First reported 2/18/2010 4:58 p.m.

A citizen panel is recommending that Oak Park adopt a new law regulating how much village hall pays some contract employees.

The Community Relations Commission made the recommendation last week, voting 7-2 that the village should adopt what’s called a living wage ordinance. But the village board will have the final say, sometime after April, when trustees will decide whether to agree with this much-debated recommendation.

If approved, the new law would require village hall – along with contractors receiving more than $25,000, or people and businesses getting a subsidy of more than $50,000 – to pay full-time employees a livable wage, determined by the commission to be $11.50 an hour.

Oak Park’s living wage first came to the forefront in November 2008, when 60 percent of voters approved a referendum urging the village to enact such a law. The commission has been working for a year, determining if such a law is a good idea. That work culminated last week.

Oak Park’s living wage wouldn’t apply to anyone at village hall, since employees already earn more than $11.50 an hour. Most likely to be affected would be about 5 percent of public works contracts, estimated to cost the village an extra $25,000.

Members of the business community have spoken out against a living wage, arguing that, since it would affect so few people, it’s overbearing and unnecessary. Advocates say the costs would be minimal to the village, but for those it helped, the impact would be significant.

John Murtagh, chair of the commission, voted against recommending a living wage, before resigning from his position. He has argued that the final report was not thorough and objective, and that it was trying to solve a problem that isn’t there.

-Marty Stempniak

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