In one of the oddities of local government, Oak Park has been led by the same political party, the Village Manager Association, for nearly 60 years, but every election season the VMA candidates adopt a new banner under which to run.
So last week the VMA announced its slate, its enthusiasm for said slate, and this week the trio of actual candidates — Ray Johnson, Adam Sazlman and Bob Tucker — announced they would run as Citizens for Accountable Leadership. It is a fine name, as these things go, and its professions of inclusive decision-making, transparency in government and accountability to voters are all better than well-and-good. They’re great!
There is only one thing missing in this town’s homage to democracy. Loyal, active opposition.
Now it is not our place to choose the opposition. Any opposition is likely better than none. But what we’d love to see, and to date see no sign of developing, is a forward-looking opposition with a creative, positive view of Oak Park’s future. Recent elections have proven that grumpy splinters off the old VMA block do not produce winners, and that few Oak Parkers see the VMA as an evil cabal which must be turned out of office.
Let’s see some independent candidates or slates that implicitly match the VMA’s focus on nonpartisan good government, but put forward ideas that differ on substantive issues: approaches to economic development, transitioning to a post-TIF world, ways to market Oak Park cohesively to tourists and locals, innovations in technology that can speed government and reduce costs, and practical ways to mesh local governments and consolidate services.
This village is filled with bright, capable people. An election of ideas without rancor would make this village stronger and its governance better. It would also force a situation where a village board with six white people or six males would be seen as unacceptable. And yet that is where we are headed if an unopposed VMA slate is elected in April.