There are 11 candidates running for three open seats on Oak Park’s village board. It is a record number and it is our unassailable conclusion that it is also a record in terms of sheer breadth of talent. These are, to a person, bright, passionate, decent Oak Parkers. As a group this is a most diverse mix of races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, and, as long as you lean a little left, the most politically open candidacies in our experience.

We are impressed. 

But elections are about making choices and here are the three candidates we endorse in the April 2 election:

Susan Buchanan, Jim Taglia and Cory Wesley.

Dr. Susan Buchanan gets our support for the simple reason that she sees complexity. When she discusses local issues — could be taxes, housing, buildings tall or short — she acknowledges that the choices ahead aren’t simple, aren’t black and white. And she is so right.

This doesn’t make her wishy-washy, doesn’t make her answers vague. But those answers reflect nuance, an openness to listen, to learn, to persuade and be persuaded. Those are fantastic and often rare qualities on an elected board

Buchanan has the right stuff in talking about sustainability, housing, equity, taxes, transparency. It’s how she talks about it all that is so strong and welcome.

Jim Taglia is the only incumbent running among the 11. And because he was appointed to fill out an unexpired term, this is his first direct appeal to voters for support. We offer our strong endorsement for his election, acknowledging that he is the Al Gore of the campaign. The man is not built to campaign but he proves over and again that he can effectively govern. It says everything about him and his role on this challenging board over two years that every incumbent is supporting him. He is necessary glue. Steady. Well studied. Without ego. 

Cory Wesley will bring a pragmatic approach to issues facing the village, from property taxes to equity. We applaud his direct admonition that all taxing bodies must exclude new property tax revenues from new construction — read high-rises — from levy requests. This is the only way to make these buildings accomplish the goal of mitigating taxes for everyone else. A software consultant and entrepreneur, Wesley has good ideas on how to use added technology to streamline local government and increase transparency.

A good word for every candidate we have not chosen:

Bridgett Baron is an invaluable asset to everyone who cares about Oak Park government. Her steady presence, detailed research, fair-minded presentation have often offered clarity and direction.

Graham Brisben comes to a village government campaign after a term on the District 97 school board. That experience is both of value and baggage in a town where schools have driven property taxes. Brisben is smart, grasps the complexity that is inevitable in Oak Park and needs a role to play in the future.

Thomas Gary has strong experience in government both elected and on staff. This gives him many insights worth hearing. His nonprofit work and active connection to work in Austin make him a special voice.

Christian Harris is a young entrepreneur with a strong network in the business community. He is currently on the elected library board and we look forward to watching him grow in that important role.

Joshua Klayman is both a candidate and a founder of VOICE, what could be a nascent political organization in Oak Park. We look forward to the role he and that group might play going forward.

Tim Thomas would add multiple perspectives to the village board with his background in union activism, as a renter in Oak Park, and as a member of the LGBTQ community. He offers a strong and passionate voice.

James Thompson is a worthy candidate in a standout field. He is a member of the village’s Transportation Commission and we hope he will stay involved there as he has come to see the connection between parking limits and fines and its unequal impact on renters, particularly those of limited means and often people of color.

Arti Walker-Peddakotla is the most interesting candidate in this race. With a strong progressive voice, she challenges Oak Park’s comfort level which cannot happen too often. She talks about race and economic class with smarts and passion. We will hear much more from her. 

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