It is critical that each candidate for the Oak Park Village Board commit to being independent and responsive to village residents if they are elected. This is an especially strong imperative given that our current board has repeatedly failed to respond to residents’ needs and concerns, whether through its well-known approval of taxpayer-subsidized “luxury” developments or its lesser-known, year-long stall of much needed equity training in the village.
Current board members have also failed to maintain their independence from the village president by rubber-stamping a corporate agenda, which prioritizes outside business over local residents’ needs and concerns and by dismissing individual residents’ issues he isn’t interested in. As one current trustee told my family, they were sympathetic to a concern we brought before the board, but they could not act because doing so was not in sync with the board president’s point of view. Such deference does not serve residents. Board members must work together, but working together does not mean sacrificing independence, particularly when that sacrifice betrays the electoral process and harms residents.
According to the National Citizen Survey, Oak Parkers’ biennial evaluation of “general” governance, the village has been steadily declining since 2013. From 2015 to 2017, it decreased in all areas, including “Being honest” (63 percent decreased to 46 percent), “Acting in the best interest of Oak Park” (60 percent decreased to 50 percent), “Treating all residents fairly” (61 percent decreased to 56 percent) and “Overall direction” (59 percent decreased to 45 percent). A copy of this survey, the most up-to-date broad overview of residents’ concerns, is available to each board candidate on the village website’s “Village Board Candidate Page” under “Community Surveys.”
As Election Day nears, I encourage each candidate to share how they would respond to these concerns. I also encourage each candidate to commit to independence so that if they are elected, they will continue to be responsive and accountable to residents even in the face of pressure to do the opposite.