Oak Park’s newest political organization, VOICE of Oak Park, has picked the three candidates it is backing in the upcoming Oak Park Board of Trustees election set for April 2.
The group, which has decided to officially form a political action committee, held its candidate endorsement interviews at Pleasant Home, 217 Home Ave., on Oct. 25, hearing from five trustee hopefuls.
Following presentations and a question-and-answer session with the candidates, members of the selection committee voted to endorse VOICE founder Joshua Klayman; Tim Thomas, who is a global production assistance coordinator for Ford Motor Company; and Christian Harris, who runs a house-cleaning business and serves on the board of the Oak Park Public Library.
Twenty-six VOICE members cast the votes to pick three candidates for the three seats open on the Oak Park Board of Trustees in the upcoming election. Incumbents Bob Tucker and Andrea Button have said they will not run for re-election. Incumbent Trustee Jim Taglia has not officially announced whether he will run.
The other two candidates at the VOICE meeting were Gary Schwab, who is retired and has served on numerous boards and commissions in Oak Park, and Susan Buchanan, a faculty member at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, who serves there as a physician member of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Group.
Buchanan said in an email that she will continue her run regardless of the VOICE decision.
“I’m disappointed that I did not receive VOICE’s endorsement but I’m undeterred,” Buchanan said in an email. “The VOICE meeting was small, and the endorsement result does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the majority of progressive voters in Oak Park.”
Schwab said in an email that he would not run independently. “I am supporting/working with the VOICE-endorsed candidates,” he said.
Former Trustee Greg Marsey, who attended the meeting and had voiced some interest in running again, said he was satisfied with the candidates and would not run for a seat.
Klayman told the group that he would work for a diverse village that invites residents of all races, religions, sexual orientations and classes.
“We must recognize that high taxes and declining affordability are major hurdles to having a diverse and integrated Oak Park,” he said. “We must champion solutions based on fiscal responsibility and not on austerity.”
Buchanan also said she was “not an austerity cut, cut, cut person.” She said she supports Oak Park’s recent efforts to pass an inclusionary housing ordinance. “Developers need to offer [affordable] units or donate [to a housing fund to create affordable units],” she said.
Thomas said he opposed the idea of allowing developers to contribute to an affordable housing fund that allows developers to contribute cash in lieu of including affordable units in their developments, saying it “ostracizes people”.
Thomas also said he was “not a fan” of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation”, a quasi-governmental nonprofit that works to bring economic development to the village. He called OPEDC a “shadowy” organization that works outside of the confines of public scrutiny.
Harris said he aims to repair the relationship between the board of trustees and other taxing bodies in the village and reduce taxes. “We need to build cohesion between the six taxing bodies,” he said, noting that he opposes consolidating the park district, village, library and township.
Klayman said in a telephone interview following the endorsement decision that he hopes candidates who were not endorsed will drop out of the race and support VOICE-backed candidates.
He said the organization has chosen not to form a slate, even though it might have given them an advantage by collecting signatures one a single nominating petition.
Klayman said some of the candidates already had begun collecting signatures and would have had to start over in the signature-gathering process had they decided to form a slate.
“They would have had to start again and thrown all that out and started from scratch,” he said.
The candidates must collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent municipal election. Candidates in the most recent municipal election had to collect 251 signatures to get their name on the ballot.
VOICE, meanwhile, will register as a political action committee with the Illinois State Board of Elections, and the committee can begin to collect donations and expend money for whatever political purposes they deem fit.