Sure, less than a week until the national election from hell. And you just want to rest your head — in a gallon of water. Electoral calm, please.

But last Friday, calling for civility and professionalism, stepping out from his year-long profession of uncertainty over seeking a second term, Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb churned the waters of local politics bigly.

In a calm exposition, sitting at a window table of his Oak Park Avenue restaurant, Abu-Taleb told the Journal that not only is he running for re-election but he expects to be heading a slate of candidates for the three trustee positions also open on the village board come April.

In making his case for re-election, Abu-Taleb leaned hard on the “harmony” and “consensus” he has helped create on the current village board. He touted the board’s “vision” and “focus” and its “conscious choice to speed up” decision-making in areas such as adding funding to pensions, building up the non-existent fund balance in village hall coffers and fixing village hall physically, organizationally, and maybe even in terms of attitudes.

So the mayor gives high marks to his board colleagues, including Glenn Brewer and Peter Barber, who have both announced plans to seek re-election. “They’ve been great to work with …  and they’ve encouraged me to run again,” he said of the two. But he is vague, very vague, on whether he wants to run again with them.

Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn’t. What he said is “we have been approached by multiple people and we’re seriously considering running with other people.”

Who those people are, I don’t know. Are they any of the three non-incumbents who have already announced their intentions to run? They would be Deno Andrews, Simone Boutet and Dan Moroney. Or is Abu-Taleb, and whoever exactly makes up his “we are considering” posse, more actively recruiting candidates. As close as he gets to giving away a plan is dissing the notion of more lawyers on the board and talking up adding skill sets, especially a tech guru.

And where does the good ol’ VMA (Village Manager Association) fit into this dance? Just about dead center on the dance floor, I’d say.

The mutual antagonism between core members of the VMA and Abu-Taleb is still sparking 44 months after Abu-Taleb mauled the VMA candidate for village president. 

Right at this moment the VMA is in the latter stages of its multi-week candidate selection process. And if I’m counting right, five of the six individuals who have announced publicly have all said they’re appearing before the VMA for possible slating as either a trustee or for mayor/village president. Just who, if anybody, the VMA has privately recruited to go through its slating process is unknown. Secret slating is the VMA watchword, a notion becoming rapidly out-of-step with its transparency claims and the decisions by all the known candidates to announce their plans in advance of appearing before the Shush Squad at VMA HQ.

For his part, Abu-Taleb had some free advice for the VMA. The group, he said, “is entitled to do whatever they want to do. But they should conduct themselves with civility and courtesy.” And, he says, while he would never appear for VMA slating, “If the VMA decides to support me, well, I’ll take anyone’s support.”

Insert image of hell freezing over here.

Next week maybe but no later than Thanksgiving, the VMA will presumably announce its slate. The three non-incumbents, along with Peter Barber, have all promised independent runs if they are not slated by the VMA. And then there is the coming Anan slate.

It is going to get interesting. It is going to be fun. And it will take your mind off either President-elect Clinton or Trump.

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Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...