Ten candidates vying for five spots on the Oak Park village board, voiced their campaign views in separate forums at the Buzz Café last week. Topics ranged from parking to property taxes, with development taking up the bulk of both discussions.
It Takes a Village (ITAV) slate is advocating an end of tax increment financing districts in Oak Park, of which the village has three. They want to end TIFs, which filter property taxes away from other taxing bodies to invest in development and public infrastructure projects such as garages.
ITAV opposes the current proposal for a 19-story tower with a hotel at the northeast corner of Lake and Forest.
“Our opponents are blindly pro-development; we’re not,” John Franklin, candidate for trustee, said at The Buzz, March 12.
Franklin, Julie Samuels and Kathryn Jonas are running for village trustee along with Gary Schwab for president and Sharon Patchak-Layman for clerk on the ITAV slate.
On the other side, candidates on the Citizens for Responsible Leadership (CRL) slate talked about the positive benefits of having TIFs here. Current Trustee Colette Lueck, running to retain her seat, spoke in favor of using TIFs as tools to increase government tax revenues and make capital improvements in needed areas.
“You use TIF money to build things the community usually builds,” Trustee John Hedges, who is running for re-election, said at The Buzz, March 10.
Along with Hedges and Lueck, Village President David Pope is running for re-election with the CRL party. In addition, Glenn Brewer is running for the other trustee spot, and Teresa Powell is running for village clerk.
A recurring theme with the CRL campaign has been that the next four years are uncertain, and voters should elect someone with skills and experience to address whatever comes up.
Pope spoke against allowing resident-only parking in front of homes, an opinion he has frequently voiced at the board table. Candidates also spoke to mistakes by boards in the past, such as buying the downtown Colt building for $5.1 million and holding back development in the area, as actions that helped put the village in the situation it’s in today.
At the forums and in personal interviews with Wednesday Journal, Teresa Powell, running for clerk with the CRL, focused on improving technology in the clerk’s office, while Patchak-Layman said she’d advocate for fewer closed meetings and confidentiality.
Other recurring proposals from the ITAV slate include cutting back or eliminating outsourcing at village hall, relying more heavily on Oak Park’s volunteer boards and commissions and passing a living wage ordinance.
Both slates have talked about pursuing environmentally friendly policies. ITAV is opposed to the high school’s application to install lights at its football stadium, according to Patchak-Layman. On the other side, CRL declined to comment on the application since it has three current board members who will have to weigh in on the case in the near future.
The election is April 7.