Village trustees must be progressive, accountable

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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We have 11 candidates for village trustee. Assuming we want change, 10 non-incumbents. One of these candidates has secured numerous procedural advantages by running as a candidate of the Democratic Party even though he has not been endorsed by the Democratic Party of Oak Park. That leaves nine candidates for three positions. 

How to choose? The public statements of many of these nine candidates sound very similar: 

1) greater democracy and transparency, 

2) equity, 

3) economic diversity and property taxes, and 

4) appropriate development and the environment. 

A key problem with local politics is that a small share of residents have the time and interest to pay much attention. For this reason, developers and businesses with vested interests are often able to take over local governments. 

Unfortunately, we have seen the consequences of this in Oak Park over the last decade or more after an earlier period of local activism that defied this trend and created the Oak Park that many of us know and love. 

The VMA model of good government with vetting of candidates that worked fairly well for many years was co-opted. However, the recent post-VMA model of simply voting for candidates on the basis of their public positions with no community vetting process has also not worked as two recently elected trustees, Moroney and Andrews, flipped on the key public commitments to oppose Albion that got them elected. 

In response, a large group of community activists established VOICE (Voice, Openness, Inclusion, Community, and the Environment). VOICE developed an explicitly progressive set of four principles (roughly 1-4 above) and offered to consider endorsing any prospective candidate who agreed to be accountable to voters and to VOICE in following these principles. 

Five candidates applied for an endorsement process that started with vetting committee interviews and recommendations and culminated in a public meeting with a question-and-answer session and final vote by the membership.

VOICE's three endorsed candidates are: Tim Thomas, Christian Harris, and Joshua Klayman. A woman candidate applied for the VOICE endorsement but did not want to sign the statement of accountability. I urge Oak Park voters to vote for these VOICE-endorsed candidates. 

Ron Baiman

A member of the 2018 VOICE Vetting Committee 

Reader Comments

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Brynne Hovde  

Posted: March 6th, 2019 8:03 AM

This should also specify that several candidates had not yet announced their candidacy when the endorsement process took place. Including at least one "woman candidate".

Paul Goyette  

Posted: March 5th, 2019 11:43 PM

"A woman candidate applied for the VOICE endorsement but did not want to sign the statement of accountability." Why "a woman candidate" and not just "a candidate" Ron? I am very uncomfortable with this phrasing, and it makes me wonder what kind of bias may have been present in a process that led to the endorsement of three men to serve on a board that, if they were elected, would only have one woman.

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