She’s a physician, a University of Illinois professor and a commissioner on the Oak Park Board of Health, and Susan Buchanan says her experience in the medical field and her history fighting for progressive causes has prepared her for the job of Oak Park village trustee.
Buchanan, 57, faces 10 other candidates in the April 2 race for trustee.
The self-described “newbie to local governance” said her background conducting research and running training programs for those in the medical field requires an analytical mind.
“The one thing I’m emphasizing in this campaign is that I have the skills that come from a career as a primary care physician and academician,” she said in a recent interview.
She worked as a physician at a family practice in Humboldt Park for nine years and then became an expert in occupational safety and the health effects of environmental pollutants.
“I’ve conducted research on lead exposure, artificial turf and mercury in fish,” she notes on her campaign website. Buchanan also is 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.
Buchanan has been reluctant to state her position on some issues brought up at various candidate forums and will acknowledge that she is “not a one-issue candidate.”
While meeting with residents over the last few months, Buchanan said taxes and development downtown are the top issues she hears about from voters.
She said she would work to reduce the tax burden by holding the line to the Consumer Price Index as recommended by the village’s Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force.
Buchanan said that the village doesn’t constitute “a huge proportion of the overall spending” but added, “That doesn’t mean there aren’t things the village can do” to reduce the tax burden.
On the topic of tall buildings downtown, Buchanan said she does not have a height limit in mind, but said she is “not in favor of huge buildings in our downtown.” Transit-oriented developments near CTA lines, though, will help increase use of public transportation and help reduce “our addiction to fossil fuels,” Buchanan said.
She said that as a trustee she would listen to the concerns of those who are for and against increased development downtown.
Buchanan also voiced support for passing an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require developers to include affordable units in their buildings or contribute money to an affordable housing fund.
“I’m surprised Oak Park has never had [an inclusionary zoning ordinance], especially with our history of promoting and supporting integration,” she said.
Oak Park should push developers “as far as possible” to get at least 15 to 20 percent of units affordable “and not less than that,” she said.
Buchanan wants economically and racially diverse neighborhoods, she said.
“I live in south Oak Park and people say, ‘What if they wanted to build one of those [affordable housing developments] on your block?’ I say, ‘Bring it on.'”
She emphasized her commitment to racial equity in the village, noting the importance of Oak Park’s work with the Collaboration for Early Childhood, a coalition of various agencies and government entities working to provide services to families with children in the lead up to kindergarten.
“That is a group that directly addresses equity [through] access to services for young children,” she said.
Buchanan also expressed her support for a village initiative to promote using a racial equity lens in its decision making.
“For most of us who grew up in a white-centric society, this lens does not come naturally even for those of us taught to not be racist,” she said.
Continued funding for the Oak Park Housing Center also is a priority for Buchanan in promoting integration and diversity in the village.
Buchanan is one of three women running for three open seats on the board of trustees. After the departure of Trustee Andrea Button, the board will be all male except for Trustee Simone Boutet.
Buchanan said half the board should be women.
“I am definitely part of the wave of angry women after the last [U.S. presidential] election that is seeking public office,” she said. “I want to be one of the infiltrators.”