In a landlocked village such as Oak Park, elected officials must address the needs of developers while protecting the residential character of surrounding neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the village board in recent months has tipped the balance dramatically in favor of developers. In controversial projects such as Rush Oak Park Hospital’s seven-story parking garage, Pete’s Market and the Drechsler funeral home site, the board has paid lip service to residents while granting developers virtually everything they demanded.
On March 18, the Center West Oak Park Neighborhood Association (CWOPNA) hosted a candidates forum on resetting the balance. Both candidates running for village president in the April 6 election and all six trustee candidates participated.
More than 100 residents watched on Zoom, and afterward they were asked to rate the candidates. CWOPNA analyzed the survey results, along with the views candidates expressed in the forum and on their web and Facebook pages, to compile a Candidate Report Card.
There are many critical issues in this election. Our report card grades candidates on one issue: responsible development.
Village President Candidates
Vicki Scaman: A
Cate Readling: A-
Village Trustee Candidates
Stephen Morales: A
Chibuike Enyia: B+
Lucia Robinson: B+
Anthony Clark: B
Juanta Griffin: B
Ravi Parakkat: B-
Candidates generally agree that residents should be engaged earlier in the process, and by giving them more voice, the village can restore a proper balance between developers and neighborhoods. The report card’s good-to-excellent grades reflect our confidence that any of these candidates would improve trust and transparency.
We’re especially impressed by the village president candidates, who both recognize the current system isn’t working.
Ms. Readling noted that several recent projects “have disproportionately advantaged wealthy developers. But community voices do matter.” Including neighbors in the development process “always yields a better outcome. The hospital should lean into that collaboration and encourage neighbors to be active in that process.”
Ms. Scaman said developers have received the message “loud and clear” to address the concerns of trustees one at a time until they have enough votes. “That process is not transparent and not consistently in the best interest of the community. … Seeking community buy-in to projects inevitably leads to the best outcomes.”
During the forum, the eight candidates discussed three main reforms proposed by CWOPNA: Require major developers, including hospitals, to provide the village with a long-term master plan; clarify the standard for compensating neighborhoods for the negative effects of developments; and limit building heights in hospital zones to 50 feet, which is the maximum height allowed in the West Suburban Medical Center hospital zone.
We thank the candidates for participating in the CWOPNA forum, and for their thoughtful and respectful comments. Whoever wins, we look forward to working with them on this critical issue.
David Burna, John Lamszus, Anne Frueh, David Osta, Rachel Hahs, Jim Ritter, Michael Weik, Candidates Committee Center, West Oak Park Neighborhood Association