is not homogeneous. We need aldermen elected from districts to represent the needs of those districts.
3) The time constraints on trustees are unrealistic. Only full-time, well-paid individuals with full benefits should be asked to devote the time required.
4) The village, two school boards, library, park, and township set independent budgets, levy taxes independently, and raise taxes in a musical chairs game of tax-increase referenda and new fees. A city form of government, with a mayor acting as chief executive officer, can control spending by demanding a setting of priorities and removing duplication of services.
5) The village departments are run inefficiently. When a citizen has a problem with a sewer, sidewalk, or tree-trimming, he must contact the head of the department. Calling the alderman’s office and having the alderman contact the department head would free that head to more efficiently perform his duties.
6) Too many heads of government utilize their guile and charm to bedazzle neophyte board members. John Fagan mesmerized with his JFK-accent and JFK-charm while bankrupting District 97 with questionable accounting practices. This kind of chicanery can only be stopped when the superintendents and executive directors become subservient to a mayor.
Oak Parkers live in this fantasy galaxy of tree-lined streets with quaint, brick-paved, neighborhood shops. We don’t. We have unsolved murders and rank among the top 15 communities in Cook County in incidence of felony crime. We have out-of-control taxes. We have a downtown with a high vacancy rate, even after nearly $100 million spent in today’s dollars on malls, berms, restreeting, and developer incentives. Our economic development consists of destroying our ambiance with high-rise condo buildings. Our population has declined perilously close to the 50,000 limit below which we receive no federal block development grants. We’ve lost our middle class. The school-age population is propped up by large numbers of District 97 enrollees having moved here to take advantage of disability programs.
A village form of government still works in Kenilworth and Lake Forest. Regrettably, it’s not the ’50s and ’60s in Oak Park anymore. The village form of government no longer works in Oak Park.
Les Golden, Oak Park