I spoke with Cate Readling a little more than a week ago. She asked me if I would support her to run for president of Oak Park as a Democrat. I said, “absolutely not.” I asked why she wants to run that way rather than as “no party.” Her response was surprising. Running as a Democrat, she only needs 25 signatures to get on the ballot instead of over 600 with no party affiliation. Also, she could begin to campaign right away. I reminded her of the history of Oak Park. In 1953, we had a Republican group running Oak Park and doing a terrible job. A dozen or so Oak Parkers decided to make a change; hundreds of others joined them.
They proposed a more equitable structure of governance that became the Village Manager form of government we have today. The referendum that went before voters — and passed by a huge margin — included six trustees and a president of the board. There were no Republicans or Democrats, and that stopped the partisan governing.
The board’s job was to state the mission, vision, goals and objectives of the village. The village manager had a full-time job enacting the board’s vision and taking care of the day-to-day stuff. The Village Manager Association (VMA) would interview any Oak Parker who wished to run for president, trustee or clerk. There usually was a group of 50-60 people doing the interviewing of potential candidates.
We always looked for diverse people with a variety of skills to bring to the village for more thorough representation. We wanted to ensure they understood the goal was good governance, free of nepotism and cronyism. We strived to prevent money from greatly influencing our Oak Park politics along with other good-governance practices. Over these many years, the greatest infraction by one of the trustees was that he didn’t pay his water bill on time.
So now if we have a village president who is a Democrat, this will eliminate the original goal of that referendum. We will resume partisan governing and likely make it too easy to end up with a board of Democrats. Look at our surroundings: the city of Chicago has been a corrupt Democratic town forever. Springfield has been corrupt for over 30 years under the influence of Speaker of the House Michael Madigan. Oak Park has been able to avoid this type of corrupt partisanship. Therefore, we do not want a president of Oak Park who is a Democrat or a Republican.
I urge the voters of Oak Park to not vote for Cate Readling.