Tech entrepreneur running for Oak Park village trustee

Cory Wesley says his problem solving skills will serve the village

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Parker Cory Wesley, 40, describes himself not only as a "problem solver" but also as a "solutions-driven" candidate in the race for Oak Park village trustee.

He faces 10 challengers for three open seats in the election set for April 2.

Wesley has served on the village's Technology Commission, a citizen commission that provides recommendations to the board of trustees, since last fall. He launched his own tech business, TekVoyant, in July 2015, a move that allowed him to leave his job in the tech industry.

"I think city government is one of the last places where technology is being embraced but not fully utilized," he said in a recent interview.

Wesley envisions an Oak Park Village Hall where residents can offer public comment via video conferencing technology and the village helps small business owners with business incubator programs to help aspiring entrepreneurs.

"Wouldn't it be great if [constituents] could engage [the board of trustees] from home?" he said, noting that not everyone can take the time and expense to visit village hall and engage with trustees. "Everybody's got a web cam."

Working to bridge those gaps would help create a better dialogue with residents, he said.

His incubator program idea would task the village with working to find space for new business owners – possibly temporary spots like vacant storefronts – and provide them with a "small amount of capital to help them build their business."

Homegrown businesses would help add to the tax base, says Wesley.

Wesley sees his tech bona fides as an advantage over other candidates as well as his demographic.

He said the board is in need of diversity – currently, no people of color serve on the panel. Wesley said he decided to run about three years ago after attending a town hall meeting on OPRF's effort to build a new swimming pool.

Wesley said he was the only black person to speak at the meeting. He tells Wednesday Journal that he worries that Oak Park could become "a place where I look around and I no longer see black people of moderate income, moderate means, where I know longer see black homeowners."

The night of the town hall forum, several people pulled him aside, he said, and asked him how they could get more people of color to speak at such events. "That was the catalyst there," he said. "They are right. We need our voice heard, and we need to be represented."

Wesley said he would work to reduce the village's tax levy to increases of less than 3 percent annually. That could be achieved through a number of "hard decisions" such as the village board's decision in early 2018 to discontinue the Divvy bike-sharing program in the village.

He also would move to use some money from the village's affordable housing fund to subsidize homeowners at risk of losing their homes. A senior citizen tax break could help keep seniors in the village, thus reducing the tax burden on the schools, he said.

Wesley reasoned that keeping a senior citizen in their home means fewer homeowners with children moving to the village.

"If you keep 53 senior citizens from selling their homes, we save $1 million – conservative estimate, it's probably more than that – versus if those houses were sold to families of four with two school-aged kids," he said. "The school board can't influence that, but the village can."

He noted that the rising taxes are pushing residents out of their homes and that disproportionately affects people of color.

Wesley acknowledged that such a plan would be controversial with affordable housing advocates, but he added: "My view on it is affordable housing in this village has increased from 18 to 22 percent. We are helping affordable housing here. So now it's time to help homeowners with housing affordability."

He said it does not make sense to wait for the state to fix the problem with progressive income tax plans because the state leaders have shown their inability "to manage their own books."

"I'm not waiting on more state funding to save us," he said. "We have to save ourselves. If the solution is to wait on the state of Illinois, that's not a solution."

tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Marty Bernstein  

Posted: March 6th, 2019 2:56 PM

I agree with the previous comments about Cory. I recommend people attend one of the candidate forums to hear Cory in person. He has my vote.

Brian Souders  

Posted: February 27th, 2019 10:08 AM

It seems like Cory has a much better understanding of the overall situation here in Oak Park than most all the other candidates. It's equity and too-high taxes, revenue and expenses, homeowners, renters and landlords. Keeping folks in Oak Park after their kids are out of OPRF. Plus, he offers more than just platitudes ?" there are some interesting real ideas here.

Tom Clarkson  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 8:29 PM

I agree that he has some good ideas that would be refreshing. One thought that would be good to understand...is there really much of a variable cost per kids at the schools/parks when we talk about spreading 100 or so kids across D97 and D200? I just don't know that we can say that's $1 million conservative as it seems they operate more at the fixed cost level than variable cost level. Case in point, costs have skyrocketed while population has stagnated. But I like the thinking he's putting forward.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 6:56 PM

He makes a lot of good sense. Would be nice to have him in this position.

Leslie Sutphen  

Posted: February 25th, 2019 9:33 PM

I am so inspired by Cory - exactly what we need for Village Trustee!

Ellen Edwards  

Posted: February 25th, 2019 6:55 PM

Cory has my vote! He has reasoned ideas that are both pragmatic and innovative.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2019 6:40 PM

Cory will make an excellent trustee. He has my vote.

Josh Vanderberg  

Posted: February 25th, 2019 6:02 PM

I think Cory has some great ideas on using technology to drive engagement and transparency.

Amanda Massie from Oak Park  

Posted: February 25th, 2019 5:38 PM

Great idea regarding g the savings of keeping seniors in their homes. It keeps our Village diverse in age AND lowers the cost on school services.

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