After growing up in Oak Park 1973-85, returning to Oak Park after serving in the Navy, running for office in Oak Park and River Forest in 2003, I covered local government in Proviso Township (west of Oak Park) and got involved in Chicago politics.

I oppose consolidating Oak Park taxing bodies under the village of Oak Park. (I have at times worked for the Oak Park Township assessor, 2002-2017.)

One of the things I realized covering government meetings in Proviso Township is that many taxing bodies don’t have a full complement of people capable of competently doing the job. This leads to machine politics, recruiting people willing to go through the stuff necessary to run for office — minus the fundraising — who vote the way the bosses tell them to vote.

Oak Park has more than enough people who can competently govern the various taxing bodies and are willing to go through the necessary stuff to run for office.

If a community has the talent base to make the various taxing bodies work, it’s better to disperse the power and decision making.

In Chicago, the city of Chicago boasts how it holds the line on raising taxes. This is accomplished through chicanery, which is possible because the mayor controls the other units of government. For example, when Rahm Emanuel was first elected, he created a debt Chicago Public Schools owed the city of Chicago based on work the Chicago Police Department had done in the schools going back into the past. The city of Chicago also uses TIF districts to intercept money from the schools, forcing Chicago Public Schools to raise taxes to cover for the money municipal government stole from the schools.

Consolidating taxing bodies will make who is paying for what more confusing. And, in confusion about who is paying for what, insiders have an advantage, diverting money to their pet projects.

Consolidation will lead to government that is more confusing, more opaque, and it will be harder to improve services at the township, park district and libraries.

As someone involved in politics, I suspect that some of the elected officials (electeds) in village government resent that getting elected in Oak Park hasn’t led to getting elected to higher office. These ambitious Oak Park electeds hope that creating more powerful local elected offices will empower them to run for higher office because they have larger budgets, more employees and presumably get more media coverage. There is an element of personal ambition and vanity by Oak Park electeds driving consolidation. 

Consolidation will lead to Oak Park having local politics that look more like the machine politics of Chicago, Cicero, Melrose Park, etc.

I recommend a No vote.

Carl Nyberg

Chicago

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