Four new candidates have surfaced in the upcoming election for the Oak Park Board of Trustees set for April 2, 2019, and all of them are connected to the new political organization, VOICE of Oak Park.

The new candidates are Joshua Klayman, who is a founder and lead organizer for VOICE and professor emeritus of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Susan Buchanan, a faculty member at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, where she serves as a physician member of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Group; Tim Thomas, who works for Ford Motor Company as global Ford production assistance coordinator; and Greg Marsey, a former Oak Park village trustee in the mid-2000s, who serves on the local Plan Commission.

The names of the four potential candidates were revealed at a VOICE of Oak Park meeting, held on Saturday, Sept. 15 at Dole Public Library.

The candidates will be competing for the seats now held by Bob Tucker, Andrea Button and Jim Taglia.

Button has announced that she will not seek re-election next year. Tucker tells Wednesday Journal that he has not yet decided to seek a third term on the board, and Taglia said in a telephone interview that he is leaning toward running.

Marsey said at the VOICE meeting that, while he is considering running, he likely won’t seek the position if good candidates surface to unseat the current incumbents.

Button said in a telephone interview that after serving five years on the board, “I’m just ready.”

“I feel very good about the time I’ve served in office, and I’m ready to pass the baton,” she said.

She might take some more time to “figure out what I want to do” but added, “I think there is part of me that is meant to serve,” she said.

The three candidates at the VOICE meeting would be first-time contenders for elective office in Oak Park.

Buchanan has served as a health commissioner in Oak Park for about six months, she said in a telephone interview.

“I feel like Oak Park is at a fork in the road right now where it could continue on its current trajectory of high-rise development and a few homes or apartments that are affordable,” she said, or Oak Park instead could take the route of “affordable housing and equity.”

“If we continue down [the former] path, we’re going to become another upscale suburb,” she said.

Oak Park made “unbelievably bold moves” in the 1960s and 1970s to ensure diversity, she said.

“We can’t just rest on our laurels; we need to keep paying attention,” she said. “How do we stay this really cool, progressive community that is welcoming to everybody?”

Thomas, who is a union activist with the United Auto Workers union, said he first became interested in village government because of the shortage of parking.

“Where’s the voice for an everyday working guy like me?” he asked.

Thomas said he is a renter and has repeatedly heard rhetoric at public meetings about the instability of renters. “I think that’s the wrong approach and disrespectful,” he said. “I want to be that voice that’s pushing back.”

The two remaining incumbents say they are still deciding whether they plan to run for office.

It would be Taglia’s first run for the village board of trustees. He was appointed to the position in 2017, when Trustee Adam Salzman vacated the seat.

Taglia served as a trustee on the Oak Park Township Board of Trustees from 2010 to 2016.

“I’m still discussing it with my wife and my family to make sure I have the time and energy,” he said.

Taglia said he’s enjoyed his service with the village and learned “to become more open minded” from the experience.

“I try to put myself in other people’s shoes,” he said.

Similarly, Tucker said he is discussing the decision with his family but has not yet decided to run again.

“Over the next two weeks I’m going sit down with close friends and advisors and definitely my wife about whether I should run for a third term,” Tucker said in a telephone interview.

He said it is an “exciting and challenging time for Oak Park.” He plans to announce his intention to run or not in the first couple of weeks of October.


Is VOICE the new VMA?

The new political organization in Oak Park known as VOICE of Oak Park, for now, will be the only game in town in terms of slating candidates.

And the leader of the organization, Joshua Klayman says the group is likely to file as a political party.

The decision follows the disbanding earlier this year of the Village Manager Association, which served as the only political party in Oak Park for decades.

Klayman said VOICE decided to become a political party because it will allow the organization to run candidates on a slate, which will allow all three candidates running for the Oak Park Board of Trustees to collect signatures together as one unit.

Candidates in the municipal election, set for April 2, 2019, will have to collect roughly 650 signatures to get their name on the ballot. That equals roughly 5 percent of the ballots cast in the most recent municipal election.

So what’s the difference between VOICE and the VMA?

Klayman says that, unlike the VMA, his organization will serve as advocates on various issues between elections.

The VMA historically did not make public statements on issues but, rather, assembled around elections, vetted and slated candidates and then disbanded.

Klayman said his organization will have a selection committee similar to the VMA, but the recommendation from that committee will be just that — a recommendation.

The full membership will then vote on the individuals who have put themselves forward as potential candidates under the VOICE slate, and that vote will decide who makes it onto the slate, Klayman said.

Klayman, who plans to run for trustee, said, “I will back whoever VOICE backs.”

He told members at the weekend meeting that VOICE is focusing primarily on Oak Park village trustee candidates and not seats open on the two school boards, the park district or the township.


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