It cannot be coincidence that it took the departure of Anan Abu Taleb as Oak Park’s village president and Cara Pavlicek as village manager for a sincere and forward-driving presentation on racial equity to come before the full village board.
While both Abu Taleb and Pavlicek had many virtues, often noted on this page, seeing the necessity and opportunity to lead on equity was not among them.
But last week, Kira Tchang, village hall’s human resources director, offered a thorough, thoughtful take on what Oak Park’s approach to governing will look like when we finally — actually a decade late — begin to eye large, and little, decisions through a lens of equity.
At the same meeting in which the village board chose a consulting firm to undertake some sort of review of community safety/policing in Oak Park, it also heard Tchang’s report. The same night the board chose a firm to oversee the search for a new village manager, set aside $550,000 for grants to small businesses and nonprofits coming back from COVID, gifted almost $600,000 to worthy nonprofits focused on food and housing insecurity.
Each of these decisions have foundational choices rooted in equity.
Among the topics in Tchang’s report is a decision on whether the village needs to hire a racial equity manager to drive this cultural upheaval at village hall. The answer is an obvious yes.
More critically though will be the hires, likely well before an equity manager is chosen, of that next manager and of a police chief who will replace LaDon Reynolds when he is eventually named U.S. Marshal for Northern Illinois.
Those will be consequential hirings that will fuel, or stunt, Oak Park’s village government to finally lead on racial equity.