Graham Brisben is not a new face to many in Oak Park – the candidate for Oak Park’s village board served one term on the District 97 school board from 2013 to 2017.
He tells Wednesday Journal that he chose not to run for reelection because he always intended to serve only one term. Brisben, 51, said he also would serve just a single term if elected to the Oak Park Board of Trustees in the April 2 election.
He faces 10 competitors in the race for Oak Park village trustee.
He said his one-term promise would give him enough time to help get the village “back on track” on taxes and a number of other issues.
“Four years is enough time to be an influencer, and after that I don’t think I need to be there anymore,” he said.
Brisben said he believes the demographics of the current board are “too white and too male.” The board makeup is currently all Caucasian and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, who is originally Palestinian.
“I don’t mind saying that as one of the white guys running,” Brisben said, adding that after one term he would step down to “give others the opportunity to contribute.”
Brisben is the CEO and founder of PLG Consulting, a transportation logistics consulting business for the trucking and rail industry. He said the business helps companies “ship their goods more efficiently and cost effectively.” They also advise private equity firms on investing in transportation companies, he said.
Brisben said his accomplishments at D97 show his record of success in guiding a large government entity. His tenure ushered in a “transformative” teacher contract; conducted a national search to hire a new superintendent; and helped stabilize the district’s finances through the creation of a Financial Oversight and Review Committee.
He said he would work to establish a similar financial review committee at the village level if elected. Brisben said his review committee would be different than the one recommended last year by the Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force, which was created by the Oak Park village board to find ways to reduce the tax burden in Oak Park.
“Their version would make policy recommendations and tell the board what to do – I think that’s a mistake,” he said.
Brisben’s vision is an advisory body that conducts financial analysis and education to taxpayers.
The report released last year by the task force was a misstep by the village, according to Brisben, who said there was not enough effort made by the ad hoc advisory group to involve other taxing entities like the schools, park district and township.
“(The report) shot itself in the foot on the recommendation of absorption of the township,” he said.
Brisben said he would work to help mitigate the tax burden by limiting spending and working to increase the commercial tax contribution to the village. Oak Park should capitalize on its proximity to the city and its public transportation options through Metra and CTA. Brisben said he would work to attract more office space to the village because of its proximity to both airports and downtown.
Brisben said he also would work to increase equity and inclusion in the village by revitalizing the Community Relations Commission and advancing the commission’s proposal to adopt a model that governs for racial equity.
The village also must work with the Oak Park Regional Housing Center to develop a strategic plan to increase the number of affirmative moves of people of color to the village and that those moves are integrated, Brisben said.
He said the overall goal is “racial and economic diversity throughout the village, both overall and in the neighborhoods.”
Working with other taxing entities is critical so the village can have a unified voice in advocating at the General Assembly for “fair taxation and education funding,” Brisben said.
“Because the root cause of tax pain is Illinois is the worst in the nation for funding education, and we are lucky to have very influential people in state government,” he said, referencing state Sens. Don Harmon and Kimberly Lightford.