Oak Parker James Thompson, one of 11 candidates running for the Oak Park Board of Trustees in the April 2 municipal election, has made an impression due to his experience in government planning and his call for a two-year moratorium on construction of tall buildings.
Thompson, 68, is a professor of public administration at University of Illinois Chicago and has also served two years on the Oak Park Transportation Commission.
His academic career has focused on government management and related topics — teaching master's students and capstone courses — for more than 20 years, targeting government and civil service reform in his research.
His call for a two-year moratorium on construction of buildings over eight stories was prompted by conversations Thompson has had with Oak Park residents during the campaign.
"I've done a lot of door-to-door and talked to a lot of people, and that's one of the issues I've heard about most often," Thompson said, referring to the multiple high-rise buildings that have gone up in the downtown area over the last few years.
Most people "really dislike those high-rises" and neither the mayor nor the board of trustees has "made the case to the public why this is a good idea," Thompson said.
The moratorium would give local government time to hold a series of public meetings to discuss the impacts of the developments. Thompson said he's "less adamantly negative" about the buildings than some members of the public but also noted, "I agree with the people who say they look so out of place."
Thompson also has made reducing taxes a central focus of his campaign, calling on the village to adopt a three-pronged approach to reducing the tax levy: keep a lid on expenses; find creative sources of revenue; and enhance quality of life to such an extent that residents don't mind spending extra to live here.
The village needs to stick with the recommendation from the Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force — created last year by the Oak Park Board of Trustees to find ways to reduce the tax burden — which called on the village to maintain an annual 3 percent levy increase.
He said unnecessary expenses like bluestone sidewalks downtown and $350,000 for wayfaring signs around the village illustrates to him that "somebody at the village hasn't gotten the message about taxes. I think we send the wrong message with this stuff."
Thompson believes the village needs to find innovative new sources of revenue, such as a possible tax on ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.
Environmental sustainability is a "really big" topic for Thompson, who said the village is not living up to its progressive reputation on recycling.
He would push for a more aggressive approach on the village's composting program, suggesting that Oak Park reduce the monthly cost of its compost carts by a third to about $10 a month. He would pay for the program by phasing out the village's leaf collection program, he said.
Thompson said he supports affordable housing in the village and would vote in favor of an inclusionary zoning ordinance that requires developers to include affordable units in their buildings or contribute to an affordable housing fund.
"I think I would start with a 15 percent threshold" on affordable housing for new developments, he said, meaning that all new buildings would have to make 15 percent of the units affordable.
"If that doesn't inhibit developers from building, then we could raise it over time," he said.
Answer Book 2019
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