The cocktail campaign

Cate Readling employs new-age campaigning

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

With nation-wide celebrations and acceptance speeches from the newly announced United States President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as a backdrop, Oak Park mayoral hopeful Cate Readling's campaign held an intimate virtual cocktail party Saturday night, Nov. 7. 

"I want you to close your eyes, and take a deep breath," Readling told the attendees. "And I want you to imagine an Oak Park that truly enables every person here to thrive –every single person that you see day to day."

Readling continued, saying that the nation should celebrate having successfully unseated its controversial incumbent president but not lose sight of the work left to do on a community level.

"The most efficient and effective way to do that work right now is to be involved and pay attention to our local elections," Readling said.

Readling's camp has not been fortunate in its timing. The campaign's launch event on Aug. 25 coincided with the village board's discussion over defunding the police department, which devolved into controversy as youth protestors gathered outside Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb's home and took out their frustration on the mayor's potted plants. 

Readling acknowledged that infamous night, stating she would have handled the youth protest differently by quoting her husband.

"My husband Chip said, 'She would have been out in the street with them before now; they wouldn't have had to march to her house because she would have already been out there talking to them," Readling recounted.

If elected, Readling told attendees she plans to create a new citizen commission comprised of youth. She also stated she planned to respect the "commission structure" as a whole, saying that, over time, citizen commissions have become "diminished" and "devalued."

The virtual campaign cocktail hour, of which there will be more, starkly contrasts with traditional campaign strategies, reading more as a peace circle than a pollical event. The handful of attendees introduced themselves by sharing their favorite local Oak Park business and were quick to sing Readling's praises. 

However, the event wasn't completely devoid of nitty-gritty topics, such as the village's economic state and its fiscal budget, a process that the current village board is working through now.

"The budget is, it's not this scary, unknowable thing. It's just a document. And it should speak exactly to the priorities and values of our village," said Readling. "And currently it doesn't." 

The recommended budget for the fiscal year of 2021 is a whopping 327 pages.  She promised to direct village staff to organize future budget documents in a fashion that prioritizes accessibility and equity. 

Readling also touched on the recent ballot's two non-binding Oak Park referenda sponsored by resident Kevin Peppard, both of which passed. The advisory referenda, theoretically but not actually, pose limits on government expenditures and taxation. Readling called them "austerity type measures."

"I find it ironic that the same folks who were like, 'Government can't really make good decisions for me and also, I'm going to prevent government from doing anything,'" Readling said of the people who voted in favor of passing the referenda. 

She also expressed her disappointment that voters failed to pass the Illinois Graduated Income Tax Amendment, also referred to as the "Fair Tax."

 Readling's plans to address the village's finances relied in no small part on the passage of the graduated income tax amendment. 

"We will not be able to fix any of the problems that we have at the state level, which dictates what our property taxes are in many, many ways – particularly as it relates to education, unless we get this Fair Tax referendum passed," Readling told Wednesday Journal last August.

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Reader Comments

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Bill Maxwell  

Posted: December 1st, 2020 2:31 PM

Kevin Peppard If you want some one who does understand and so much more, check out Vicki Scaman's campaign website at You can send her and challenging questions and make the determination on who best is suited for next Village President. There is a difference between saying you will lower taxes and actually doing something about it as you know. I follow the background of a candidate and what they really have done

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: December 1st, 2020 1:42 PM

The "Fair Tax" was primarily meant to help schools, not municipalities. Cate Readling shows no understanding of local finance.

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 30th, 2020 8:59 PM

Neal Buer if you are open to consider candidates for Village President, check out Vicki Scaman at and challenge her knowledge on Village finances. I think you will be very welcoming of her knowledge. Check all of the candidates. This is a very important campaign for Oak Park

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 30th, 2020 7:14 PM

I will not vote for anyone who is ignorant of the village finances.

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: November 30th, 2020 12:06 PM

I need to correct an incorrect attribution I made in my 11/22, 8:35pm comment. The author of the comment about Readling running as a Democrat is Doug Wyman, not John Duffy. My apologies to John.

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: November 24th, 2020 5:13 PM

In regard to Monica Sheehan's comment about the proposed Fair Tax revenue that Readling thought might help OP out, this article by the Civic Federation shows just how horrible IL's finances are. The Village of OP board will need to focus on the things they can control - like spending.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 24th, 2020 11:36 AM

Why does the Park District even have a paid position doing whatever Community Outreach is? How many hours of actual work does that position get paid to do? Did the position even exist before Jan Arnold hired her friend Cate ? Or was it just created so one more crony could get six figures while doing whatever ? These are the questions Wednesday Journal should be digging into, since this is the meager experience of this candidate.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: November 24th, 2020 10:44 AM

Voting to require taxing bodies get voter approval for expenditures over $5 million is not voting for "austerity." It's voting for greater and more immediate accountability. Why is that somehow bad?

Nick Polido  

Posted: November 24th, 2020 9:35 AM

It's unfortunate that the average Oak Parker pays no attention to local government until they receive their tax bill and even then they still do not participate. This is how we get people like Ms. Readling espousing how her in Chip will march with our poor disenfranchised youth to change the world.

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 23rd, 2020 11:11 PM

What would be interesting is to set up debates using the services of VOP 6 and have a moderator ask questions submitted by Oak Park citizens. It would give each candidate the ability to answer how they will be effective at a Village President and also as a Trustee. If that does not work then maybe a zoom would be effective. Anyone with the workings of zoom may be able to set up debates

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: November 23rd, 2020 9:28 PM

Village board president candidate Cate Readling's fiscal perspective is concerning and seems to be out of line with Oak Park taxpayers. She describes the two advisory referenda that appeared on the November ballot as "austerity type measures", despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of taxpayers voted in favor of them. One of the fiscal measures would limit cash reserves of our taxing bodies to six months and the other would require our taxing bodies to put the funding of major capital projects to a binding referendum. Both measures are reasonable and responsive to taxpayers. In addition, Readling, who publicly campaigned for the so-called "Fair Tax" measure also soundly defeated by taxpayers, says she planned to address the village's finances with dollars generated by it. What's unclear is why she thinks any of the $3.6 billion that reportedly would have been generated by the "Fair Tax" would have helped address Oak Park finances in any substantive way, and how she would address village finances now without "Fair Tax" dollars. Along with current village board trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla, Readling is an organizer of Freedom to Thrive Oak Park (FTTOP), which aims to defund the Oak Park Police. FTTOP seemingly attempts to mislead the public with its report that states that the Village of Oak Park allocates 40% of its general fund expenditures to the police department, while failing to note that the village finances its services from several funds, and in fact only 12% of the total village budget is spent on policing. FTTOP also states that only 5% of the village's general fund is dedicated to social services, while failing to mention all of our taxing bodies' total spend on social services.

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: November 22nd, 2020 8:35 PM

Oh Mr. Means, get honest here. Readling has a 1 month head start because she is running a partisan campaign. Anyone following IL politics knows that the deadlines for a Democrat are earlier than for Independents. Let's also not forget that her friend, equity advocate John Duffy, criticized Readling in this very newspaper for running as a Democrat.

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 15th, 2020 4:38 PM

I do not know where Mr. Means comment is not correct. He just explains further why he removed himself from the campaign. It could have been a variety of reasons, including costs which makes sense to hire some one to teach a volunteer to take over in a local campaign. If any candidate has a website to explain more about their goals, please mention it so citizens can learn more. I know Vicki Scaman has one at although I can not find anyone else's website

Simone Boutet  

Posted: November 15th, 2020 12:21 PM

Mr Means, Your comment is not accurate. More importantly, it shows a spirit of personal attack that is reflective of the current board culture. One of my primary goals is to end divisiveness at the board table and give Oak Park a functioning, productive board. If Team Cate is going to be talking about each other rather than about the issues, that will be an unfortunate continuation of the current board culture. Let's agree to stick to the issues.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 13th, 2020 9:19 PM

"I find it ironic that the same folks who were like, 'Government can't really make good decisions for me and also, I'm going to prevent government from doing anything,'" This is quite the mischaracterization. Yes, I believe I am better equipped to make decisions for myself than some gov't bureaucrat who doesn't know me from Adam, and I prefer you stay in your lane and concentrate on things like public safety, infastructure, balancing budgets, being fiscally responsible, etc. I'll take care of the rest.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: November 13th, 2020 9:09 PM

I would like to know her thoughts on why she thinks its the function of local government to ensure everyone thrives. We have very good public schools, excellent libraries, a great park system, access to a very robust public transportation system, access to fresh food, 2 hospitals, urgent care centers and other health centers, affordable housing, etc. If someone isn't thriving, why should that be the burden of taxpayers? That's right, I forgot. Personal responsibility never enters the conversation. This is precisely why local elections are more impactful on our daily lives than federal elections.

Richard K. Means from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2020 7:52 PM

Kevin Peppard misunderstands. I resigned as campaign treasurer when we recruited and trained a volunteer to properly do the job. The Cate Readling campaign for Village President is a mature and well-functioning organization; started collecting petitions in August and will be filing those petitions Monday. She has more than a month head-start on her competitors, one of whom had only just decided to continue to live in Illinois.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: November 11th, 2020 6:18 PM

As someone who in the past had to slog through too many budgets that were hardly "accessible," I'm puzzled by what Readling means by that term. And I cringe at her use of the term "equitable." The village of Oak Park government has a handful of core responsibilities- among them police, fire protection services, public works services, zoning and to some extend public health. So I'm curious where the concept of equity applies here. .. . I'd also note that Readling appears- I'm surmising here from her D-2 filing- to have raised some $9,000 through Act Blue. Really? For a local municipal race?

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: November 11th, 2020 6:14 PM

This is the second time I have read, "It's just a document". Maybe it is the new buzz word. I have not noticed any mention so far about Vicki Scaman and her ideas for Oak Park as the next Village President. Maybe the newspapers in Oak Park can cover the 3 people running for Village President. I think anyone who has as much time as Vicki does with working inside the Village, has some very good idea's for Oak Park citizen's

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: November 11th, 2020 5:29 PM

Cate Readling has already raised about $23,000 for her campaign, whereas the other two announced candidates have raised under $8,000. The puzzling fact is that she has already spent most of that, before any active campaigning has started. What does tell us about her stewardship of money? Her campaign treasurer has already resigned.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2020 10:40 AM

Hey everybody, don't worry about that property tax bill. It is just a document.

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