Oak Park activist running on racial equity platform

Walker-Peddakotla: Local officials should push for state tax reform

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Arti Walker-Peddakotla is a political activist who works for a nonprofit tech company, but she's made a name for herself in her run for Oak Park village trustee as a candidate who will work to bring greater racial equity to the village.

Walker-Peddakotla, 37, established the group Oak Park for Racial Equity late last year, urging women of color to run for various governing bodies in elections in Oak Park and River Forest.

Her group attracted candidates for local schools districts, library boards and village boards in the municipal elections set for April 2.

Walker-Peddakotla also is an Army veteran, who served from 2000 to 2006, and holds an M.S. in microbiology and immunology from Loyola University.

Racial equity is the foundation of her platform, and she says the issue of rising property taxes at its core is an equity issue.

She told Wednesday Journal that it is disingenuous for trustee candidates to say "they alone can reduce property taxes."

Elected officials in Oak Park should be working to lobby the state to pass a progressive income tax and close loopholes for corporate taxes. If elected, Walker-Peddakotla said she would rally constituents to urge the Illinois General Assembly to even the playing field on the tax issue.

Other candidates in the race – Walker-Peddakotla faces 10 other candidates in this election – "don't understand the full picture."

"Some people say that's not a village issue, but that's a state issue – that's where I feel people are wrong," she said. "I'm not seeing that mobilization from local elected officials."

That would take the form of coffee meetings with constituents and town hall sessions with Oak Parkers "to say, 'Hey, we need you to advocate for these issues.'"

Walker-Peddakotla said working with other taxing bodies to find efficiencies is key to fixing a village government that is "broken."

The board should investigate innovative approaches to budgeting, such as priority based budgeting and program-based budgeting, to create better understanding of the budget for trustees and the public, she said.

Walker-Peddakotla said she opposes the consolidation government entities in Oak Park. That concept was rolled out last year by the Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force, an ad hoc committee established last year by the Oak Park Board of Trustees to look into potential savings through intergovernmental cooperation between Oak Park's various taxing entities.

The task force advanced a ballot initiative last year, which was approved by voters, to further study consolidation of the village with Oak Park Township, the park district and Oak Park Library.

The task force also recommended the creation of a citizen advisory oversight committee to take a broader look at finances within the various taxing entities such as the village and the two school districts.

Walker-Peddakotla said she supports the idea of the oversight committee but stressed that it must be equitable and include renters and those at the lower end of the economic scale.

"I hope we stop listening to developers and start listening to the community," she said.

Walker-Peddakotla also emphasized the need for the village to adopt a strong inclusionary zoning ordinance, which would bring more affordable housing to the village.

The inclusionary zoning ordinance should include all new construction – the proposal currently under consideration would apply only to new apartment and townhouse developments near the CTA train lines – Walker-Peddakotla said.

She added that the village also should consider the impact new developments are having on rental rates in Oak Park.

"I moved here in 2008 and rented a studio apartment for $735 a month, and I could barely afford that. … I don't think that's possible now," she said.


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Reader Comments

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Tom Leeds  

Posted: March 4th, 2019 11:00 AM

"I moved here in 2008 and rented a studio apartment for $735 a month, and I could barely afford that. ? I don't think that's possible now," she said." Do you understand what goes into the cost of your studio? $450 per month in property taxes, $75 in NG, $100+ site maintenance and that is before the owner pays his mortgage. It is not profitable to be a landlord in Oak Park. Most are barely making ends meet on the low end of the market. You make more sticking your money into bonds and don't have to deal with tenants.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 11:57 PM

Political Activists = more government intervention is the answer = Higher Taxes.

Robert Milstein from Oak park  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 9:39 PM

Listening to developers is OK. But not providing unecessary subsidies to them would be nice. The tall buildings are not the only development we need. Let's take each business district and look for realistic development in multiple areas in the Village. Transit oriented development in the DTOP is fine, but the apartment overload is not realistic. The apartments are expensive and the aesthetics of the buildings leaves much to be desired. However, back to the candidate...what's your plan for N Avenue, Madison, Roosevelt, Harrison, etc.?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 6:53 PM

She says she wants to listen to the community, but the community voted YES to work towards consolidating various taxing bodies - and she doesn't want to do that. So she wants to ignore the community, not listen.

Bert Fischer  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 5:44 PM

So she thinks we should stop listening to developers? I don't think that's the best idea, seeing that we will need to develop....They might have something to say. Not sure why we would shut them down completely.

James Pfluecke from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 4:32 PM

I am glad to hear from a candidate with a broad platform who is not single issue.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: February 26th, 2019 2:02 PM

Why would she expect local officials to lobby for a progressive income taxes when it will raise their own taxes. Early models I have seen show a higher tax rate for people earning near $100,000 as a family. Does Ms. Walker Peddakotla understand that many Oak Parkers will be negatively impacted by higher proposed rates? So, on top of paying increasingly high real estate taxes and paying higher than average sales taxes, now she wants to hit us with even more taxes?

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