'Shut up' is a system of oppression

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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It was deeply dismaying to see the degeneration of the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 7. That's the one in which Trustee Susan Buchanan told other (white male) trustees to "shut up" and "stop it," among other offensive remarks, as they tried to speak on revisions to the Village Diversity Statement.

This was no momentary outburst, but a sustained table-pounding, finger-pointing diatribe that occupied the better part of four minutes. The irony and hypocrisy are thick; the topic was the diversity statement — wherein the board affirms its commitment to, um, a variety of viewpoints, among other lofty aspirations.

To place Trustee Buchanan's misbehavior in broader context: in over six years of serving on local government boards, I have never witnessed anything remotely resembling such a deplorable scene. Further, in my 20 years as a journalist covering hundreds of local government meetings — including some that were wildly dysfunctional — the only close analogy would be the three-ring circus that was the Town of Cicero's public proceedings. And even by that measure, Buchanan's diatribe established a new low for outrageous, disrespectful conduct.

Setting aside her troubling behavior for a moment, consider the utter lack of logic that Buchanan exhibited in trying to justify her bullying. In her view, white men (and perhaps women?), should be constrained from voicing their perspectives on issues that, presumably, have not personally harmed them in their lives.

I, for one, reject the belief that the village board should apply such a foolish, superficial, prejudiced standard to determine if he or she is "qualified" to speak on a topic.

Trustee Buchanan's cynical, repugnant tactic could have come right out of the Trumpian playbook: seize on differences in gender, race, and any other characteristics as a cudgel to silence and diminish others and their points of view.

In short, it was oppressive.

Matt Baron

Oak Park

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Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: October 27th, 2019 1:08 AM

The post below in this thread got buried when the WJ spent two days checking my Facebook credentials.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: October 23rd, 2019 1:15 PM

Here is a follow-up on whether a political party system is good or bad for Oak Park. The idea of Jimmy Stewart "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" sorts running as Independents sounds great until confronted by political reality. First is the need to get all those signatures, difficult without an organization. Second is the money involved. Abu-Taleb grabbed for the brass ring at the start, being a political neophyte. He raised and spent about $80,000 in his first election, a record. Taglia recently raised $30,000 for his campaign, all of it his own money, and donated the residual dollars to his charity. It's like the Patrician families in Ancient Rome running things, for a single Independent to run successfully these days, with some exceptions. The Founding Fathers did not anticipate political parties in the Constitution, but those soon arose as the effective way to seek office. It was no longer a gentlemen's club. The current situation here is a disorganized free-for-all. I anticipate perhaps three parties. Call one the Social Justice Warriors, the furthest left, who are in danger of taking over Oak Park by default. At the other end of the spectrum would be the Bedrock Party, sort of Joe Biden/Amy Klobuchar Democrat types. In the middle would would be the New Tomorrow Party, a bit more willing to take some risks, but not wild-eyed like the SJWs (all names hypothetical). The Republicans in Oak Park? They forgot to turn the lights out when they left, all six of them. There would be a few self-funded Patrician Independents, and the occasional Lone Wolf or Kamikaze working on their own. It's easy to figure out who would be where. At the moment, the SJWs are the most organized, but things are in their infancy. Let the games begin. "Ave Caesar, morituri te salutamus". "Hail Caesar, we who are about to die salute you." Surviving gladiators, who were slaves, were often eventually granted their freedom, in this case, with the added punishment of serving on the Village Board.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: October 23rd, 2019 12:40 PM

Following up on my comment about the re-formation of political parties in Oak Park, after the demise of the VMA: Without using an established political party as a base, a candidate has to get at least 5% of the total number of voters in the last comparable election to sign, the same as an Independent. For the next Village election, that's 458 valid signatures. Given such a large amount, there will be some sloppiness, so 700 would be a safer number. If, on the other hand, Buchanan and Walker-Peddakotla had run as a NEW party, call it the Social Justice Warriors, they would have become an ESTABLISHED party since they got 5% or more of the vote. New parties need no longer file a full slate under a recent Federal Appellate Court ruling. Once Established, it takes only 1/2% of the vote of the TOP VOTE GETTER of the PARTY (not of the overall vote) to qualify for ballot access to a Primary that would be held in February. The Primary is not held if it is uncontested. 1/2% of Buchanan's vote (the top vote getter in what could have been her party) is 20, and the "at least 25 " rule kicks in. I could get 25 valid signatures at a single block party, where I would know everybody and get valid ones.. If no one runs in the primary, the established party can appoint people via its leadership, if it filed its initial papers with that provision. Remaining established takes only 5% again; even fringe candidates can get that here. This leaves the party subject to "hijacking", which happened at least once to the VMA, where someone files under the last party name the VMA used' If unopposed, he/she is on the regular ballot. That's why the VMA kept on changing the name of its actual party, but it was always vulnerable on the last one. The VMA wanted more control than in a primary system. Running as a party allows people to be grouped on the ballot, and they appear before any Independents. I will follow up in the next post on why a party system is or is not healthy for the Village.

Christine Vernon  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 1:24 PM

Tom, Trustee Buchanan's behavior stands alone, reprehensible, inexcusable. The Board needs to stand in unison and censure racist comments by an elected public official, in this case, a Village Trustee serving on the Village Board, the ultimate governing body in Oak Park's local government. But there is no question what has come out in this debacle is that there is a back story going on with regard to the Village Board dynamics that is also reprehensible -The revelation and verification by respected and credible male observers at the Board meetings that the treatment of the female trustees ranges from "belittling" and "demeaning" to "insulting" and "brutal". Those were the adjectives applied to their verbal treatment of the women trustees. Call it what you will abuse, disrespect, psychological warfare, emotional mistreatment. It stinks no matter how you describe it. So, what we have learned by all of this bad theater is that we have a toxic situation on our hands in Oak Park now and as K.Peppard points out, there is little we can do about it. We have a seriously dysfunctional Board. This is as bad as any of the sophisticated organizational oppression and domination suffered under the reign of the smiling, professionally smooth-talking Boards installed into office for more than sixty years under VMA one party rule. By God though, more than sixty years ago, the people who initially built Oak Park, at one time called "The Village of Churches" once built the community that so many of us chose to live in - in the case of my family, for four generations now. So once up on a time, maybe some people actually had good government in Oak Park. No one is here who can tell us what might have gone right then. But now we have a woman trustee who is openly racist. Men who are sneakily verbally abusive to women. a Board given to bad theater, neglecting the people's business except when it involves development, especially high-rise development. What do you know? Another fine mess!

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 12:37 PM

@Kevin - you are right that we are stuck with Ms Buchanon for awhile. The issue to me is that in a town of over 50,000 we are seeing Trustees being elected with only a few thousand votes, so clearly a majority of people are too busy to vote, trying to work to pay their tax bill. But they need to vote because the Trustees are the ones who raise our property taxes. The next election is going to be critical. If you don't like what you see in these meetings, its time to stop pretending it will be ok if you skip the election.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 12:26 PM

@Tom McMillan: Unfortunately, we can't get her out at the next election. It's two elections away, in 3 1/2 years. The three people up for Trustee next time are relatively moderate by Oak Park standards, and we have to fight just to stay even with things. Boutet has already announced for President, and if Andrews or Moroney also vie for that, each of those candidates could lose to a single Social Justice Warrior who capitalizes on a split vote. In addition, their Trustee seats would be vacated, and open for an SJW opportunistic grab. Even though many Oak Parkers find the Buchanan situation revolting, the turnout in April elections is low, and subject to domination by small but well-organized special interest groups. Some of us wanted the old VMA stranglehold on local Village Board control to end. As the saying has it, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it." The VMA put a damper on the extreme left here. Even though the VMA was less than perfect, it functioned like a despotic Middle East dictator, keeping a lid on things. Now we have a free-for-all. I foresee the reemergence of local political parties here, for ease of ballot access after becoming established, and for name recognition.

Marc Martinez from Oak Park  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 11:59 AM

Where is Buchanan's letter? The Journal has twice reported that she sent them a letter. They have quoted the letter but why have they not published it in full? They published the letter from the mayor. My guess is that her letter is more of a continuing rant than an apology. Maybe the Journal believes they are protecting her or trying to put the incident behind us. But there is really no excuse for not publishing a letter from a public official to the Journal.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 11:40 AM

The latest spin being attempted seems to be that somehow the Trustees being shouted at are the guilty ones, because the world around us noticed what is going on and was appalled. Trustee Buchanan lost control of herself, and everyone should look away and pretend it didn't happen. It is kind of amazing what is going on. People need to see what happened and then decide for themselves how they feel about it. If you haven't seen it -- watch the video of the board meeting, and vote at the next election.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: October 22nd, 2019 10:00 AM

some in this community seem to have lost their collective minds - what seems equally scary are the folks who casually apply labels such as "nazi" - "right-wing extremist" and "white supremacist" to anyone who doesn't share their exact viewpoint 100 percent of the time

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