If you believe that good governance starts with good listening, then the series of public forums — two, so far — sponsored by Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb have been remarkable, simple demonstrations of how to run a village.
Book a room, announce a date, open the floor to comments from citizens, respond directly but sparingly, thank everyone for coming, say good night. And in that plain process, most recently, just a week back Abu-Taleb and his invited guest, Trustee Adam Salzman, learned a fair amount about what was on the minds of the 45 Oak Parkers in the room at Cheney Mansion. Lake and Forest’s challenging development was an announced topic but it opened into a broader conversation about Oak Park’s planning processes, economic development savvy, and our predilection to raise historic preservation concerns over a growth agenda.
That this is a conversation — follow-up questions, no three-minute time limit, actual responses from the electeds — is essential. We learned that Trustee Salzman, a one-time commission chairman himself, is not worried that the village board sometimes overrules its commissions, that Abu-Taleb will negotiate tough on Lake and Forest but prefers that the current project get built, and, most importantly that the village president will stand in a room with many no-growth advocates and powerfully make his case for development.
We’re looking forward to future sessions where Abu-Taleb plans to invite elected officials from other local governments to join in. Now that’s collaboration.