Village President Vicki Scaman:
Having only served for eight months of 2021 as the village of Oak Park’s top elected, Village President Vicki Scaman has enabled the restored order to the village board, where the three new trustees and three mid-term trustees treat one another with respect.
Having previously served as village clerk, she witnessed firsthand the discord of the board overseen by her predecessor, Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb. Scaman has helped to bring peace to virtual council chamber meetings.
The cordial and polite atmosphere at the board table has made for an all-around more cohesive village board, but not without its challenges. The previous year saw the departure of long-time village manager Cara Pavlicek, as well as the hiring of a new public health director mid-pandemic.
Scaman and the rest of the board also divvied up the first portion of the village’s $38.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in 2021, opting to use $14 million to reimburse the village for lost revenues during early stages of COVID-19. The decision faced public criticism, but discourse at the board table has remained civil.
It doesn’t get much more Oak Park than Anthony Clark. Activist, teacher, organizer, political hopeful – Clark is well-known and sometimes controversial within the community. His celebrity grew even more in 2021, almost earning him his second “Villager of the Year” accolade – this time as a Runner-Up.
His eventful campaign for village trustee gave people much to dissect in the first few months of 2021. After his residency, and consequently his eligibility, was called into question, Clark continued to face election season controversies.
After losing his election bid Clark moved forward, continuing his quest to make Oak Park and neighboring municipalities more equitable through his non-profit organization Suburban Unity Alliance. He helped to open three community refrigerators, two in Oak Park and one in Maywood, in 2021.
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi:
Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi might not have been the name on everyone’s lips last year, but perhaps it should have been. Since his election nearly four years ago, the Oak Parker made good on his promise to shake up what he’s described as a historically inequitable property assessment system that, he says, allows commercial taxpayers to pay less than their fair share, forcing homeowners to pay more than they should.
While many homeowners across the county saw their taxes increase significantly last year, Kaegi’s office has attributed the higher bills to the state’s messy tax appeals process.
Case in point: Oak Park’s Vantage apartments. Kaegi assessed the building at $90 million, but the building’s owners appealed to the county’s Board of Review, which cut that assessment to $54 million. If Vantage owners paid property taxes based on Kaegi’s assessment, they would’ve paid about $1 million more. That’s more money that other local taxpayers have to come up with
Kaegi’s public commitment to transparency and equity is a marked difference from his predecessor Joe Berrios, a consummate political boss known for purported ethics violations and reported political corruption.
In August, Kaegi announced his reelection campaign. He has since won the endorsement of the Cook County Democratic Party and will compete in the primary this June.