Two key issues in the village elections this year are Oak Park’s record of providing affordable living choices and equitable municipal services. We moved here at a time of affordable options and a new emphasis on quality municipal services. We embraced open housing and were committed to integrated living.
A pro-integration realtor listened to our story and helped us find a home on the east side of 800 N. Humphrey, affordable on an assistant professor income. The block was already racially diverse, with friendships and block parties.
In the years 1973-82, as racial re-segregation progressed on the Chicago side of Austin Boulevard, a few disturbing issues arose with alley activity. But village Community Relations Director Sherlynn Reid listened at neighborhood meetings, provided calm assurances, and took action. And we had police responsiveness that assured confidence. As Black families moved nearby, calm settled in and new friendships were born.
In our years since that Humphrey experience, we believed that geographically equal access to village services, integrated schools, and our pro-integration housing center would bring a smooth transition to integrated living. The current focus on “equity” — greater attention and service where greater need — was not high in our priorities for government leaders.
The challenge today in this election is the strong emotion based on valid concerns, many associated with high-profile national issues of racial justice. The issues require the careful listening and calm deliberation that has succeeded in the past, beginning with listening to data and evidence.
Opponents in this election represent many voters and both sides deserve to be heard.
A successful practice at Oak Park Township when David was supervisor was to invite defeated candidates to apply to serve on Township advisory committees — senior, youth, or mental health. They had shown their commitment to the township mission and had important perspectives to share with the board. The village has many commissions that should be diverse and heard by the board.
David & Mena Boulanger, Oak Park