With nation-wide celebrations and acceptance speeches from the newly announced United States President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a backdrop, Oak Park mayoral hopeful Cate Readling’s campaign held an intimate virtual cocktail party Saturday night, Nov. 7. 

“I want you to close your eyes, and take a deep breath,” Readling told the attendees. “And I want you to imagine an Oak Park that truly enables every person here to thrive –every single person that you see day to day.”

Readling continued, saying that the nation should celebrate having successfully unseated its controversial incumbent president but not lose sight of the work left to do on a community level.

“The most efficient and effective way to do that work right now is to be involved and pay attention to our local elections,” Readling said.

Readling’s camp has not been fortunate in its timing. The campaign’s launch event on Aug. 25 coincided with the village board’s discussion over defunding the police department, which devolved into controversy as youth protestors gathered outside Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb’s home and took out their frustration on the mayor’s potted plants. 

Readling acknowledged that infamous night, stating she would have handled the youth protest differently by quoting her husband.

“My husband Chip said, ‘She would have been out in the street with them before now; they wouldn’t have had to march to her house because she would have already been out there talking to them,” Readling recounted.

If elected, Readling told attendees she plans to create a new citizen commission comprised of youth. She also stated she planned to respect the “commission structure” as a whole, saying that, over time, citizen commissions have become “diminished” and “devalued.”

The virtual campaign cocktail hour, of which there will be more, starkly contrasts with traditional campaign strategies, reading more as a peace circle than a pollical event. The handful of attendees introduced themselves by sharing their favorite local Oak Park business and were quick to sing Readling’s praises. 

However, the event wasn’t completely devoid of nitty-gritty topics, such as the village’s economic state and its fiscal budget, a process that the current village board is working through now.

“The budget is, it’s not this scary, unknowable thing. It’s just a document. And it should speak exactly to the priorities and values of our village,” said Readling. “And currently it doesn’t.” 

The recommended budget for the fiscal year of 2021 is a whopping 327 pages.  She promised to direct village staff to organize future budget documents in a fashion that prioritizes accessibility and equity. 

Readling also touched on the recent ballot’s two non-binding Oak Park referenda sponsored by resident Kevin Peppard, both of which passed. The advisory referenda, theoretically but not actually, pose limits on government expenditures and taxation. Readling called them “austerity type measures.”

“I find it ironic that the same folks who were like, ‘Government can’t really make good decisions for me and also, I’m going to prevent government from doing anything,'” Readling said of the people who voted in favor of passing the referenda. 

She also expressed her disappointment that voters failed to pass the Illinois Graduated Income Tax Amendment, also referred to as the “Fair Tax.”

 Readling’s plans to address the village’s finances relied in no small part on the passage of the graduated income tax amendment. 

“We will not be able to fix any of the problems that we have at the state level, which dictates what our property taxes are in many, many ways – particularly as it relates to education, unless we get this Fair Tax referendum passed,” Readling told Wednesday Journal last August.

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