I read Doug Wyman’s letter on a candidate running for village president as a Democrat and found his narrow argument to have a logic flaw [Do we want a Democratic president of the village? Viewpoints, Sept. 2]. If the Democratic Party of Oak Park aspired to take over village government, it’s not necessary to run candidates as Democrats. The norm in many suburbs is to have a local political party not named “Democrat” or “Republican” and run machine politics through that party.
Conversely, candidates who seek to get on the ballot as a “Democrat” or a “Republican” don’t particularly build the power of DPOP or whatever the GOP has going on these days. It’s a technical matter of getting on the ballot.
Wyman misses the Village Manager Association system. While I have some criticisms of it, the VMA had good points. But being mad at candidates getting on the ballot as Democrat or Republican is not going to bring back the VMA.
The VMA served three main functions: 1) It screened candidates. 2) It provided training, a crash course on public policy from the Village of Oak Park perspective. 3) It provided the campaign infrastructure to get candidates elected.
I propose that some combination of citizens, taxing bodies & perhaps UIC create a nonprofit institute that trains candidates before they run for office, to provide a similar function to the VMA.
People who aspire to run for office could then pay to take courses to prepare themselves to serve as elected officials in municipal government, township government, school districts, park districts, library boards, etc. My vision is that this would be available as at least online courses across Illinois.
This seems sufficiently politically neutral to justify spending a modest amount of taxpayer money to support the institute. The hope would be that having better prepared elected officials would improve the quality of services (and maybe save some money). And I would also hope that having a formal training process would lower the barrier for women and people of color to run as elected officials.
I doubt the VMA is going to rise like a phoenix. But replacing the functions of the VMA might be worth the time, energy and money it takes to create something new.