Beware the upcoming Trojan Horse consolidation referendum. On the surface, it looks innocent, even enticing. Consolidate bureaucracy? Reduce taxes? Sounds great. Inside of its alluring exterior, however, is an attempt to shift the balance of power in Oak Park away from citizens and to village government by playing to the frustrations of villagers hungry for tax reduction.
Although the referendum’s unsubstantiated suggestion that consolidation could lead to tax reduction is attention-grabbing, the referendum fails to mention that the elected positions of the park board, library board and township would become appointed under consolidation, thus reducing the park district, library and township’s independence and making them less reflective of, and answerable to, Oak Park residents.
There is also another, more basic problem with the referendum’s proposal to consider consolidating power under the current village government: Oak Park residents do not trust the current village government. In Oak Park’s 2017 National Citizen Survey (NCS), Oak Park residents’ ratings of “general” governance decreased in every single area since the 2015 NCS. The most dramatic drops occurred in Oak Parkers’ ratings of “Being Honest” (63 percent decreased to 46 percent), “Acting in the Best Interest of Oak Park” (60 percent decreased to 50 percent), and “Overall Direction” (59 percent decreased to 45 percent). At a time when trust in village government has so rapidly and alarmingly eroded, it is absurd for the village to propose that power be consolidated under its authority. (The entire NCS can be viewed at https://www.oak-park.us/sites/default/files/surveys/2017-oak-park-illinois-community-survey-complete.pdf)
Of course some, like Trustee Deno Andrews, will argue that power would not necessarily be consolidated under the village [Tax task force: No referenda until 2030, Wednesday Journal, Oct. 3], but the village is the only body that has proposed and expressed interest in such consolidation. Indeed, members of the other taxing bodies have publicly voiced their vehement opposition to consolidation.
The fact that the village has worded this Trojan Horse referendum to manipulate residents into voting for it under the guise of potentially reducing taxes is just one more example of why villagers have increasingly lost faith in its honesty.
If the village actually wants to reduce taxes, it can stop spending millions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize the projects of wealthy developers or it can stop making unnecessary and expensive cosmetic changes to village infrastructure. What the village, as a body of government increasingly distrusted by Oak Parkers, does not need to do is gain control of the parks, libraries and township.
Vote “No” on the referendum to consider consolidation.
Bonita Robinson and Alisa Robinson