The April election is just under six months away. But it appears that an opposition might be forming to Oak Park’s political stalwarts.

Three village board seats will be up for grabs on April 5, 2011. And Gary Schwab — who was the challenger to current Village President David Pope in the 2009 election —announced Friday that he’s putting out his feelers to see who wants to run against the Village Manager Association, the political party that has won nearly every local election since 1952.

Schwab — who is the president of VMA rival the Village Citizens Alliance — says he and others are forming a new group called “Citizens for Community Conversation.” They’ll be hosting get-togethers in the future to gauge interest. He’s asking anyone who is curious to drop him an e-mail.

“If you, as an Oak Park voter, would like to be able to participate actively in village government as something other than a cheerleader or apologist for the status quo, we’d dearly like to hear from you,” he wrote in a letter to the editor submitted today (see the full text on page 24).

Schwab said the group has hosted a couple of meetings already, and at least one person has expressed interest in running, though she isn’t ready to be named. It’s unclear yet, whether the fledgling group will form a slate of candidates. Running as a group affords luxuries, such as submitting less paperwork, and doing less accounting on campaign contributions.

“This is not a VCA effort, per se, and we’re reaching out to people who certainly have not been VCA,” he said. “We’re looking for new faces.”

Trustees Jon Hale, Ray Johnson and Jan Pate will see their terms end next year. Hale and Pate have announced that they won’t seek re-election, while Johnson says he will chase a third term by going through the VMA’s slating process, which got underway on Tuesday.

Residents interested in running for election could start circulating their nominating petitions in September. Candidates must then file those petitions between Dec. 13 and Dec. 20 of this year.

Gary Schwab’s full letter to the editor

As the village election of April 5, 2011, quickly approaches, it’s again time to think about Oak Park village government’s direction under a continuing one-party rule. With a village board moving in lock-step on all the really important issues, there’s been little public policy discussion and a lot of really silly rhetoric going unchallenged.

In the interest of reintroducing public participation and meaningful debate to village hall, a number of us with significant histories of volunteer participation and knowledge of village operations are forming a new organization, “Citizens for Community Conversation.” The initial base for this organization will be a Yahoo discussion group at “OakParkCCC.”

If you question whether subsidizing development through TIFs should take precedence over maintaining basic service levels, we’d like to hear from you.

If you wonder whether diverting property taxes for things like a 20-story hotel with few amenities, expensive new condos in the face of rising condo foreclosures and falling condo prices, and more fancy downtown streetscapes might be a reason District 97 will be asking for a tax increase next spring, we’d like to hear from you.

If you think that today’s economic realities require fundamental rethinking of Oak Park plans made in better times, we’d like to hear from you.

And, most importantly, if you, as an Oak Park voter, would like to be able to participate actively in village government as something other than a cheerleader or apologist for the status quo, we’d dearly like to hear from you.

To start, please email me at gsoakpark@yahoo.com.

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