This does not speak well for the manner in which Oak Park is governed if its top staff member wants out so soon. Having had the honor of serving as Oak Park’s senior planner 22 years ago, I’ve seen the quality of government slowly, but surely deteriorate as staff members are terrified to speak their professional minds when the elected officials ignore their own adopted comprehensive plan and implement ill-advised laws, policies, and practices.

It’s a shame because Oak Park is one of the Chicago area’s true gems. Somehow the good people of Oak Park don’t get the quality of governing they deserve. Then again, what do you expect when village hall seems intent on running a local treasure like Los Cazadores out of town.
Daniel Lauber

Tom Barwin is a hard-working, efficient manager. It is too bad he had to become the scapegoat for an incompetent village board.
David S. Worth

It really saddens me to hear that our village manager is planning to leave Oak Park. I know how difficult it was for the previous board to find a gem like Tom.
Mila Tellez

As a former 40-year resident of Oak Park, I always felt slightly uneasy about the selection of Tom Barwin, even though everything I knew about him originated with the Wednesday Journal.
Andrew M. Nocker

“Let’s get Oak Park moving again,” heralded the VMA election slogan in April, 2007. Well, apparently, Village Manager Tom Barwin, hired by President David Pope and his VMA board, finds that the VMA is moving Oak Park in the wrong direction. Who could not agree? A 15-percent increase in the village portion of property taxes and village fees; interminably long meetings leading to the unprecedented resignation of three village trustees; destruction of the Marion mall which has not led to a retail resurgence downtown; embarrassing defection of developers for the Colt site and the site at South Blvd. and Harlem; the ugly monstrosity that is the multimillion-dollar taxpayer giveaway creating the Whiteco gateway to Oak Park; the $20,000 ugliness on Harrison Street; high-rise development destroying our historic districts; $50,000 of contributions to VMA candidates from Washington D.C. lobbyists and the two out-of-town downtown Oak Park power brokers; unethical extension of the downtown service area tax which continues to make downtown Oak Park a retailer’s nightmare; businesses leaving Oak Park for Forest Park; $30 million taxpayer giveaway to the supposedly “well-financed” Avalon Bay developer. Mr. Barwin is a former police officer and a man of high ethics. No wonder he has had his fill of the VMA getting Oak Park moving again.
Les Golden

Whether or not Tom Barwin is given the job in Boulder, Colo., his accomplishments and progress in Oak Park should be recognized.

When he was hired by the NLC-majority village board, he aggressively moved to improve the business districts in town and put a brake on spending at village hall. This included such efforts as examining the number of days off with pay, in some cases reaching 60, in the contracts of village employees.

Unfortunately, such factors as interminably-long village board meetings and extra sessions scheduled by Village President David Pope led to the resignation of NLC trustees Geoff Baker and Martha Brock. With the defeat of Robert Milstein in 2007, only Geoff Marsey remained of the NLC-majority and Mr. Barwin now faced dealing with a VMA-controlled board. The interaction reverted to one with the VMA: Rather than utilizing your expertise to put in your reforms, do what we demand and toe the line.

The emphasis was no longer on improving business districts and cutting spending but massive taxpayer-subsidized developments such as Whiteco, Forest and Lake, the Opera House, the Colt site, and South Blvd. and Harlem. Barwin was also forced to yield to the power of Willis Johnson and Mike Fox, out-of-town downtown property owners who provide massive campaign contributions to the VMA and who demanded that Willis Johnson’s unemployed cronies, Pat Zubak, head of Downtown Oak Park, and John Wielebnicki, the hugely unpopular and inefficient head of public works, be brought in from Elmhurst.

Unhappy with his inability to govern in the face of the VMA board, Mr. Barwin felt squeezed and has begun to look elsewhere. It’s a sad day for Oak Park.
Ralph Gustafsson

All of this is premature to say the least, but maybe Mr. Barwin, with his years as a police officer and previous village manager has given up helping the village when there is a powerful growing force called parking enforcement that aggressively generates income pursuing meter violators, and parkers in our village. Maybe this is an embarrassment to him.

And with the newest overnight fee of $5 for parking and signs notifying about parking increases without any explanation why it’s needed, what the money is being used for, or who is behind the curtain controlling this without any stopping in sight, it’s a contradiction to business owners, residents, and visitors who are under the perception the village supports them.

This force is not comprised of sworn professional police officers. This force has been given the power to run license plates. Not sure if that qualifies under the LEADS agreement. So who can blame Mr. Barwin if at one time he did plan on staying for several years. Mr. Barwin knows the distinction between a professional police officer and a meter reader.

As for Mr. Barwin leaving, if he is given the new position, it should not go against him. Senator Obama said he wasn’t going to run for president, then said he would, then changed back to wouldn’t, and then entered the race. Sometimes people want to stay committed to their word, but when things are not working, then it’s time for a change.
Bill Maxwell

Join the discussion on social media!