I am grateful that I live in a community where starting with “we need to reaffirm commitment to democracy and hope” is stating the obvious. Unfortunately, that cannot be trusted today, just days after we celebrated the hope we have as a nation for a brighter future.
We have elected representatives in our village who are willing to use democracy to divide us to prove a point based in fear and defensiveness. I often say, “democracy is my first love.” That is why I ran for village clerk without feeling the need to run for village trustee or village president before this last year. My commitment to fairness and transparency has been unwavering and evident in my behavior and life accomplishments.
If you know me, you may have heard me say once or twice over the last three years “that as elected officials, we need to feel the weight on our shoulders of what it truly means to be a civil servant.” The call to be a civil servant is to make decisions consistently that are grounded firmly in putting the community’s needs above your own. The greater good must be the motivation, not disdain for each other. It is your job as an elected leader to listen for understanding patiently so that you have the information you need to make decisions. You may have to step back from how something is being said, again and again, in order to hear what is being said. If you are going to respond with defensiveness and fear, being an elected official is not your calling. No one said it would be easy, but that is the job.
Granted, one might say, reasonably so, that the example of how to express an opinion or make a point with grace and dignity should ideally be demonstrated by our elected officials. I accept that challenge, but I do acknowledge that that is my privilege as a white person.
There is no reason to fear the words “defund the police.” We have a responsibility to listen so that we can understand what “defund the police” means as a call to rethink public safety. Putting the question on the ballot “shall we defund the police?” was a failure as civil servants to demonstrate the willingness to hear from residents. This is not a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no,” nor should it be.
As village president, I will listen for understanding and use my knowledge of our government and need for improved data collection to advance policy reform that is responsive and fair. Together, we can realize a vision for Oak Park that lives up to our values.
Vicki Scaman is a candidate for village president in the April 6 election.