As the years have gone by, I find that I write less and less about village government. My children have long since graduated from the high school. Their families live nearby, but not in the village. Paying high taxes doesn’t bother me. Most anything I might write would be redundant or cumulative, but a recent story has awakened my interest.
The announcement that a new political group, calling itself VOICE, has formed and will run a slate of candidates in the April 2019 village board election was good news. Yippee! We need contested elections. They provide copy to the newspaper and remind the incumbents that not everyone thinks they are so great.
However, I must admit to a twinge of disappointment reading VOICE’s stated goals of restoring democracy in village government, making Oak Park affordable, building a better not bigger village, and protecting our environment. I was hoping for more matter, and less art.
Restoring democracy seems a reach. I was unaware of any coup in the village, but as noted, I haven’t paid much recent attention. As for affordability, I’m afraid that train has left the economic station. The $300,000 house has left the village, and it ain’t coming back anymore. Our economic diversity is between those paying a lot for a house or a condo, and those paying a lot for rent for an apartment.
As to protecting our local environment, we seem to already have plenty of rain barrels, mulching and plastic prohibitions. I’m not sure greater local protection will make much difference to Mr. Pruitt, or to the environment.
I’m guessing VOICE hopes to mine the ore of discontent arising from the kind of sneaky railroading process of all the high-rise buildings through the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation. It wasn’t really that sneaky, as every post-Great Recession election made it clear that the winners of those elections favored these big buildings. The development forces won. The preservationists lost. The Russians had nothing to do with it.
I do recall that Reagan implored Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, but tearing down Albion, Emerson, Vantage et al seems unlikely, although “Tear down that high-rise, Mr. Abu-Taleb” does have a memorable symmetry. It is probably cold comfort to the preservationists, but maybe all the viable high-rise development spots are developed, so the worst may be over. Then again, there is the Hong Kong model.
The reality of Oak Park politics is that most of the voters are pretty much the same — relatively affluent liberal Democrats who enjoy an upscale lifestyle with a side of conscience, and who want their children to share that lifestyle and those beliefs.
We talk cutting edge, but we really just want things to stay the way they are. As long as the crime rate and student achievement test scores are flat, then high taxes and congestion are the price a majority of voters are willing to accept.