Equity and fact-based governance

Opinion: Columns

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By Graham Brisben

Candidate One View

I love Oak Park! Like many young families, my wife and I moved here 14 years ago when our children were ages 2 and 5. We sought out Oak Park for its great public education and shared values of equity, inclusion, and diversity. As an ethnically mixed family, this was particularly important for us. Diversity in all of its forms — racial, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic, and age — is essential to our community. 

In fact, when we moved here so, too, did my mother, which meant we brought a multi-ethnic and multi-generational family to Oak Park. It has been a great success, and I am running for village trustee to help ensure that individuals and families from all walks of life have the same opportunity to enjoy Oak Park's values, benefits, and quality of life.

When it comes to public service, I am anchored to two guiding principles: One is always taking a fact- and data-based approach to public policy that benefits the greatest number of people. Sound, evidence-driven governance is particularly important due to the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues confronting our village. My other guiding principle is the advancement of equity, diversity, and inclusion. How we address the major challenges facing Oak Park, including housing, affordability, and development, should connect back to the values we believe in as a community.

I also bring a strong personal approach to board service of collaboration, consensus-building, listening widely and carefully, and helping a board focus its efforts on the 20% of issues that have 80% of the impact.

I had the opportunity to apply those principles and approach during my service on the District 97 school board, 2013-17. Over those four years, my colleagues and I were able to successfully benchmark and stabilize district finances, negotiate a transformative and sustainable teacher contract, conduct a national superintendent search, and cost-efficiently provide for the needs of over 6,000 children and their families in the face of diminished state funding and surging enrollment. Solving these "needle mover" issues was essential not only for the long-term sustainability of the district, but also to provide the foundation for diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools.

As village trustee I will apply these principles, approach, and proven track record to the many challenges now facing both village government and our community at large. We must get better data to help address affordable housing and village-wide budgeting. I will leverage my extensive relationships with other taxing bodies to improve collaboration and help Oak Park advocate with one voice at the state level for fair taxation and school funding. 

We need a smarter approach to development that helps mitigate the tax burden by expanding our commercial tax base and supporting growth in all areas of the village, not just downtown. These foundation-building efforts will help enable inclusionary housing strategies, funding for the Collaboration for Early Childhood, and other critical initiatives that advance Oak Park values.

I humbly ask for your vote on April 2.

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