If a village manager you’d like to keep goes off to interview for another town’s top spot, the scenario Oak Park is playing out with Tom Barwin is about the ideal.
Barwin was the person being sought. He was not desperate to get out of town.
Barwin was up for city manager in Boulder, Colo., a larger community, a progressive burg in terms of governing itself, and, without doubt, a beautiful town in the foothills of the Rockies. So he wasn’t trying to decamp to become manager of Danville, Hoboken, East St. Louis, or any other town we could insensitively slur.
He was aiming high.
And, to his credit-and to Oak Park‘s, in a modest way-he almost got the prize.
Barwin came in second among the seven finalists interviewed over a vaingloriously transparent weekend in Boulder. The candidates’ every utterance was Webcast live, each grimace and smile of council members recorded. It was the Governance Nerd version of America‘s Got Talent.
And while this newspaper, for selfish reasons, didn’t want Barwin to get the job, we are also selfishly pleased that he did well. It wouldn’t boost anyone’s self-confidence to have your manager rejected by another town as their seventh choice.
We take Barwin as a man of his word. And his word was that Boulder was a once-in-a-lifetime bolt from the blue. He wasn’t looking, he said. And he won’t be looking again anytime soon, we expect. There is no lifetime contract, effectively there is no contract at all binding him to Oak Park. But we believe there is a moral contract in place that Barwin will honor.
Tom Barwin and a reoriented village board are just getting started in Oak Park.
There are building projects to be pursued, budgets to be balanced. There is a cautious culture within village hall that must be overcome if services are to improve in tough economic times. There is a balance to be struck between active citizen participation and genuine leadership by village government.
Those things are accomplished when trust is earned over time, when there is confidence in continuity. Barwin and this village board are just moving into that mode.
Let’s keep at it.
We are always wary when organizations seek their salvation, or even just a positive turn, by changing their bylaws. It’s the deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic analogy.
However, facing a cold snap in the real estate market, we would urge the many condominium associations in Oak Park and River Forest to seriously consider a bylaws change that ought to open a critical source of mortgage lending to their prospective buyers.
Advocated by the Oak Park Area Association of Realtors and supported by local housing agencies, the change would eliminate the right-of-first-refusal clause that’s boilerplate in the bylaws of many associations. The archaic clause affords boards of associations the chance to blackball potential buyers. Seldom-if ever-used, the clause rightly raises the hackles of fair housing groups and more immediately is grounds for the Federal Housing Authority to simply reject loaning money to any buyer looking at a building with the restriction. In the current dismal lending environment, the FHA is a critical option, especially for the first-time buyers most likely to look at a condo.
Interest in making the change is high. Quite a few buildings were represented at an informational meeting last week.
We hope the rest sign on.