Owner of Maya Del Sol to run for Oak Park village president

Anan Abu-Taleb cites need for 'new vision,' better listening from village leaders


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Anan Abu-Taleb, owner of Maya Del Sol, has taken the first step in "stirring the pot" when it comes to how Oak Park should be run.

Abu-Taleb, a 23-year resident, told Wednesday Journal on Monday that he's running as an independent candidate for village president in the April 9 municipal election. That will pit him against John Hedges, a current village trustee, who has been slated by the Village Manager Association as its candidate for village president. There are no other announced candidates and the petition filing deadline is in late December.

For Abu-Taleb, it's about getting away from the status quo and bringing new energy and a new vision. He thinks the village deserves a leader who listens more to what its residents and business owners want.

"I feel I can bridge the widened gap between the government, the businesses and the residents," he said. "I feel there is a disconnect between what the government wants to do and how they communicate that between the businesses and the residents."

It's about being a leader who listens to employees and offers services that give people confidence in the product. This perspective, he said, can be applied to running a business or the board of a local government.

"It's not a lack of effort; it's really lack of leadership," he said about what's missing in Oak Park government. "It's about building trust and getting people to buy into that vision."

Abu-Taleb, 53, said that's a vision he'll work to restore if elected.

He described Oak Park as "an accepting and loving community" and talked about the many aspects of diversity — economic, generational, racial — that attracted him and his wife to the village two decades ago.

"Our community is special," he said, but with the rising tax burden, "we are pushing minorities and older people out."

As a business owner, he wasn't pleased with the permit process when he opened Maya del Sol on Oak Park Avenue several years ago. He also felt overlooked when streetscape plans were being made for Oak Park Avenue. The village, he said, needs to change how it works with local businesses.

"There is this perception out there that we are not business-friendly," he said. "There is a general sentiment that Oak Park is difficult to do business with."

But Abu-Taleb insists he is not a "single-minded candidate," running on one issue; instead, he thinks his campaign is opening up the conversation to anything that needs to change in Oak Park. This also includes the rising tax burden, which he says is driving residents and businesses away.

A father of four — age 17 to 25 — he worries his own kids won't be able to call Oak Park home because of the high costs, and he suspects this is the case for other residents, both young and old. The first step to reversing this, he said, is to look at the village's spending habits to see gaps where inefficiencies exist and find ways to bring more revenue into the village without hiking taxes.

This also means not letting the ways of the past dictate how Oak Park moves forward in its search for economic sustainability. He wants the village to stop spending the money it doesn't have so the burden on taxpayers is lessened.

"I'm for progress and I'm for updating infrastructure," he said. "I'm fiscally responsible, but I want to approach projects with money I have."

He said his "common-sense approach will look outside the Oak Park box of traditional governance. Abu-Taleb's approach, he said, will tap into the thoughts of stakeholders across the community and ensure the discussion goes two ways. He insists Oak Park must find a way to preserve what's unique about the village while adapting with the times.

Abu-Taleb owns three restaurants. In addition to Maya, there are two pizza-focused eateries in the city. He thinks his success in business demonstrates his abilities to be an effective leader. His ability to communicate his vision as a business owner is one he thinks would translate well as a village leader.

"I feel that I would bring a lot of creativity and innovation to the job. I feel like I would bring a whole new energy. I would bring a whole new perspective to the board, which is badly needed. I feel the board has great minds, but we need a new perspective on that board," he said. "I want to give back in a big way. I want to create meaningful change from what we're doing today."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2013 3:59 PM

I have lived in Oak Park for almost 40 years. We have a great community, but at what cost? I purchased a home in 1978. My taxes were $450 a year. Now they are around $12,000 a year. If taxes continue to increase at the same rate, my taxes will be $360,000 a year in 35 years. With $364 million in debt and $95 million in unfunded pension obligations, it is not unrealistic to assume it could happen in our village. Someone has to stand up, shut off the music, and declare the party is over.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 3rd, 2013 10:48 PM

Please get your facts straight. Anan didn't give money to Blago. Telling a lie over and over doesn't make it true. The only rat you smell is yourself.

I Smell A. Rat from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2013 5:54 PM

Anan Abu-Taleb contributed $247,000 to Blagojevich and in return got a pardon for his tax fraud conviction which otherwise would have had up to a 10 year jail term. In addition he had his criminal record expurged, a highly unusual action. I am very surprised this important history was not mentioned in this article. Voters should Google this for more information before electing this dishonest man to office. Please make the effort to be informed

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 6th, 2012 10:08 PM

I do not know Mr Taleb, but based on the quality of business, his zeal in taking positions on issues in the village (I did visit his website), and the quantity of endorsements he has received on WJ Comments, I am certain he is a excellent candidate. If he said running for office is not personal, I think he is being naive, and I suspect he is not. Winning an election requires passion, and passion is what is needed to get the village going in the correct direction. Unless Mr. Taleb is a VMA member, I do not believe he said he isn't running against the VMA. I am certain that he understands that elections are not about civility, they are about winning. Problematic to me is a sense that rather than reading Mr Taleb statements, we are reading the words of the WJ Editorial Board who have regularly supported the blind development projects in the village that have led to a financial cliff. Hodges and Taleb are good and quality people. Let them set the tone of the race, not the press.

Undecided voter  

Posted: December 6th, 2012 6:40 PM

I don't think that's what they meant, John. Your points are fine. But they meant running with ideas & not simply anti-VMA. At least that was my impression. He's not just complaining, but will hopefully offer a vision we can get behind.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 6th, 2012 6:33 PM

WEDNESDAY JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD "What we find particularly appealing about Abu-Taleb is that while he is a critic of some aspects of local governance, for him this ISN'T PERSONAL. HE ISN'T RUNNING AGAINST THE VMA and its supposed impregnability." In elections there are winners, losers, tears, and cheers. It's personal. Winning an election gives goose-bumps. Losing one hurts ?" a lot. Being in a village where only 17% of voters cast a ballot is as close to a personal election as you can get, but there it is still pain the loser, his family, friends, and supporters that worked hard to win. Mr. Taleb is running against the VMA whether he likes it or not. The VMA selects candidates, provides candidates with financial support, runs their candidates as a slate, manages the candidates' campaigns and controls the Public Debate. It is the technique that have used successfully for more than 50 years. Independent candidates have a tough haul in a one party town. The WJ Editorial Board needs to read Politics 101.

Ed Amstutz from Oak Park  

Posted: December 6th, 2012 4:02 PM

As a friend of Anan's and a frequent patron of Maya, I can tell you he will be great for OP. He's a tireless worker, sets high standards and demands excellence from himself and those around him. Our community is better for Maya and Anan and his family's attention to our needs there, and we will be better for Anan's attention to the needs and future of our village.

The dude  

Posted: December 6th, 2012 2:54 PM

I hope the 2 candidates address the crime problem in Oak Park. With the recent kidnapping and abduction attempts, regular robberies, the constant home, garage break-ins and thefts... The community deserves to have this issue addressed in a serious way, especially considering the high taxes we pay to live here.

Brian from Oak Park  

Posted: December 6th, 2012 1:25 PM

The village (per 2011 records) has $364 million in debt and $95 million in unfunded pension liabilities - excluding the other tax districts. I hope Anan and the other candidates address this looming issue. Also, their thoughts on merging the Township into the Village authority.


Posted: December 6th, 2012 5:48 AM

As a classmate of Anan's at UChicago Booth, I can tell you Anan will bring a sharp focus and a bright vision to the City he knows and loves. Good for the community and good for business. Let's get this man elected!


Posted: December 6th, 2012 12:41 AM

So far both candidates sound good, and of course they and their supporters are going to advertise their best traits, but I'm not going to vote for someone based on blind faith.


Posted: December 6th, 2012 12:39 AM

Village, It sounds like you'll vote for anyone who you consider POPULAR without questioning their motives experience or track record. I suppose you just take anyone on their word. I'm not in the habit of believing someone just because they said it.


Posted: December 5th, 2012 9:21 PM

If Anan WINS, I suggest free food for all in OP!!!! Mangia

Michael from Oak park  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 8:37 PM

I think for the first time in 20 years I will vote in a general election (never missed a statewide one). It's about time we had a real choice in our leadership. I think the VMA is a bit scared they will lose their lock on village leadership.

Merrill Weber  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 5:16 PM

Do you ever check your own news morgue? You wrote an article in 2009 (http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/5-5-2009/Hard-to-say-when-it's-pay-to-play/) about Mr. Abu-Taleb's pardon from Gov. Blagojevich. Isn't this relevant for village president?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 3:32 PM

If a candidate wins on popularity alone, it is a sign of a low voter turnout. A high voter turns out when people take the time to read the campaign literature and ask questions of the candidates.

Village Voice  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 3:21 PM

Jack: "I do have a problem with people winning through popularity". Ha! Your VMAthink is showing. It's a POPULAR election, and so far his ideas seen pretty popular. Sounds like you'd just assume have VMA's backroom selections rule autmomatically.

Alexander Jacobs from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 12:21 PM

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein. Anan Abu-Taleb has been active in our community & gives a clear, honest, balanced & new voice to our Village.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 11:55 AM

OP Res - I agree my comments were only referring to qualifications - experience and skill set. The issues have to be debated. I have always been befuddled that OPV rarely has so few candidates with OP business experience.

Undecided voter  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 7:03 AM

OP Rez, I share some of the same concerns. I like what he's starting to say in the article. I just want to hear more. If that concern for residents continues to come through from now until spring, he may just be my candidate. Time will tell.

RLM from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 12:31 AM

So I guess I'm the only one who noticed at least 10 of the comments were under different names but almost exactly the same? How many different people can use the word "fresh" in a 12 hour span??? LOL.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 11:22 PM

I suppose I'm just trying to be the devils advocate to all the cheer leading here. I'm undecided for either candidate at the moment until I know more about what the stand for.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 11:17 PM

Cont. for other important areas of village life like commitment to education etc... What I don't want is for businesses getting a free ride due to lower taxes at the expesnse of other important things that make OP desirable.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 11:14 PM

John, thanks for the comments. I do not question Anan's leadership ability, nor the ability to follow through... But my current feeling is that his motivation is business development, which is important. But I want to know more about his policy cont.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 10:45 PM

OP Rez, I think running three businesses, particularly in the food industry, is the type experience we need from a president in a small village. Running restaurants requires organizational knowledge and skills, the ability to select, train and motivate a staff, the capabilities to identify the short and long terms needs of the organization and customer, and the planning, investing, and financial wherewithal to know when and how to take risks following a thorough review. All are important components of leadership. We have lacked a strong leadership and solid communications enterprise for quite a while. I see both presidential candidates. John Hedges and Anan Abu-Taleb as experienced leaders. Let the debate begin.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 10:18 PM

Cont a track record of successfully managing many aspects of a community and a transparent plan clearing outlining what both will do... Before I sign off on anyone. I can't base my decisions on subjective personal opinions, I need proof in both cases

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 10:15 PM

Tony, please can you tell us how Anan has the experience, in your experience, to lead Oak Park successfully? Other than being a good businessman. Not saying that Anan or his opponent are or are not qualified, but I'd like more concrete evidence cont.

itsabouttime from oak park  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 8:32 PM

This might bring me back to Oak Park if it comes to fruition. Good luck against the people's republic of OP. Be careful, before you know it someone will blame this on mean, old Anthony Shaker. Seriously, I hope you win big.

Dan from River Forest  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 7:12 PM

Great to see a man of such great character running for office in Oak Park. I've had the pleasure to work with Anan for many years and I was always impressed with his entrepreneurial spirit and deep commitment to the people he works with.

Tony. H.T from Chicago  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 7:01 PM

From my own experience, Anan has the experience, the vision, and the leadership skills to make Oak Park a great place for families and businesses. Mr.Abu-Taleb will be just right for Oak-Park.


Posted: December 4th, 2012 6:15 PM

Village Voice, I have no problem with the D97 tax increase, I think it's important to continue the quality of education Oak Park offers... it also helps home values, but I do have a problem with people winning through popularity alone.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 6:07 PM

To Tpimu, this place may be messed up, but not because of Anan & any "alleged" act. Chicago restauranteurs are viewed by govt as unending sources of cash. Play, or perish. He's a good man...you clearly have no clue.


Posted: December 4th, 2012 5:54 PM

Good choice for village president. I've known Anan for many years. He is a well respected man of his word. Fair minded and honest. A fine business man who loves OP and has brought us consistent employment and revenue in tough times. He has my vote!

This place is messed up  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 5:31 PM

Not every day that so many people are happy that someone who allegedly bought a pardon from Blago announces he is running for Village President. We deserve the mess we have here.

Village Voice  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 4:06 PM

Popularity contest?! Talking the best game? VMA's new candidate, Peter Barber (y'know the one who advocated for and presided over the D97 tax increase?) is a the senior salesman AT A PUBLIC RELATIONS FIRM.


Posted: December 4th, 2012 3:16 PM

who actually has a clear and logical plan for different problems in the community. Lets look at the actual policies and experience of each candidate before deciding which person would be a better choice for the village.


Posted: December 4th, 2012 3:12 PM

Like OP Rez, I would like to see some clear cut plans for what both candidates have to offer so we can see the true vision for what each opponent plans. I fear that this election becomes a popularity contest, who can talk this best game, vs...


Posted: December 4th, 2012 2:43 PM

Should be interesting. Two good and honest men. Mr. Hedges has spent his entire career in govt and Mr. Abu-Taleb in "the real world." Semi-wild card? VMA and its long knives and tradition of nastiness when "threatened." Alright, I know how to vote.


Posted: December 4th, 2012 11:52 AM

This is great news! Maya Del Sol has been asset of Oak Park for years, and has delicious food! Anan has always friendly and helpful! I think he will be a great leader for Oak Park!

Moe Abu Taleb from Morton Grove  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 11:26 AM

Anan is a people's person and truly cares about others. He is very much in love with Oak Park and will be a great fit! This is great news!

matt connelly  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 9:52 AM

I think its great that Anan is going to take his work ethic and offer it to the people of OP as village president. Anan, runs a great business due to his hard work and ability to listen to patrons and employees and those skills are what OP needs.

OP FAN from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 9:39 AM

From personal experience in working with Anan Abu-Taleb, I can attest that he would bring fresh energy and insightful, intelligent leadership to the community.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 3:07 AM

Cont. businesses... Sounds a little self serving to me, but I'll wait and see. I hope people don't jump on the 'new' bandwagon, like throwing out the baby with the bath water... But look at the policy's both offer with a logical and calm mind.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 3:04 AM

Cont. funding for schools and government services etc... I'm not sure if I completely trust the interests of a business man to include important things other than business interests. He owns an Oak Park business and wants to cut taxes for cont.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 2:59 AM

Cont. lower taxes. One of the reasons taxes here are high is because there is little in the way of big organisations, so much of the burden falls on residents. How do we lower taxes for residents and businesses without taking away important cont.

Op Rez  

Posted: December 4th, 2012 2:56 AM

I agree that competition is good, and Mr. Abu-Taled's rhetoric sounds good, but I want to an actual game plan that he can be held accountable for, and his opponents too. New does not mean better, but lets see what he actually plans other than cont.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 11:44 PM

INDEPENDENT - a word rarely heard in local board elections!!!!! WJ "Abu-Taleb, a 23-year resident, told Wednesday Journal on Monday that he's running as an INDEPENDENT candidate for village president in the April 9 municipal election."


Posted: December 3rd, 2012 11:26 PM

A fresh perspective can be a wonderful thing. Excited to hear more about what Anan proposes to do for the Village of OP.

Chris Withey from Chicago   

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 11:11 PM

Love this! My present and future will be in Oak Park, IL. I'm very excited to hear this! What a great community to be a part of!


Posted: December 3rd, 2012 10:34 PM

You all to know that if are unhappy with the direction of Oak Park, and the local government you can make your voice heard. There are village board meetings, there are committees that you can get involved in. The leadership WILL listen to you.


Posted: December 3rd, 2012 9:22 PM

Great news. Now add a few trustees and Village Clerk.

Oak Parker   

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 8:48 PM

After 18 years in the village, I can honestly say things have gone down quite a bit. We need new leadership to create a new and fresh vision.

Rocky Carey from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 7:10 PM

Shake it up. I am not a VMA basher, but competition is good, and Anan won't go just halfway. A healthy new voice in OP.


Posted: December 3rd, 2012 7:03 PM

Great to see a somebody step up and actually offer new ideas and not just slogans for improving the Village.

George from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 6:35 PM

This is great news. Happy to see a fresh face in the mix and I look forward to hearing both sides as the race progresses.

Sonny Boy from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 6:25 PM

As a former restaurant owner in Chicago, I can attest that Mr Abu-Taleb's "offense" is the equivalent of a speeding ticket. If his situation was anything like mine, cash went by necessity to crooked inspectors to prevent bogus violations.

Patty from Lewis  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 6:09 PM

So very, very excited to have a long-standing, successful business owner willing to help! "Shoddy Journalism"...people like you, need to MOVE ON!


Posted: December 3rd, 2012 5:55 PM

Fresh faces in the village? I am all for that!

happy to hear it from oak pak  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 4:42 PM

He's got my vote. I heard him speak at a board meeting and in spite of how intimidating that can be he was articulate and had some excellent points to make. We need something more than shuffling seats on the board.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 4:39 PM

Looking forward to hearing the candidates debate. Let's hope it will be broadcast on TV6.

Want to stay in Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 4:27 PM

Excellent! We do need a fresh viewpoint and I heartily support Mr. Abu-Taleb. The Village Government and the school boards just don't get it. The tax burden is driving out residents and businesses!

Undecided voter  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 4:19 PM

Thank you for running, Mr. Abu-Taleb. I look forward to hearing what else you have to say about the direction of our village! Choices are always good in an election.

Village Voice  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 4:17 PM

GREAT news! Finally a fresh and viable alternative. Thanks for the link Shoddy, Mr. Abu-Taleb made a $4,000 mistake 20 years ago for which he paid $8,700 in restitution. I have no problem with that. Looking forward to learning more.

Shoddy Journalism  

Posted: December 3rd, 2012 4:02 PM

How can WJ run this story without even referencing its own story from May, 2009? "Maya del Sol owner denies report he bought Blago's pardon in tax fraud case" http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/5-5-2009/Hard-to-say-when-it's-pay-to-play/

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