For years, I have made a point of declining to make public endorsements in our local elections. I had no intention of breaking my self-imposed rule in the current election cycle, but in light of the recent racist flyers mass-mailed throughout Oak Park by a group that is using the vagueness of election laws to hide in the shadows, I can no longer stay silent.
I will be voting for Anthony Clark, Chibuike Enyia, and Juanta Griffin (the Represent Oak Park slate) for Village Trustee.
All six of the village trustee candidates have skills, experiences, and public service within our community that would be valuable at the board table. The candidates from the Unite Oak Park slate (Ravi Parakkat, Stephen Morales, and Lucia Robinson) have given commendable service on our citizen commissions.
However, we are at an inflection point, and I am voting based on the type of vision our community needs in order to meet this moment.
Last week, I read the initial statements of the Unite Oak Park candidates after the public was made aware of the ad drawing attention to the “Vote No on Defund the Police” website and urging support for the Unite slate. There is a subtle but crucial distinction between “I had no advance knowledge of the ad and I did not authorize it” vs. “I reject the tactics and rhetoric of the group responsible for this ad and renounce their support.”
The group responsible for the ad has since sent mailers with the vilest racist dog whistles throughout Oak Park. The belated disavowals represent a shift in tone from the Unite slate, but that’s too little, too late. Our community must make it clear that we immediately and unequivocally reject these tactics. Two of my great fears are that if the Unite candidates are elected, the takeaway from the election will be “racist dog whistles are an effective campaign strategy in Oak Park,” and also that the understandable mistrust will make it impossible for Unite slate to gain the trust of the community that is an essential prerequisite for successful governance.
When I moved to Oak Park 25 years ago, I trusted that Oak Park would provide a nurturing and safe environment for my children, and for all of our children.
We as a community have not adequately grappled with data showing that 94% of the youth stopped by Oak Park police are Black. The negative impact on the well-being and safety of the Black children in our community has been ignored or discounted. This is unacceptable.
More than ever, we need to fight to retain the values that Oak Park professes to believe in. Last night, I attended a vigil organized by OPRF Asian-American students. I was simultaneously moved by their moral clarity, and saddened that there is still so much work to be done.
In order to meet the moment we are in, I am voting for the Represent Oak Park slate. I hope that you will do likewise.
Carollina Song, Oak Park