Six years on the Oak Park village board is not enough time for Trustee Jim Taglia. The Oak Park village trustee with an affinity for clocks is vying for more time in public office as one of three incumbent candidates seeking reelection. But what he believes makes him unique is his readiness to take challenges head on.
“If you want somebody that wants a problem to just disappear, I’m probably not your guy,” Taglia told Wednesday Journal.
Rather than hoping issues will resolve themselves on their own, Taglia said he likes to go directly to the community to determine how the village can help resolve issues facing Oak Park.
“I go physically and meet with the neighbors and listen to them very carefully,” Taglia said. “And then I try to figure out a path forward to craft a solution.”
This approach, according to Taglia, was utilized by the village board in enacting the ordinance prohibiting gas stations from operating at all hours of the day. Concerned about the increase in violent crime perpetrated at 24-hour gas stations, residents pushed the board to take this action, despite a lack of support from station operators.
After months of discussion, the board passed the 24-hour gas station ban in September, but it did not put an immediate end to the village’s trouble with gas stations. The ordinance became the subject of a lawsuit filed against the village by local gas stations. A temporary restraining order, issued 11 days after the board passed the ban, prevented the ordinance from being enforced until it was rescinded Nov. 15 by a Cook County Circuit Court judge.
Taglia told Wednesday Journal the village board rose to the challenge presented by gas stations and remained steadfast in the name of public safety, which he said he is prepared to do again and is currently doing regarding the Oak Park-Berwyn border.
Customers patronizing specific Berwyn bars routinely park their vehicles on Oak Park streets, then return to them inebriated. These partiers regularly leave broken bottles, play loud music and publicly urinate on private Oak Park property, but their behavior sometimes tilts into more dangerous territory: shootings, brawls and drunken driving.
The bars are located out of the jurisdiction of Oak Park police, but that does little to satisfy the upset and frightened neighbors. To better address their concerns, Taglia said he coordinated a Feb. 1 meeting between neighbors, Oak Park Police Chief Shatonya Johnson and a representative of Mike’s Place, a popular late-night Berwyn bar situated on the border of Oak Park.
Among the candidates for village trustee, Taglia has had the most experience in serving as a government official, having been in public office for over a decade. Taglia held the position, which was later eliminated, of township collector before becoming an Oak Park township trustee. He spent six years on the township board then was appointed to the village board in 2017 by former village president Anan Abu-Taleb. He was reelected in 2019 to a full-term.
As a village trustee, Taglia has been committed to keeping the village’s property tax levy manageable for residents. For the past few fiscal year budgets, the village has limited its property tax levy to a 3% increase. This year, the village board was able to pass its budget without any increase at all to its levy and did so without sacrificing any village services.
“We had to fight for that,” Taglia said.
Keeping Oak Park affordable is important to Taglia, a lifelong villager. He lives in the same home he grew up in, purchasing it from his parents in 1996. Both sets of his grandparents were from Oak Park, as were his maternal great-grandparents.
The ability of a family to stay in Oak Park across several generations depends greatly on the affordability of the village. As the cost of living in Oak Park has risen, many have been forced to move, preventing families from having the same multi-generational living experience the Taglia family has enjoyed. Taglia wants to preserve that opportunity for others by keeping the village’s property tax levy low, so no one is ever priced out of their homes.
“The levy is the key to affordability in Oak Park,” he said. “It’s the biggest, single thing we can do.”