When someone dies, we all say positive things and try to make the pain easier to bear. The VMA is dead. Remember the good times, the successes, the victories, the laughter, and the people. But the VMA is an institution, not a person … it was a political machine that moved from high ideals to let’s win elections so “we” can be in charge.
The VMA served the village well for many decades. The founders had a purpose. They wanted to use the great thinkers approach to governing. They read Aristotle, Plato and many other Great Books. They came up with the VMA, an innovative, thoughtful organization for good government. Where did I learn this? I learned from the source, the VMA stalwarts: Doug Wyman, Bob Kane, Barbara Furlong, Gene and Ann Armstrong, Cy Giddings and others. They taught everyone about the philosophy of the VMA. They are, and were, true believers in the VMA.
But being true believers can be your downfall.
Along the way, reform-minded VMA members sought changes in the group, and they were permitted by the leadership to take a shot at new ideas. The group never got the support it needed. This is history and I am certain others read this effort differently.
With any reform of the VMA a non-starter, the VMA lost members, who then ran against their slates. The VCA took one seat. Then the NLP took three seats. The VMA fought back to win their power. Along comes Anan Abu-Taleb, striking another blow, even though he is a VMA guy at heart. Finally, in the last election independents swept the VMA candidates out of office.
One might say, in an earlier election, David Pope also beat the VMA, but he was the real VMA candidate, not Trustee Diane Carpenter. Besides, he rejoined the fold of the VMA after his election as village president.
The VMA was running on vapors in the last election. Kevin Peppard and I brought challenges to the VMA petitions because they did not follow the law. The courts saw it differently. The village rigged their findings on this, according to the VMA-elected village clerk. So the citizens put the VMA away with a knockout by independents.
The VMA became less relevant after the last election.
We now have VOICE, a new group. They sound good from the media coverage. Among the people who are not involved in any group, we are listening. Lay out your progressive plans for Oak Park. Provide your blueprint for the future.
Suggestion: look at the VMA Facebook site and scroll down the pages. There are citizens of all types holding signs about why they love Oak Park: the parks, always something to do, churches, schools, and many more, but not one sign says I love Oak Park for its high-rises, unbridled economic development, high taxes, failed alleys, lack of parking, traffic jams, failed intersections, etc.
We are waiting to see the future and we are looking to independents and to VOICE —you are now the de facto leaders that people are watching. What do you have to offer?
Please be specific.
Robert Milstein is a former Oak Park village trustee.