Some questions for the VMA slate

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

I had to go to the thesaurus to find words to describe the power our Village Manager Association has in influencing elections in this community over the last 50 years. Words like "colossus," "leviathan" and "juggernaut" describe an organization whose endorsed candidates have won 97 percent of all village elections since 1960. This record rivals Saddam Hussein's Baath Party for success.

So when the VMA announces its three candidates in November, it's really announcing the election results for next April. Why there may not even be a contested election. Poor Gary Schwab is trying to find candidates to run against the VMA by making public appeals in the newspapers. He reminds me of Diogenes, who wandered the streets of Athens in search of an honest man, except I'm sure Mr. Schwab as he wanders our streets would lower the honesty bar to get some candidates. To be sure, the election will be a dull one. The horrible economy has so diminished economic development expectations that a new Walgreens is cause for rejoicing. A bunch of people got upset because parking went up a buck, and we almost ran out of salt one winter. Such issues won't get the voters out on a raw April day. When you're in survival mode you stick with the known.

Who are our new trustees? Ray Johnson, bless his heart, has re-upped for a third term. Ray has a proven record and you should pretty much know a public official after eight years before the mast, even though you do wonder why anyone would keep doing this. It's the other two fellas — Adam Salzman and Bob Tucker. They seem like decent candidates, but we don't really know anything about them or how they were selected. Given the virtual certainty of their election, I think the VMA has to hold itself to the very highest standards of candor and transparency. How many candidates came before the VMA for endorsement? Who were they? How close was the vote? Why were these two picked? Did they have references? Who? What did the references say? Why are they really running? Were they recruited? Who recruited them? Are they good guys? Can they work collegially? Everybody has a story. What's theirs?

Now I appreciate that matters of personal privacy are implicated here, but it is a virtual certainty that these endorsees are going to win election, and we won't know anything about them. I sure hope the select VMA committee members who laid hands on these chosen few, from a secret pool using undisclosed criteria, were aware of their significant responsibility.

John Hubbuch, an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976, is a retired lawyer. Hubbuch served on the District 97 school board and coached youth sports. He is the father of three and grandfather of one.

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Reader Comments

37 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Comment Policy

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 29th, 2010 9:17 PM

Daniel, please feel free to contact me off this post. My email is (I don't hide behind "OP Taxpayer" or similar non-transparent disguises. I am who I am and totally unashamed.)

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 11:11 PM

Gail, first, I appreciate that you, unlike others in this discussion, have remained eminently civil. Second, the issue that Hubbuch raises is that the VMA selection process is TANTAMOUNT to an election because, with rare exception, there has been no real opposition to the VMA slate. I think you will agree that it would not be practicable for the thousands of OP voters to participate in the VMA selection process. So the question is whether there is a way to make the process more public.

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 23rd, 2010 9:18 PM

John M. - Thanks for taking the time to instruct me on politics. I appreciate it and I'm sure I'll learn from it.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2010 9:08 PM

Gail, delegates to the DNC and RNC are elected with the exception of Superdelegates who are appointed. In local communities selection of candidates are by public primary, self selection, and in some case chosen by elected officials for a community such as precinct captains. Some small communities might use an unelected, non-political club to choose candidates, but outside of Oak Park I don't know of any.

MOG from Oak Park  

Posted: November 21st, 2010 5:03 PM

John, so this is something that only applies to the VMA endorsed candidates only when it appears the election could be uncontested. What about years when there are more than VMA candidates running? So if an independent or other organization endorsed candidates choose to run do we get to determine their worthiness. Maybe a pre-election election...oh wait isn't that a primary election?

James Thompson from Oak park  

Posted: November 21st, 2010 11:06 AM

Daniel, anything substantive I've written you've attacked and then turned it around as if I'm attacking. The VMA owes you all nothing. NOTHING. If you don't like it, raise a slate of your own or move. You're not a member of them, you don't participate in widely communicated processes that they have but yet you come on here attack me, attack anyone who doesn't share your opinion with a high degree of arrogance.Your consistent posting demonstrates you're a troll.

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 21st, 2010 8:59 AM

John, with respect, your premise is faulty. The VMA selection process is like any other caucas, or like going before the DNC or RNC for its endorsement. It is not tantamount to an election - opposition can, and has, formed at various times. We just have a great track record of selecting the best qualified and winning candidates. As an OP resident, please consider taking part in the selection committee in two years!

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2010 8:09 AM

This is the greatest response I have ever received to my colum that I have been writing for more than 10 years. It even topped the column in which I called Hillart Clinton a cuquean. My thanks to all for a more thorough didcussion of the issue. I don't have much to add except confidentiality can be waived at any time. My central point: VMA's endorsement is tantamount to election and therefore should be subject to extraordinary scrutiny.

Oak Park Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 17th, 2010 9:14 AM

James: As a taxpayer in Oak Park, I do have a right to understand who came before the VMA and why the VMA selected the candidates it did. This is especially true when there is no opposition. After all, I have to live (and pay for) the stupid decisions that the are made in Oak Park. When there is no opposition, it's a victory by default. Maybe what we need is a "NONE OF THE ABOVE" category on the ballot.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 16th, 2010 6:50 AM

James, I was merely suggesting that you would give yourself more credibility if you would exercise common courtesy in your communications. Your ad hominem attacks demonstrate that you have no substantive response to the issue.

James Thompson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 8:23 PM

Daniel, if the editors feel I'm making personal attacks they can censor my posts, until then you know what you can do with that comment.And, again the VMA owes you no response and it's pretty arrogant of you to state otherwise. You or anyone else doesn't need to know who applied or why they weren't selected. I guess if you're too lazy to spend the time backing your own candidates all you have left is to call into question those that take the time to. Time to move on sir.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 4:31 PM

This is a true, earnest and probably a who cares statement. I have NO intentions of running for a Village Board seat in 2011 or in the future. The reason I am posting this on the blog is that I believe strongly that Oak Park needs to hear independent voices. That is not a slur against the VMA, VCA, or any of our elected officials or candidates. It is merely the expression of a view that the voters of Oak Park need a wide range of candidates for office and a more dynamic election process.

Mary O'Grady from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 3:44 PM

I participated in the VMA selection process. It was my first opportunity as so for several other individuals. I volunteered to participate and showed up at the meetings where the indivduals presented themselves for open discussions and interactions with volunteer committee members. When all is done a group selection is made. The candidates (VMA or any others who file as candidates)should be scrutinized by the electorate and votes are cast in April. Pretty straight forward every 2 years.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 1:00 PM

Steve- I don't believe any of my posts have been snide or personal. I would appreciate the same courtesy. I am simply trying to understand what you and Gail are saying. Are you saying that one can learn about the persons not chosen by being a member of the VMA selection committee? That does not really address the issue being raised here: that the VMA process has become the de facto election and therefore that it should be a more open process, at least on a prospective basis.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 11:48 AM

Steve - You seem to be extend your VMA Selection Chairman authority. Your duties do not include selecting your opposition. As for the candidates events, I suspect an independent would not necessarily participate in traditional OP election events. This is the 21st Century. The 1950's Kiss the Babies campaign approach might not be the 2011 measure of success.

Steven Rouse from Oak Park  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 10:15 AM

Dan: You seem determined to have the last word. I will give it to you. This will be my last post. Selection Committe members determine the sucessful candidates. They have access to all potential candidates and their application materials. After selection, non-sucessful candidates privacy is protected. John: It sounds like you are running. I will see you at the candidate events.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 6:29 AM

Gail, now I am thoroughly confused. How does one "participate" in the VMA selection process if the candidates are not disclosed unless and until they are chosen?

john murtagh from OAK PARK  

Posted: November 15th, 2010 12:49 AM

Strangely, the VCA announcing that it will not have a slate in the 2011 board elections might give an independent candidate a real shot at the board. With two relatively unknown VMA slaters, it would seem that unsettled and troubled voters might punch in an independent. Name recognition would be less important than normal and the independent would run without the burden of a slate agreed campaign platform.

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 14th, 2010 9:33 PM

Daniel, I'm so sorry that you did not participate in the VMA selection process - please consider doing so in 2012 (for the 2013 election). You would be most welcome, and I would look forward to discussing with you our mutual views on President Obama!

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 14th, 2010 8:45 PM

You are missing the point Gail. If you have made promises to potential candidates, no one is asking you to break them. The question is why on earth you should promise candidates confidentiality regarding issues that would be relevant to voters, e.g., who they are, what their background is, and what their ideas are about governance and policy. Learning between now and April about the candidates you have chosen will tell us nothing about the people you have not chosen.

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 14th, 2010 10:10 AM

Daniel, thanks for your comments. If you are asking members of the VMA's selection process to break a promise it made to all those who participated, then we will have to respectfully agree to disagree. You and all Oak Parkers have five months to learn about those candidates being endorsed by the VMA and any other candidates. I think you will find that the VMA has endorsed three highly qualified, bright and dedicated public servants.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 11:13 PM

Steven and Gail, with all due respect, it is completely opaque to me why a person interested in running for public office would want that interest to be confidential. Is it that they will be embarrassed if they are not selected? The risk of loss is in the very nature of politics. And given that the VMA selection process is very nearly tantamount to th election itself, I do not see how the confidentiality concern can trump the need for an open process.

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 10:45 PM

Mr. Murtagh: It seems you are advocating for a village-wide selection process. Well, we are too. The election is in April - vote your choice.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 4:41 PM

STEVE ROUSE Quote I would not support changes that would make it harder to recruit qualified candidates. Unquote. How would we possibly know how successful your recruitment was? All we know is you selected two people. Tucker is a VMA member. Is Saltzman also a VMA member? That might not be a fair question. The VMA membership is probably confidential.

Steven Rouse from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 3:50 PM

John H and John M, The selection process is designed to select qualified candidates, then let them run for office. The answers regarding your questions concerning the selected candidates is easy, go meet them at a public event. Regarding the non-selected canidates, my goal is to encourage them to try again next time, not to break my word and disclose their names.

Steven Rouse from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 3:37 PM

Daniel-I appreciate your comments. Based on my experience your opinion on confidentialty, all candidates expect a profesional, confidential selection process, and the VMA process is designed to enhance not limit members on the Selection Commmittee and in the Trustee race. The process that the VMA has in place is obviously sucessful. I would not support changes that would make it harder to recruit qualified candidates.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 1:54 PM

Oak Park prides itself on being open and transparent and a community where public involvement is essential. Yet in the most important element of community involvement, selecting public officials, we have little say. Candidates selection is secret and opaque. Only 17 percent of OP voted in local elections last year. VMA candidates have won 97 percent of elections. Our board, all VMA, voted unanimously on 95 percent of votes last year. We need election reform. The VMA should participate in it.

OP Taxpayer from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 1:08 PM

Daniel: Exactly. And because the VMA is basically deciding the OP election, they should be transparent about how they selected their candidates. This is exactly the point that Mr. Hubbuch was trying to make. And Mr. Rouse's response is nothing more than a big smokescreen that says, "Don't peek behind the curtain because if you knew how we selected our candidates, you wouldn't vote for them." We need real opposition in Oak Park so that we can have an open and honest dialogue about the issues.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 12:09 PM

James, I do not know John Murtaugh from Adam, but if you feel compelled to make personal attacks, I suggest you confine them to private communications rather than make them in a public forum. Regarding substance, I do not think the analogy to a private company is valid. VMA has been the de facto governing body of Oak Park for a long time. The real election is the VMA's selection process.

Daniel Hurtado  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 12:04 PM

Steven, I read the WJ regularly and the only recruitment I have seen is that by Gary Schwab. I don't doubt that the VMA did advertise, but I'm not sure it could be characterized as "well" advertised. Moreover, I am not sure that anyone seriously interested in candidacy has a reasonable expectation of confidentiality. But the bigger issue is not that the VMA is doing something wrong, but that there needs to be viable opposition so that there can be an adequate discussion of the issues.

James Thompson from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 9:42 AM

Hey John, why don't you relax. Ever since you left your commission you've been on these boards as the local know it all. They owe you no answers, this is their process much like selection of a head of a company. You'll have your chance to vet them over the course of the next several months.Jesus, the people in this community. If you don't have it written in stone in 1000 copies available at the public library there's suddenly a "conspiracy". John it sounds like you need a hobby or a job o

Steven Rouse from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2010 9:36 AM

I am the V-P of Selections for the VMA. For confidentiality reasons we can not discuss some of the issues raised in your letter. We promised confidentiality to potential canidates to get more people to run, and to allow the canidates to be open in the selection process without fear of the failure to be choosen, or any confidential information being disclosed. The selections interview form is posted on the website. Our outreach for canidates was well advertised in the local papers.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 10:40 PM

GAIL Hard to believe you are sincere when you say If you need additional information, please contact me. The VMA has not responded to any questions to date. How many candidates came before the VMA for endorsement? Who were they? How close was the vote? Why were these two picked? Did they have references? Who? What did the references say? Why are they really running? Were they recruited? Who recruited them? Are they good guys? Can they work collegially? Everybody has a story. What's theirs?

gail moran from oak park  

Posted: November 12th, 2010 8:52 PM

I have been a participant in the VMA process three times and I can assure you that it is an open process. The VMA engages in broad-based candidate recruitment, though I freely admit that it is difficult to get candidates to run for office given the demands of the job and the paucity of rewards. If you research your own publication, you will see that the VMA actively recruited selection committee participants and potential candidates. If you need additional information, please contact me.

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2010 2:42 PM

I'm sure you both are right: the Village would benefit from more honest candidates. Please keep looking!

Daniel Hurtado from Oak Park  

Posted: November 11th, 2010 6:52 AM

We should not be the least bit comfortable with a process that permits our Village Trustees to be selected for us in private. There is no structural way to change it (as far as I can see), but at minimum, we should encourage efforts like those of Gary Schwab, rather than ridiculing them.

Gary Schwab from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2010 3:47 PM

Mr. Hubbuch: How do you know I'd settle for dishonest candidates? Not that I've actually ever slated anyone by myself, but can you point to any time I've lied during a campaign? I know honesty doesn't seem particularly adaptive at the moment, but I stupidly retain the obsolete notion that it still counts.

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