Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb made an audacious proposal recently when he spoke to the Business & Civic Council. He asked citizens to demand that each local taxing body reduce its property tax levy by 10 percent over the next six years.
He called for a petition-signing, referendum-passing, accountability-demanding electorate to stand up and forcefully point out that perpetually increasing property tax levels threaten to make Oak Park unaffordable for all but the very well-to-do.
We see few signs of pitchforks … yet. But we are sympathetic to the cause. Key among Oak Park’s diversities is our economic diversity. That diversity is threatened by rising property taxes and by taxing bodies that fail to consider the collective impact of their individual decisions.
Knocking 10 percent off of tax bills even as insurance costs, the light bill and salaries rise might seem impossible. But part of Abu-Taleb’s argument is that local governments need to thoroughly rethink themselves, the services each offers, the way those services are delivered. Such savings won’t be found by conserving copy machine toner. Rather, Abu-Taleb is ready to ask if Oak Park’s village government needs a public health department when most communities do not have one. He wants to know if investing in technology at village hall can reduce the head count significantly. And, beating a now dead horse, he wants to know why the Park District of Oak Park is spending so much money to renovate its headquarters.
The reinvention he supports is a worthy and necessary endeavor already seen at work in the private sector from which Anan hails. Other public officials — elected and appointed — would do well to listen.