Abu-Taleb wants to 'challenge assumptions', restore trust

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Anan Abu-Taleb is the newcomer to local government, but if you ask him he sees that as what makes him the best candidate for village president.

Abu-Taleb, a 23-year Oak Park resident and owner of Maya del Sol, said he'll shake up the status quo, listen more, enhance customer service, cut what he calls wasteful spending and restore residents' trust in their local leaders.

"I am running for village president because I want to give back to a community that embraced my heritage and gave me a sense of belonging," the candidate told the Journal in a sit-down interview. The Oak Park Avenue restaurant owner said he'll wake up every day and think how to move Oak Park forward. "I will bring fiscal responsibility to village hall and cut waste and spending that isn't strategic."

Calling himself a "pragmatic and innovative leader," Abu-Taleb said he'll embrace diverse views, stimulate debate and make people believe in what he's been preaching this campaign season: "Together, we can be more."

Abu-Taleb said he's tired of the lack of transparency, overregulated and complex regulations, slow economic growth and lack of public discourse. He wants to rid the village of the perception that Oak Park is not business friendly, as he admitted he once considered packing up Maya del Sol and moving it to Forest Park.

"I'm not one of those people who wants to go there and turn this town upside down, but we may have to turn it to its side to just move away from this cumbersome parking policy, from this difficult permit process and from these regulations that are dated and don't makes sense."

Abu-Taleb said he's personally dealt with the village's processes with his restaurant, saying it was slow and frustrating. Neighboring towns have revamped their codes and created new vitality in their commercial districts, he said, while Oak Park is lagging behind. He said people have tried to move Oak Park forward, but village policies hold them back.

"I challenge the assumptions. I bring new ways of thinking. I'm very creative," he said. "I'd like to actually listen, not just hear, but actually listen to (residents') perspectives."

He hasn't served on any local government board before, but as a local business owner he understands what it's like to be the village's customer and what the tax burden means to residents. He vows to bridge the "disconnect" between residents, business owners and the government leaders.

"I feel as though they are on a balcony and we are on the dance floor," he said. "They won't come down and they won't allow us to come up. … People feel if (leaders) disagree with them, then they are no good."

Throughout his campaign, Abu-Taleb has compared running a community to running a business, emphasizing that residents, or customers, must come first. Current trustees, he said, have expressed similar concerns about regulations and public perception yet have done nothing to change.

"We have to balance the short term with the long term. We have to make sure it's not just what I want, it's also what my customers want, it's also what my employees want. It's also what my community wants," he said. "I think balancing all these stakeholders is a perspective that has been lacking on the board for a long time"

Abu-Taleb said he has a "healthy impatience" at approaching situations that will help him move projects and business along faster. He wants to shake things up by going back to the basics, give people more value in the service they are paying for, and get people to believe in their community again.

"I have a can-do attitude. I create trust. I get people to buy in. Once you create trust and people buy in, only then they can commit to what you are doing," Abu-Taleb said. Only then can you set up your goal. Only then can you achieve your goal."

Learn more about Abu-Taleb at ananforoakpark.com.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Puma from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 11:06 AM

It WAS a robocall. Yes it was. The comment system here cut off my last post at an ambiguous point and I don't want anyone to get confused by the spin here. You can argue about whether it's appropriate to use robocalling in a local campaign, be my guest. But stop arguing about whether it happened. I am not a liar and I am not part of a VMA conspiracy. I'm just an OP voter who answered the phone. Robocall, robocall, robocall. Are there STILL any questions?

Undecided Voter (finally decided)  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 10:39 AM

Compare Anan as a lone wolf vs Barb Langer's crazy in the D-200 race. Even if they both have legit gripes, it comes across as bitter complaining on a few select issues. Not well-organized, balanced leadership that covers many bases. Anan probably could have had my vote if he'd recruited a few friends to run as a slate with a wide-ranging agenda of reform. Anan gets the "angry" vote. But what does he have to say about something other than business, money, and parking? I needed much more.


Posted: April 3rd, 2013 9:41 AM

The sad thing about all of this is at the end of the day Abu-Taleb is the owner of a very popular restaurant there in Oak Park. One all these VMA critics spend much money and time at. They've been a little classless in trashing him in public forums and on their personal Facebook Pages. After the election, do they just go back there and order up like nothing happened? If I'm Abu, I have to wonder about their sincerity while try to fleece them for every dollar they have.


Posted: April 3rd, 2013 9:34 AM

So you know they are not robocalls yet keep saying they are. Talk about lack of ethics. Do you have a standard you follow? These type of communication burst cement my view toward the POLITICS of the VMA. Drive around town and you can see the pulse of the voters. Start addressing the frustration and then I might start listening.

Puma from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 9:33 AM

Hi folks, just to clarify: The call I received at 3 pm Tuesday was NOT from a live volunteer. I picked up the phone (no voicemail or answering machine) and it played a recorded message from Mrs. Abu-Taleb. Have fun arguing the politics, but please don't spin the facts.

Voter from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 9:21 AM

What do these robo calls say? Please vote for a pardoned convicted felon. Even the convicted Governor Blago has looked at this person objectively and feels that the felony conviction was wrong, that should be good enough for Oak Park.

MaryReyes57@comcast.net from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 8:06 AM

Seems like the Anan team is getting very defensive about it's robo-calling. The fact is, that doesn't play well in Oak Park.

Our (Real) Opponent(s) from OP  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 7:55 AM

If robo-calls are what's needed to get some new thinking in Oak Park, so be it. I don't care about experience anymore....I just want some thinking that is new, and doesn't include the failed plans and strategies of the VMA. I wish I could throw them all out!!

VotingForExperience from Oak Park  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 7:45 AM

@Nasty: You are really grasping at straws on this one. It's a basic technique of any political campaign not to mention an opponent by name whenever possible. I'll bet Hedges' name isn't on your guy's website, for instance. But I'm glad you're visiting Hedges' facebook: OakParkTogether.


Posted: April 3rd, 2013 6:53 AM

You can always tell when the VMA feels cornered. Every organization has a personality and this one gets its nasty out when it feels truly challenged. A post from Facebook on the "Oak Park Together page: "Our opponent's wife is making robo-calls. Robo-calls? Really? For a local election? If you get a call from Jane Hedges, it will really be her and she'll know your name." The language choice of "our opponent". Is interesting. Even the VMA feels it's the VMA as a group against Anan.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 3rd, 2013 6:23 AM

Thanks, Voter, for clarifying that. I hadn't received any calls but assumed it was a robocall from Puma's posts. That's a huge difference. As far as robocalls anyway, can't you just hang up the phone? I still vote for Anan and appreciate his candidacy.


Posted: April 2nd, 2013 11:33 PM

Really, are you a registered voter Puma? How many calls did you get during the Presidential election? Anan volunteers are making thousands of calls and the responses have been great. I personally know this because I am one of the callers. It is not "robo calling." Robo calling is a canned recorded message that goes out to all voters. We are reaching residents, speaking directly to them or yes, leaving messages. This happens in a democracy.

Puma from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 10:45 PM

What's sad is a candidate with no respect for my family's privacy. Also a town where local candidates start throwing around the money to buy automated telemarketing. What's next, million-dollar media buys for school board candidates? The truly long-sighted view looks beyond this election to the future: Do we really want Oak Park campaigns to become so expensive that most citizens can't afford to run?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 10:11 PM

One's views of a robo-call trumps all the views and qualities of a candidate? Wow...

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 9:42 PM

So do I!

OP Rez  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 9:13 PM

I agree with Sad.


Posted: April 2nd, 2013 8:54 PM

The VMA has run OP for over 30 years. Hedges will not change anything. He'll continue the tradition of consistently high taxes, driving businesses to Forest Park & a village govt. difficult to deal with. Anan will be a voice for change. This village needs change in the worst way!


Posted: April 2nd, 2013 8:31 PM

It's amusing (sadly so) that people would let the way a phone call was delivered change their vote. Talk about being short-sighted!

Undecided Voter  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 6:20 PM

Interestingly enough, Village Voice & Unfortunately, I was an actual undecided voter totally willing to give Anan a chance if he'd been a better candidate. I don't like the VMA, but Hedges was the lesser of two evils. Really, I'd prefer someone else. But, hey, if those are the choices Hedges is a smarter choice.


Posted: April 2nd, 2013 4:59 PM

@Village Voice: I was thinking the same thing! I, my friends, my family, many neighbors voted for Anan primarily for one reason: he's not a member of the political organization that has bankrupted Oak Park (that and I asked them to!). As I've written many times before, John Hedges IS a very good man - and one of the village trustees (all exclusively part of the VMA cabal) should resign and give up their seat to John if he receives less votes than Anan. VMA Uber Alles has to come to an end!!!

Village Voice  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 4:51 PM

I've made my decision about who the lamest and most laughably transparent partisan sockpuppet respondent on WJ was... and it was Undecided Voter.

Undecided Voter  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 3:47 PM

I finally made my decision...and it was Hedges. I won't be upset if Anan wins. I wanted for him to be the total package, but in the end I had to vote for who is the most well-rounded candidate. Anan's got a few great ideas. Hedges has more balance. In the end, Mr. Abu-Taleb, you could have had my vote if you'd been a bit more nuanced.

I'll Second Puma! from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 3:20 PM

Yes, Puma! I couldn't believe it. I have no idea who told Anan that robo-calling wold work in Oak Park. I was on the fence, but Anan lost my vote the second I got that call.

Puma from Oak Park  

Posted: April 2nd, 2013 2:57 PM

Sorry, Anan, the first candidate who interrupts my life with a robo-call is the one who loses my vote. Adios.

Who and What  

Posted: March 30th, 2013 12:01 PM

A person who comes from the front lines of living and doing business in this community can bring change to the system that needs it. He would know first hand. On the other hand, the other person running is a retired person who hasn't "worked" in OP's sytsem for yrs. There is something to say about being active in the doings of government by having real day to day experiences. I'm sure business owners have a better read of the pulse of the economy and what works and doesn't work.

The VMA's Plan from OP  

Posted: March 30th, 2013 8:28 AM

If Hedges has a plan, it is the plan handed to him by the VMA. No thanks....I'd like a new voice. The current dictatorship has failed....VOTE ANAN


Posted: March 29th, 2013 9:56 PM

@Charles--you seem to have pointed out, quite by accident I am sure, that John is full of platitudes and has no plan. So why would anyone vote for John? because he knows how to "govern" because he has been around longer? We need leadership and John has failed to provide it. No vision, no plan, no vote. Count me for Anan.

Charles from Oak park  

Posted: March 29th, 2013 9:30 PM

So, this restaurateur is all for shaking things up, but he serves up nothing but platitudes. I read that mailing he sent and it said nothing of substance. He's for better customer service ?" so is the other guy. He's for fiscal conservatism ?" so is the other guy. The difference is that the other guy, John Hedges, has an actual track record of making improvements in village government. I'm going with the candidate with an actual action plan and the know how to make it happen: Hedges.


Posted: March 29th, 2013 11:33 AM

What about the comparison of someone who IS a successful business person and is successful in govt??? Bloomberg comes to mind.


Posted: March 29th, 2013 9:57 AM

Bizarre comparison Mr. Borderman. Man born with a spoon in his mouth with a self-made business man. Um...ok.

Voting for change  

Posted: March 28th, 2013 1:57 PM

I would challenge Mr. Borderman to really think about his post. George W Bush was not a businessman. He may have lead the country and lead a baseball team but he really was never in charge of either. He was put in place because he could be manipulated by Cheney and others. I would never in a minute compare him to Abu-Taleb. I am confident Mr. Hedges is a nice person, a great villager. But my vote goes to his challenger.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 28th, 2013 1:44 PM

@Mr. Borderman, You are comparing being a president of a town of 52,000 to a president of super power country of 330,000,000? And you are comparing Anan to George W.? Well alrighty then.

Mr. Borderman from Oak Park   

Posted: March 28th, 2013 1:23 PM

Yeah, I want to "challenge an assumption," too: that someone who's run a successful business is automatically qualified to run a government. We saw what a "businessman" did to America in the person of Little Georgie Bush: he ruined the economy, started two disastrous wars, left hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and Iraquis dead or maimed, left more Americans dead or dying from not having health insurance, and generally acted what he was: a spoiled rich "businessman." No thanks, pal.

The Joker  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 10:09 PM

@Chet - "This town needs an enema"

Chet from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 10:04 PM

His goal is to streamline village hall. Look, if Oak Park becomes a slightly better place because village services are more easily accessible I would be happy. We live in a nice place. It simply does not need to be a difficult place to live. We as taxpayers don't deserve that. He recognizes the constipation in this village and will strive to loosen it up. If his talk leads to some action, we will be better off in the long run.

Matt on Madison  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 3:34 PM

Would be nice if we could hear Anan's plan. It seems to be like with Romney where all we heard was he will fix things but actually gave us no plan. Lets hear how he is going to fix things before the election so we can make a sensible choice for who to vote for.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 2:34 PM

@Resident, The School Boards have more jurisdiction over education than the Village President or trustees. So look at the candidates for D97 (uncontested) and D200 (many choices for four slots). Those two boards affect how 63% of your property taxes get spent.

Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2013 6:43 AM

@ Resident: Visit www.voteopt.org for the Oak Park Together team comprehensive action plans. Feel free to send any of the OPT candidates questions for a more detailed response to a specific concern.


Posted: March 26th, 2013 11:59 PM

Anan has a plan to move the village forward. He is in touch with the needs of the residents and businesses. Parking is a major problem in Oak Park and Anan wants solutions to the archaic way it is currently handled. He is willing to roll up his sleeves and tackle the problems affecting residents and businesses. Concerns of the residents and businesses have fallen on deaf ears to the current village board. They are out of touch.


Posted: March 26th, 2013 10:36 PM

Business, though very important, is only one aspect of the village than needs improvement. I want to know more about how Anan and Hedges are going to deal with crime and education in the village.

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