Brisben touts D97 success in run for Oak Park trustee

Candidate would work to create synergy between taxing bodies

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Graham Brisben is not a new face to many in Oak Park – the candidate for Oak Park's village board served one term on the District 97 school board from 2013 to 2017.

He tells Wednesday Journal that he chose not to run for reelection because he always intended to serve only one term. Brisben, 51, said he also would serve just a single term if elected to the Oak Park Board of Trustees in the April 2 election.

He faces 10 competitors in the race for Oak Park village trustee.

He said his one-term promise would give him enough time to help get the village "back on track" on taxes and a number of other issues.

"Four years is enough time to be an influencer, and after that I don't think I need to be there anymore," he said.

Brisben said he believes the demographics of the current board are "too white and too male." The board makeup is currently all Caucasian and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb, who is originally Palestinian.

"I don't mind saying that as one of the white guys running," Brisben said, adding that after one term he would step down to "give others the opportunity to contribute."

Brisben is the CEO and founder of PLG Consulting, a transportation logistics consulting business for the trucking and rail industry. He said the business helps companies "ship their goods more efficiently and cost effectively." They also advise private equity firms on investing in transportation companies, he said.

Brisben said his accomplishments at D97 show his record of success in guiding a large government entity. His tenure ushered in a "transformative" teacher contract; conducted a national search to hire a new superintendent; and helped stabilize the district's finances through the creation of a Financial Oversight and Review Committee.

He said he would work to establish a similar financial review committee at the village level if elected. Brisben said his review committee would be different than the one recommended last year by the Taxing Bodies Efficiency Task Force, which was created by the Oak Park village board to find ways to reduce the tax burden in Oak Park.

"Their version would make policy recommendations and tell the board what to do – I think that's a mistake," he said.

Brisben's vision is an advisory body that conducts financial analysis and education to taxpayers.

The report released last year by the task force was a misstep by the village, according to Brisben, who said there was not enough effort made by the ad hoc advisory group to involve other taxing entities like the schools, park district and township.

"(The report) shot itself in the foot on the recommendation of absorption of the township," he said.

Brisben said he would work to help mitigate the tax burden by limiting spending and working to increase the commercial tax contribution to the village. Oak Park should capitalize on its proximity to the city and its public transportation options through Metra and CTA. Brisben said he would work to attract more office space to the village because of its proximity to both airports and downtown.

Brisben said he also would work to increase equity and inclusion in the village by revitalizing the Community Relations Commission and advancing the commission's proposal to adopt a model that governs for racial equity.

The village also must work with the Oak Park Regional Housing Center to develop a strategic plan to increase the number of affirmative moves of people of color to the village and that those moves are integrated, Brisben said.

He said the overall goal is "racial and economic diversity throughout the village, both overall and in the neighborhoods."

Working with other taxing entities is critical so the village can have a unified voice in advocating at the General Assembly for "fair taxation and education funding," Brisben said.

"Because the root cause of tax pain is Illinois is the worst in the nation for funding education, and we are lucky to have very influential people in state government," he said, referencing state Sens. Don Harmon and Kimberly Lightford.

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Reader Comments

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Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 10th, 2019 2:20 PM

Hey here's a thought Mr. Brisben. If the current board is "too white and too male" don't run.

Neal Buer  

Posted: February 10th, 2019 12:54 PM

The "The" should be "that". The guy who invented spell checker died today. May he rust in piss.

Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2019 9:20 AM

I refuse to vote for anyone The was part of the D97 board that basically stole $2.5 million from taxpayers, then built that $2.5 million into every future tax levy.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 10th, 2019 1:03 AM

At a public forum before the last referendum hosted by the SEOPCO, I specifically asked Mr. Brisben where I could find the details for the math behind his statement that the referendum would only raise taxes x$ (don't remember the exact amount) for each $1,000. I asked, because the last time we were told that it was inaccurate. He could neither demonstrate to me himself nor tell me where to go. As we all know now, the last referendum was a complete money grab by D97. Mr. Brisben purposely misled his constituents and not interested in any "fiscal sensibility". He lives in a home worth around $800K and he pays around $24,000 in property taxes. I hardly think Mr. Brisben can relate to someone like me. Half of my net pay each month wouldn't even pay his property taxes. I suspect Mr. Brisben is more concerned with power and esteem than actually serving.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: February 7th, 2019 1:06 AM

the big tax increase by D97 is now an accomplishment ? Are we supposed to want more of that? Yikes. Pass

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 7th, 2019 12:04 AM

"the current board are "too white and too male",which he is one of, and by a great gesture (or jester) he will step down and give, give mind you, the opportunity to contribute to someone else. Humility or hubris?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: February 6th, 2019 10:43 PM

I agree Marty. Mr. Brisben "owns" that D97 fiasco that hurt a lot of folks. His cavalier dismissal of the idea that D97 is responsible for a large part of our unnecessary and overwhelming tax burden should give pause to anyone contemplating voting for Mr. Brisben. Do so at your own risk.

Marty Bernstein  

Posted: February 6th, 2019 8:03 PM

Mr. Brisben claims his accomplishments include, among others things, "helped stabilize the district's finances through the creation of a Financial Oversight and Review committee". What exactly does this committee do? When Mr. Brisben was on the D97 board and D97 was promoting the 2017 referenda, D97 held community information sessions, given by Mr. Brisben, which were sales pitches for the operating expense and the Capex referenda. The operating expense referendum resulted in a 10% increase in overall property taxes before D97 discovered the 2 million dollar error and kept that extra money for a 12% increase in property taxes. I asked Mr. Brisben about residents forced to sell their houses due to the high tax burden. He said that it's a problem that needs to be addressed, not by D97. Since D97 has contributed so much to the tax burden, Mr. Brisben's type of of contribution is not what Oak Park needs on the Village Board of Trustees.

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