Citizens for Progressive Action

Jon Hale

BACKGROUND: Hale holds a PhD in political science and has taught at several universities. For the past 12 years, he has been an investment professional with Domini Social Investments and Morningstar, Inc. 

Hale serves on the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation board, served six years on the Plan Commission, including as vice-chair, and co-founded the citizen group Forum Oak Park.

Hale and his wife Lynn Kamenitsa, a women’s studies professor at NIU, have two children, 7 and 5, who attend Beye Elementary School.

PRIORITIES: 1) Implement citizen-created business district revitalization plans.

2) Invest taxpayer dollars wisely in revitalization projects that will enliven the community and bring a financial return on investment.

3) Begin an aggressive recruitment effort to attract desired businesses and quality builders with strong retail experience.

4) Treat current businesses and new prospects as valued customers, making it easier and faster to open a business in Oak Park.

5) Require a school financial impact statement for every redevelopment plan, as recommended by the District 97 school board last year.

6) Work with school districts and other local taxing bodies to share costs and better understand the community’s overall financial needs for all government services.

Ray Johnson (Incumbent)

BACKGROUND: Johnson, finishing his first term on the village board, is a 24-year employee with HSBC-North America, working for the consumer lending marketing division. Among his accomplishments he lists the Barrie Park reinvestment program, funding for Dist. 97’s transportation and multicultural programs, investments in business districts, the partnership with the Animal Care League, and his work in bringing the Gay Games VII to Oak Park. He was a Plan Commissioner before being elected trustee.

PRIORITIES: 1) Fiscal Responsibility: We must spend taxpayer money wisely, seek efficiency and effectiveness in service delivery. We must also set clear budgetary priorities and report revenue and expense trends to the community quarterly. Finally, we need a stronger focus on TIF spending.

2) Improving the Retail/Commercial Climate in Oak Park: A healthy commercial environment is sound public policy, prudent tax policy and enhances residents’ quality of life. We must enhance our business recruitment and retention, implement and market business district plans throughout the village, and make it easier and faster to open a business.

3) User-friendly Village Hall: The village employs competent people who need better tools to take Oak Park “from good to great,” including the creation of “SMART” (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable) goals and evaluation criteria for the village manager.

Jan Pate

BACKGROUND: Pate, an Oak Parker since 2000, graduated summa cum laude with honors from Westminster College, and did graduate work in public administration at the University of South Carolina. Pate has worked as a broadcast journalist, local government administrator and as a humanitarian worker in Kosovo. Today she is development director of the West Cook YMCA, and a member of the Oak Park Community Relations Commission. She has two grown sons.

PRIORITIES: 1) Property tax concerns: While the village’s portion of a property tax bill is only 12 percent, the board must do what it can to lower costs. By setting clear budgetary priorities, by making certain the budget process begins earlier in the year, and by looking carefully at all expenditures, the village can do its part.

2) Business districts’ vitality: The village needs a healthy retail environment to keep our shopping dollars here and to attract shoppers from other areas. DTOP and the Madison Street corridor are key, but all districts need to develop and sustain their unique character.

3) Becoming a sustainable community: Using green design components, reducing the automobile use, making streets and sidewalks bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, and collaborating with our neighboring communities to explore and address regional sustainability issues would be a good start.

John Hedges (2-year term)

Hedges is a 26-year resident of Oak Park, serving 20 years as the director of the park district. He also served as acting village manger. His civic involvement has included many nonprofit organizations, and he was given the Robert Stazack Award by the Oak Park Education Foundation.

PRIORITIES: 1) Improve education funding: The village government must work hard to create a healthy retail/commercial climate to improve the tax base for all of the local governments but especially Elementary School District 97. We must support thoughtful redevelopment requiring school financial impact statements on all new projects.

2) Economic growth and redevelopment: Oak Park needs to implement existing plans in all of the business districts looking for private/public partnerships in the redevelopment process. By prioritizing infrastructure improvements and key revitalization projects, we can jump start the rebuilding of our retail/commercial districts.

3) Improving village government: We need to make village hall more user-friendly. This can be done with a better information flow to our citizens, by adding online services for parking permits and guest passes, streamlining our building permit and inspection processes and by treating all citizens and business owners as valued clients.

New Leadership ’07

Barbara Dolan

BACKGROUND: I am a Minnesota-born multitasking mother of two who’s lived in Oak Park since 1999. My son Levi is in second grade at Beye; Drew goes to preschool at Oak Park Temple. My husband of nearly 10 years, Ben Neiburger, runs the law firm Neiburger Law, Ltd. where I work part-time as marketing director.

My professional background includes 25 years of direct and database marketing as well as executive recruitment and graphic design. I have started three of my own businesses, two of which-BADesigns and baby booty-I continue to run from home, providing small-business consultation and small-people textiles.

PRIORITIES: As a candidate with New Leadership ’07, I agree with our five-point platform that outlines our party’s perspective on how we’d manage some of Oak Park’s biggest issues:

1) Controlled spending.
2) Selective preservation.
3) Subsidy-free development.
4) Continued school funding.
5) Faster decisions.

For parents like me, another important issue facing Oak Park right now is school funding. Related to that is eliminating our academic achievement gap. And related to it all is living up to Oak Park’s great reputation.

Mary Shiffer

BACKGROUND: Shiffer worked in facilities management for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts during a large-scale downsizing initiative. As assistant manager of Harvard Yard, Shiffer was a consensus-builder and involved with security, operations, maintenance and preservation.

Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Shiffer earned an MS from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a certificate of special studies in administration and management from Harvard University. An Oak Park Transportation Commissioner, Shiffer also served four years on the Board of the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory and has volunteered with many organizations. Together with husband Mike, Shiffer has traveled the world and is raising two children.

PRIORITIES: 1) Controlled spending: Oak Park needs to be competitive among similar communities in attracting businesses and homebuyers. If we allow village expenses to outpace inflation, fueling a rising tax burden, Oak Park will be saddled with vacant shops and homes that linger on the market.

2) Subsidy-free development: Oak Park is a beautiful, transit-rich community with a strong school system and world-renowned architecture. It should not pay cash subsidies to entice developers. Instead, we must streamline our development process to reduce the perceived risk involved in developing here.

3) TIF policy: Tax Increment Financing funds should be used for public projects to make Oak Park competitive and create the necessary infrastructure improvements to spur development.

Rose Meyer (2-year term)

No information received.

Vision Community Action

James Balanoff

BACKGROUND: I am 58 years old. My wife Rebecca and I have been married for 29 years. We have lived in Oak Park since 1986. Our two older children graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School, where our youngest is now a sophomore. I graduated from Brandeis University and Indiana University Law School (Bloomington). My wife and I practice law together. Our primary area of concentration is the representation of disabled individuals.

PRIORITIES: 1) Development and preservation in business districts: I believe these can be balanced. For example, if the Colt building can be saved and renovated at a reasonable cost, I would support this. If not, we have to face this fact. I oppose the re-streeting of the Marion Street Mall. However, if it is done, every reasonable effort should be made to make it a success.

2) Maintaining diversity racially, socially, and economically: There is a real danger of racial re-segregation in Oak Park. To preserve economic diversity, our extremely high property tax burden must be addressed. Similarly, the quality of our schools is endangered by a possible backlash by frustrated taxpayers.

3) Maintaining and improving the quality of our schools: The village board can help the schools by easing the tax burden on homeowners so as to forestall a taxpayer reaction that would deprive the schools of needed funding. Specifically, the question of the TIFs, especially the downtown TIF, must be addressed by the board.

Robert Milstein (Incumbent)

BACKGROUND: I’m 57 and have lived in Oak Park 25 years. I am married and have grown children. I served on the Citizens Police Oversight Commission and chaired the Community Relations Commission. I was appointed to the Diversity Task Force. On the voard I served on the Finance Committee. Wednesday Journal named me Villager of the Year in 2003.

PRIORITIES: 1) Economic development while respecting our historic values. The NLP failed with their victory to keep their promise to make preservation a priority and now espouse some type of mediocrity with selective preservation. The VMA has lost all credibility with their drive to change Oak Park into Lincoln Park.

2) The VMA believes we can build our way out of the property tax mess. This myth was used to keep the VMA in office. The NLP seems to be moving in the same direction. The increased tax base is not going to lower the property tax until the state reforms the tax system.

3) The third issue is participatory input by citizens. We have not honored the ordinance we passed. The majority panders to the special interests and is willing to foolishly act on limited public input even if the “experts” may not be right.

Gary Schwab

BACKGROUND: Schwab, a 29-year Oak Parker, holds a doctorate in information engineering from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He’s been a consultant, computer scientist and information systems manager for manufacturers, laboratories, and government agencies. Schwab’s 19 years of public service includes serving as both chair and a member of the Community Design Commission and as a member of the Community Development Citizen Advisory Committee.

PRIORITIES: 1) Oak Park’s recent popularity as a place to live has created development pressures that threaten to obliterate many of the things that created that popularity. The problem, for so many of us who live here and have worked so hard and so long to maintain and improve this community, is that, when the developers are done, we might not be able to recognize the place or afford to live here any more.

2) The idea that uncritically promoting new development will alleviate our property tax burden is simply wrong. Real property tax relief can come only from the state changing the way public schools are funded.

3) Oak Park’s government needs to spend far more time seeking residents’ opinions and acting upon them and far less time making decisions in private and then explaining to residents why they’ll just have to better learn to embrace change.

Annabel Abraham (2-year term)

BACKGROUND: Abraham earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Northwestern University. As a speech-language pathologist, she taught in several settings, including as a speech pathologist for WSASE (West Suburban

Association for Special Education), a cooperative among local school districts. She’s lived 53 years in the home she and her late husband Barnard built in Oak Park. Their three children “thrived” in Oak Park public schools.

She serves on the board of the Senior Citizens’ Center, located at the Oak Park Arms, and has served on the board of West Suburban Temple. She’s served on three village committees: Universal Access, Retail Support, and currently as a member of the Citizens Involvement Commission.

 PRIORITIES: 1) Business districts: Much attention is paid to DTOP because of the TIF pot of gold and the designation downtown. However, there are twelve business districts in Oak Park, some with local associations. These areas could use help to identify and promote themselves.

 2) Solicitation of businesses to move to Oak Park: We need a person with connections and a positive personality to find businesses for Oak Park. Could be a start-up business, could be a middle level, won’t be K-mart! My own hope is that Crate & Barrel could be lured to Oak Park.

3) Affordable housing/bungalow project: She’d like to see developers pay into a fund to help pay for affordable housing options. She’d also like to see a program that would encourage homeowners to improve their properties.

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