Joshua Klayman, 66, emerged as a force in Oak Park politics in 2017, when he became an outspoken advocate against the proposed luxury high-rise at the northwest corner of Lake Street and Forest Avenue.
Klayman joined an ad hoc group called Oak Park Coalition for Appropriate Development to oppose the project by Albion Development. He supported candidates who said they would vote against the 18-story apartment building if elected.
The group backed trustee candidates Deno Andrews and Dan Moroney over incumbent trustee candidates Glenn Brewer and Peter Barber, the only two African-American trustees on the board at the time.
Andrews and Moroney, however, flipped their positions upon getting elected and supported the majority vote approving the tower.
Getting involved in the issue “was a real eye opener” for Klayman, who said he realized the problem in village government “wasn’t just about that building … but [about] openness and transparency and democracy in village government.”
Klayman is a semi-retired professor at the University of Chicago, who teaches and researches the field of organizational change and management decision making. He also is a partner in the Oak Park-based management consulting company Humanly Possible Incorporated, which advises companies going through organizational change, Klayman said.
The approval of the Albion Tower didn’t stop Klayman from continuing his push for more inclusive government and what he calls more reasonable development downtown.
In May of 2018, Klayman and others founded a new community group called VOICE (Voice, Openness, Inclusion, Community, Environment) Oak Park, which has endorsed Klayman and two other trustee candidates – Tim Thomas and Christian Harris. VOICE has an email distribution list of about 100 people and a Facebook following of roughly 300, but the group does not have a formal membership roster, said Klayman, noting that the three candidates are not running as an official slate but are appearing together at election-related events and holding joint press conferences. In mid-January, the three made a joint appearance at 835 Lake St., where developer Golub & Company intends to build a 28-story luxury apartment building.
At that press conference, Klayman criticized the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC), a quasi-governmental business development entity in partnership with the village to recruit new development to Oak Park, calling the group a “closed-door branch of village government with the village president, the village manager and a trustee on their board.”
Oak Park should refocus its economic development efforts and work to diversify its tax base, he said, so less of the tax burden falls to property owners.
The village is “banking too much on brick-and-mortar retail,” he said, noting that storefronts “are not the wave of the future.”
Oak Park should instead lure medium-sized companies to base their headquarters in Oak Park. The village also should work to establish a tech-business incubator.
Klayman said he supports limiting the tax levy at or below the Consumer Price Index, which has floated between 1.5 percent and 3 percent for the last couple of years.
He would push to establish a new approach to budgeting that would direct Village Manager Cara Pavlicek to bring the board a budget that increases taxes no higher than around 3 percent annually.
“You start with a number and say that’s the amount we’re going to spend and, given that, what are our priorities?”
Klayman pointed out that the village has as many as “89 community groups” and said he would focus on equity and outreach to residents in marginalized communities to seek their input.
“Let’s go out and ask the African-American community, ‘Do you have a different perspective on this?’ Let’s ask the Spanish-speaking community, actively go out and find the perspectives of other people,” he said.