James Taglia picked to replace Oak Park Trustee Salzman

Trustee candidate pick leaves five running for three board seats

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park Township Trustee James Taglia, who is running against five other candidates for three open Oak Park village trustee seats in the April 4 election, has been chosen by Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb to replace Trustee Adam Salzman, who resigned from the board in February.

Abu-Taleb announced the pick on March 2 at Village Hall. The full board of trustees now must vote to confirm the nomination at its next meeting set for Monday, March 6.

Taglia, who is a certified public accountant and has a master's degree in business administration, is the owner of the Lake Station, Indiana-based manufacturing chemical company Pro-Chem-Co Inc. and Red Mango frozen yogurt shop, 1044 Lake St. He has served at Oak Park Township for 10 years, six as a trustee.

"He has the capacity to think of the village as a whole and build a better future," Abu-Taleb said at the press conference. "He believes in the potential of the village and moving our village forward. He's demonstrated that he has a good judgment."

Abu-Taleb noted Taglia's initiatives at the Township urging the Oak Park Board of Trustees to pass various ordinances – one raising the legal age to purchase tobacco products to 21 and another staffing Oak Park police officers with the anti-opiate overdose drug Narcan.

"He is hardworking, thoughtful and insightful," Abu-Taleb said. "He will be an excellent village trustee."

Taglia said at the press conference that Salzman left big shoes to fill, adding, "I'll work hard every day … to provide value to the board and the residents of Oak Park."

Taglia faces five opponents for the three at-large seats on the village board of trustees. The remaining candidates are incumbent trustees Peter Barber and Glenn Brewer and challengers Dan Moroney, Simone Boutet and Deno Andrews.

Abu-Taleb said in mid-February that he was likely to wait until after the election to pick a replacement for Salzman, whose seat is not up for reelection for another two years. "The more I think about it the more I think it would be best to wait to allow these folks to introduce their ideas to the community," he said.

Asked prior to the press conference why he changed his mind and decided not to wait, Abu-Taleb said, "I just believe that the voters of our village should have an opportunity to vote on those three seats without the added distraction of a looming appointment."

Abu-Taleb said at the press conference that he was conflicted over when to make the appointment, noting, "It is also important to me that the choice I make to fill this vacancy is not viewed in any way in response to the results of the election. That would not be fair to the person I appoint, and that would not be fair to the people of the community."

Abu-Taleb said he believes Taglia has the ability to bring residents together, an important factor "given what we are facing today on the national level with all this negative energy."

"I don't want that to come to our town," he said.

Abu-Taleb said prior to the announcement that he is optimistic the full board of trustees will confirm the nomination.

If Taglia is approved for the open seat, five candidates will remain, but that number could drop to three.

Barber and Brewer, along with village clerk candidate Lori Malinski, are backed by the Village Manager Association (VMA), which slates and vets candidates for public office in Oak Park. The VMA-backed candidates have faced an ongoing legal challenge to their nominating petitions to get on the April 4 ballot. Attorney Burt Odelson, who represents residents Kevin Peppard and Robert Milstein, who have challenged the petition, said this week he is petitioning the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the case.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Monica Sheehan  

Posted: March 7th, 2017 4:49 PM

Brian: You raise an interesting point. With the questionable zoning variances granted on recent development deals in Oak Park, it might be time for local reporters to dig in to Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb's list of donors to his 2013 campaign. According to the Illinois Board of Elections, he raised around $80,000, a vast sum of money for a village president's race. Newly appointed Trustee James Taglia contributed $500, and Abu-Taleb and his family were chief circulators of petitions to put Taglia on the ballot. Some other donors are listed with connections to law firms and commercial real estate companies, including Abu-Taleb's cousins with the last name of Gearen, which is coincidentally the same last name as the marketing manager hired by the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation just last year. The OPEDC serves as the Village of Oak Park's development arm, and the village more than doubled the three-employee, OPEDC budget to more than $700,000 in 2014, according to a WJ news story. Yet, as the OPEDC is not a village department, but rather formed as a not-for-profit organization, its records are not accessible by a FOIA request. Abu-Taleb and Trustees Barber and Tucker actually sit on the OPEDC's Board of Directors. Yet, with our village manager form of government, they should not personally be negotiating or be involved in development deals with the OPEDC. Staff should perform this function, and the full board should get the information at the same time. Otherwise, these projects can become Abu-Taleb, Barber and Tucker's pet projects. By the time a proposal presently reaches the village board, it is a done deal, and no one appears willing to contest it. This seems to be an issue of governance and transparency.

Jennifer Malloy Quinlan  

Posted: March 7th, 2017 4:29 PM

Oh, that negative energy? It's here.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: March 7th, 2017 2:31 PM

There is no doubt that Mr. Taglia is an astute accomplished businessman. Hopefully he will look at value added by a rather pedestrian development vs value added by preservation of a valuable community asset. Hopefully he will make the right decision. Am I dreaming? No more so than Obama dreamed that the savior of his crowning achievment would be a conservative Chief Justice of the SCOTUS. As for the Mayor: I am sure he acts as he does because quite frankly the fact that he has NO formal opposition sends a very loud message to him. And that message is: most of Oak Parkers agree with you (him). This was a major strategic error on our part in failing to present an opposition candidate. As I've always said (and its probably a cliche by now): a democracy gets the leaders it deserves. And we sure have. In spades!

Barbara Joan  

Posted: March 7th, 2017 11:16 AM

Careful not to step in the dog poop and puddles of pee while in Austin Gardens--sickening and unacceptable!

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 7th, 2017 5:03 AM

Jim - the Don't Throw Shade on Austin Gardens rally is Sunday, March 19, 12-3. Lots of family fun. Come on out. Tell your friends. I concur that Abu-Taleb acted like an impatient toddler during the comments by villagers. As a matter fact, I was writing down the names of trustees and scratching them off my list , based upon who seemed to be listening, and who wasn't. I exed out all but 2 names.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 11:03 PM

@ Jim: Okay, just looking for clarity. I am of the opinion that Chicago political hacks go to prison for taking bribes, which can be traced. The smarter politician deals in what I call "doferism" , which is I will do for you, maybe a vote on a zoning variance, and somewhere down the line you will hire my nephew who just graduated architectural school.Shackman decrees and patronage. So sad.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 10:45 PM

The comment should have been properly attributed to Abu-Taleb. It does appear to hold true based on the impatience and lack of interest he displayed toward residents who addressed the board at tonight's meeting. Their impassioned pleas to protect Austin Gardens likely feel on deaf ears as the trustees who serve as a rubber stamp will agree with giving the go ahead for the tower. We did learn of a rally planned for March 18 at Austin Gardens calling for preserving that unique green place that many view as a local treasure.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 8:02 PM

@ Jim: So it was Abu-Taleb who said, not the Village Manager. Just being clear.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 5:40 PM

Brian, "not in their right mind" is the quote Abu-Taleb directed at anyone who opposes construction of the 16 story tower at Forest and Lake. No apology has since been offered by the Village President and apparently none of his rubber stamp trustees have dared to publicly criticize their leader for disparaging the concerns of Oak Park citizens.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 4:19 PM

@ Jim Coughlin: I might have missed something, but could you explain the sanity issue being called into question by the Village Manager. Thanxs.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 2:12 PM

Abu-Taleb has Tucker and Ott in his pocket and by adding Taglia gets to maintain a majority of trustees to push ahead with an agenda that many residents have questioned and others strongly oppose. Oak Park government is in crisis. Who will stand with and defend the peoples' right to speak up for the neighborhoods facing great uncertainty regarding real quality of life issues? Will checks and balances still exist or are massive development plans and poorly conceived projects going to be forced upon us? Does thoughtful and inclusive discussion gets tossed aside by the rubber stamp trustees? Residents may no longer be willing to voice their concerns at Village board meetings if their sanity is going to be called in to question by a Village Manager who does not tolerate dissent. Abu-Taleb has now seized total control. Like or not!

Kline Maureen  

Posted: March 6th, 2017 10:18 AM

"Unfortunately, his appointment may be tainted by the perception of some that he was selected to be just another rubber stamp for Abu-Taleb." Yes, Jim Coughlin, this is the perception that many villagers have of the way this appointment is being handled. Residents DO have the opportunity TONIGHT to attend the Village Board meeting and provide their viewpoints during the Public Comment portion. The regular meeting starts at 7:30 PM. Agenda is linked here: https://oak-park.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=522862&GUID=A4130E39-A48F-4E56-A96C-D9656583170C (take a look!)

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 9:36 PM

James Taglia boasts an admirable record of achievement of service to the Oak Park community. Unfortunately, his appointment may be tainted by the perception of some that he was selected to be just another rubber stamp for Abu-Taleb. Will Taglia be an advocate for TIF reform , including greater transparency and independent analysis? Will he seek input from citizens and listen respectfully to their concerns about the quality of life in our community? Will he offer a vision for Oak Park that addresses pubic safety, improvement of services and controlling costs? Taglia has yet to share what considers to be his role on the Village board. Voters won't have the opportunity to evaluate him now that he is no longer a candidate but hopefully he plans to offer us some insight.

Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 6:18 PM

congrats Jerry - I bet if you worked it a bit more you'd get a lifetime of coupons for Red Mango and Maya.

Jerry Sebesta from oak park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 3:54 PM

Kudos to Anan for this appointment, The Board needs an MBA/ small business owner instead of the tree huggers who pack the Board Anan was elected four years ago by voters fed up with the candidates the VMA selected I support his selection

Sandy Pedersen  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 2:18 PM

Agree that this is wrong. We taxpayers/residents choose our trustees! Write, call the current trustees, particularly those up for re-election in April, and tell them to vote no on this appointment! It is our choice, not Anan's!

Kline Maureen  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 11:48 AM

well if he is approved, at the very least, as a business owner on Lake Street, he has a conflict of interest and needs to recuse himself from voting on the Albion project at Lake & Forest

Diane Zimmer Fascione  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 11:08 AM

This is so wrong! The Board needs to deny this appointment and let the people choose their Trustees.

Jim Kelly from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 10:49 AM

So, in one very calculated and self-interested act, Anan has secured the 4th vote he needs to block opposition votes, no matter which of the other candidates are elected to the remaining three positions. We're facing at least another two years of watching the developers getting whatever they want.

Richard Holland  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 9:22 AM

Sorry to clarify, my comment was in reference to Jim Coughlin's comment and not a comment on Mr. Taglia with whom I have not had the pleasure of meeting. I re-read it and it seemed confusing.

Richard Holland from Oak Park  

Posted: March 3rd, 2017 9:03 AM

I have witnessed similar behavior during meetings to discuss the bizarre and your-tax-money-goes-to-private-industry-expensive "Madison Bend" project. This is not a comment on anything beyond his demeanor at these public meetings, but he falls into the rather unfortunate trend of political leadership taking questions to plans and policy as a personal affront. Political leadship everywhere needs to be reminded that they represent the entire community including those with opinions and concerns that are inconvenient to their development plans.

Greg Kolar from Oak Park  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 10:55 PM

I was at last nights League of Women's Voter Trustee Candidate Forum. Who else was there, our Village President. As the candidates answered each question you could tell whom the crowd agreed with the most and I can tell you it wasn't Taglia. Nothing against Taglia, but Anan knows his top pick is not looking like he'll win one of the three open positions on April 4th. Clearly worried his pick will loose, he made up a reason for going back on his earlier statement of waiting to after the elections to appoint someone. Hopefully, the current trustees at Monday's meeting will deny the appointment. I say leave it up to the voters on April 4th. Top three win and then appoint whomever gets 4th.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: March 2nd, 2017 8:52 PM

Abu-Taleb contributed to the "negative energy" by insulting anyone who has voiced real concerns about the tower he wants constructed next to Austin Gardens. Declaring that residents are "not in their right mind" if they oppose the project certainly does not promote a respectful and civil discussion.

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