Last week marked the return to the well of village governance, the council chambers, of David Pope. He served there as a trustee and then as village president. He came back as the chair of the ad hoc Taxing Bodies Efficiencies Task Force, or TBETF, as the insiders refer to it. 

To me he looked like he always looked. Like Al Gore. Earnest. Smart. Studied. Hell, he was talking about payroll systems, fund balances and infrastructure prioritization. He even used the word “analogous.” Whatever that means. 

He and his merry band of TBETFs have, for many months, been slogging around in the tall grass of government spending and the tax burden that spending generates. 

This task force was created by the Oak Park village board out of the group’s annual goal-setting session. The specific goal was: “Stop us all before we tax again!” 

The group has been diligently working away in ongoing public meetings open to the public, to members of other taxing bodies, to members of the village board itself. Not that you’d know it from the public comment at last week’s meeting where a procession of public officials — elected and appointed — professed to having been sandbagged by this whole process.

Specifically they claimed to have been sandbagged by the committee’s recommendation to the village board that a non-binding referendum be placed on the November ballot asking if voters wanted the group to continue studying the idea of consolidating one or more taxing bodies in the village. The group left the two school districts out of the equation, focusing instead on potential folding together of two or more among village government, township government, the park district, the library. 

Among those most astounded and appalled by the work of this village board-created committee was Trustee Simone Boutet.  Safe to say she felt gob-smacked by the whole thing. While she voted to create the darned thing way back when, she referred to it last week as “this mysterious task force” as if it rose from the mist of its own accord. Its seeming mission, she said, is a “plot to take over the township.” And, yes, she did compare that alleged plot to Russia marching in to take over Crimea. 

Over the top? Just maybe.

She went on to inform her colleagues that “the community does not like us. This village board is not liked.” 

Just possible that perpetually stoking animus against the village board on her Facebook page is starting to stick. Alleging that “there’s always been a plot to take over the township” makes nefarious the obvious point that every time anyone in Illinois has complained over the past 20 years about why this state has more units of government by far than any other state, the first suggestion is always to eliminate townships. 

It’s worth looking at. 

Trustee Jim Taglia, who may be more like Al Gore than David Pope, asked Pope if there was in fact a plot to take over the township. Pope said he was aware of no plot. Taglia then asked Boutet if she had evidence of a plot. She mealy-mouthed that there were “rumors” of a plot and that it was “the buzz.” 

Wonder where the rumors and the buzz were being hatched? Possibly on a certain trustee’s social media. 

Isn’t it bad enough what is happening in Washington where everything is dangerous and demoralizing spin? Where motives are always questioned instead of positions being argued.

I listened to David Pope work through his task force’s six areas of possible cost savings via collaboration or consolidation. That was governance. Sober. Thoughtful. Fact-based. Discussed in public and not the echo chamber of Facebook friends and co-conspirators. 

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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...

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