VOICE endorses three for Oak Park trustee

A fourth, who was not chosen, says she'll still run for office

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park's newest political organization, VOICE of Oak Park, has picked the three candidates it is backing in the upcoming Oak Park Board of Trustees election set for April 2.

The group, which has decided to officially form a political action committee, held its candidate endorsement interviews at Pleasant Home, 217 Home Ave., on Oct. 25, hearing from five trustee hopefuls.

Following presentations and a question-and-answer session with the candidates, members of the selection committee voted to endorse VOICE founder Joshua Klayman; Tim Thomas, who is a global production assistance coordinator for Ford Motor Company; and Christian Harris, who runs a house-cleaning business and serves on the board of the Oak Park Public Library.

Twenty-six VOICE members cast the votes to pick three candidates for the three seats open on the Oak Park Board of Trustees in the upcoming election. Incumbents Bob Tucker and Andrea Button have said they will not run for re-election. Incumbent Trustee Jim Taglia has not officially announced whether he will run.

The other two candidates at the VOICE meeting were Gary Schwab, who is retired and has served on numerous boards and commissions in Oak Park, and Susan Buchanan, a faculty member at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, who serves there as a physician member of the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Group.

Buchanan said in an email that she will continue her run regardless of the VOICE decision.

"I'm disappointed that I did not receive VOICE's endorsement but I'm undeterred," Buchanan said in an email. "The VOICE meeting was small, and the endorsement result does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the majority of progressive voters in Oak Park."

Schwab said in an email that he would not run independently. "I am supporting/working with the VOICE-endorsed candidates," he said.

Former Trustee Greg Marsey, who attended the meeting and had voiced some interest in running again, said he was satisfied with the candidates and would not run for a seat.

Klayman told the group that he would work for a diverse village that invites residents of all races, religions, sexual orientations and classes.

"We must recognize that high taxes and declining affordability are major hurdles to having a diverse and integrated Oak Park," he said. "We must champion solutions based on fiscal responsibility and not on austerity."

Buchanan also said she was "not an austerity cut, cut, cut person." She said she supports Oak Park's recent efforts to pass an inclusionary housing ordinance. "Developers need to offer [affordable] units or donate [to a housing fund to create affordable units]," she said.

Thomas said he opposed the idea of allowing developers to contribute to an affordable housing fund that allows developers to contribute cash in lieu of including affordable units in their developments, saying it "ostracizes people".

Thomas also said he was "not a fan" of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation", a quasi-governmental nonprofit that works to bring economic development to the village. He called OPEDC a "shadowy" organization that works outside of the confines of public scrutiny.

Harris said he aims to repair the relationship between the board of trustees and other taxing bodies in the village and reduce taxes. "We need to build cohesion between the six taxing bodies," he said, noting that he opposes consolidating the park district, village, library and township.

Klayman said in a telephone interview following the endorsement decision that he hopes candidates who were not endorsed will drop out of the race and support VOICE-backed candidates.

He said the organization has chosen not to form a slate, even though it might have given them an advantage by collecting signatures one a single nominating petition.

Klayman said some of the candidates already had begun collecting signatures and would have had to start over in the signature-gathering process had they decided to form a slate.

"They would have had to start again and thrown all that out and started from scratch," he said.

The candidates must collect signatures equal to 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the most recent municipal election. Candidates in the most recent municipal election had to collect 251 signatures to get their name on the ballot.

VOICE, meanwhile, will register as a political action committee with the Illinois State Board of Elections, and the committee can begin to collect donations and expend money for whatever political purposes they deem fit.

tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Jim Kelly  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 7:46 PM

Joshua Klayman posted this on May 23, 2018 on OakPark.com: "One adjustment to this well-researched report: VOICE is not planning to run a slate of its own in April 2019. Rather, as one of our efforts to increase the voice of Oak Park citizens, we plan to endorse and support candidates who will best work to > restore democracy in Village government, > make Oak Park affordable for all types of residents, > promote racial, ethnic, and economic diversity and integration, > develop a better village not just a bigger one > pursue economic diversification that favors local businesses, > and promote environmental stewardship. We invite comments and ideas on the "Voice of Oak Park" page on Facebook, and in person at Day in Our Village in Scoville Park on June 3. There is also a website with information, VOICEOakPark [dot] org"

Jim Kelly  

Posted: October 31st, 2018 2:37 PM

Jeff, the oakpark.com 5-22-18 edition listed Mr. Klayman as "professor emeritus of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business." Backgrounds are interesting to know, but we vote on whether we agree with a candidate's beliefs and values. This article says he wants Oak Park to be "more democratic." We need to hear a lot more substance about what he means by that. His opposition to Albion does not mean Oak Park is not democratic. Agree or disagree, the decision came from people we elected.....democratically.

Mary Darnall from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 4:28 PM

As one who has been very impressed with the work of the OPEDC, its openness and updates on what is happening in Oak Park, I find the endorsed candidate Thomas's comments baffling. I was also looking forward to Susan Buchanan running for office and hope she will continue her efforts. This group seems very taken with itself. No thanks.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: October 30th, 2018 3:17 PM

The article stated the occupations of four of the five candidates but not Mr. Klayman. Do we know what that is? The other two endorsed members come from business backgrounds.

Alice Caputo  

Posted: October 27th, 2018 9:38 PM

@neil - That may be true but I'm most disgusted by the unethical push for the elimination of competition.

Neal Buer  

Posted: October 27th, 2018 8:51 PM

Alice, this is just another group that wants you to spend your money on their ideas. No thanks!

Alice Caputo  

Posted: October 27th, 2018 8:44 PM

Wow. The founder/endorsed candidate hopes everyone who wasn't endorsed drops out? Unbelievable. The arrogance of this group of 26 who think they should decide for 50,000 residents. I'm voting for all non endorsed candidates and hope others join me.

Jeff McMahon  

Posted: October 26th, 2018 4:16 PM

They endorsed their own founder? That raises a question about whose interests they're representing.

Neal Buer  

Posted: October 26th, 2018 2:41 PM

We need trustees who don't have special projects they want funded with taxpayer money. I wish everyone well, and look forward to hearing the things they don't want to spend money on.

Judith Alexander from Oak Park  

Posted: October 26th, 2018 2:04 PM

Christian also serves on the boards of The North Avenue District and the OPRF Chamber. Though the District does not make endorsements or get involved in elections in any way, we do congratulate Christian on this endorsement.

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