Looking ahead to the 2013 election in Oak Park

Opinion: Columns

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John Murtagh

One View

Part one of a two-part assessment

Spring in Oak Park has launched a serious discussion about the village elections in the spring of 2013. That's good. The village needs to be thinking about the state of its government and it future direction.


A special village


"The 1990 Oak Park Comprehensive Plan's opening sentence said the plan is predicated on the community's commitment to human values; a sense that the village exists for its citizens." The plan continues to guide Oak Park Development after 22 years. For the quote to work, the community must be deeply involved in not only cultural, social, education, and family activities; but in the election of its government leaders. That is, voters must take responsibility for choosing board members who are objective, without biases, and spirited in their sense of citizens first.

Voter apathy

In the last two elections (2009 and 2011), less than 20 percent of registered Oak Park village voters participated in selecting village officials. Is that a bad turnout? Yes. In the 2008 presidential election, 90 percent of Oak Parkers voted. Five months later, 17 percent of Oak Park voted in the board election. Many said the low turnout was election fatigue. That fatigue did not hit our neighbors. On the same day, 43 percent of Melrose Parkers voted for their local board. In Riverside it was also 43 percent, Franklin Park 42 percent, River Forest 36 percent, and Berwyn 33 percent. In Oak Park, where enthusiasm grows on trees, our election turnouts are pitifully apathetic.


A village of change


From 2000 to 2010, Oak Park's population declined by about 600 people or -1.2 percent. The 54 and under category declined by 4,000 people or 9.3 percent and the 55 and older population increased by 3,400 or 36.7 percent. Of particular importance is the 7.9 percent decline in the 35-54 age category. They are primarily homeowners, who fear the loss of their retirement nest egg if home prices remain stagnant. They see every pothole and curb erosion as a sign that their home value will continue to collapse. Some have moved already? Will more move? The trend says yes. Will that hurt the village? It is already hurting the village. They are a critical part of the village, and the sense of many of them is that the village is unconscious regarding their concerns.

We face the next 10 years with a very weak financial situation. The developments that were going to lead to future growth and prosperity have failed. The village needs a plan, and the plan cannot be based on how things used to be in Oak Park. They must be based on how Oak Park will be in the future. Voting next spring is the first step we must take to creating a village government who see through the lens of 21st-century reality.

Next week: Living in an oligarchy? The VMA's dominance.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: May 11th, 2012 8:56 AM

I notice no streets in my neighborhood are on the list. Then again we have, what, 100 miles of roads & an underfunded paving program? Not surprised.


Posted: May 10th, 2012 9:18 PM

Kyle, They do pave streets in Oak Park. http://oakpark.suntimes.com/12319572-417/road-construction-projects-reach-all-corners-of-oak-park.html


Posted: April 26th, 2012 9:56 AM

Just a point of clarification. According to multiple sources approximately 30% of total federal debt is held by foreign interests. China owns roughly 1/4 of foreign held debt and about 8% of total debt. By far the biggest holder of US debt are federal, state, and local governmental agencies.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2012 9:51 AM

OP Rez, I can understand that you think since it's there to take it. Think of the money as a big ice cream cone. You are the fat kid who wants more because it's there instead of letting the two hungry kids behind you share it. Who needs it more?

OP Rez  

Posted: April 26th, 2012 9:46 AM

If we dont get it someone else will. We aren't screwing anyone out of anything. Everyone can apply. We need it. Your sense of entitlement is deranged. Oak Park did not win it last time. Are you happy for that?


Posted: April 26th, 2012 8:49 AM

Because it would be wrong, OP Rez. That's a crazy idea, I know, that somebody would just turn down a pile of cash. The people of Oak Park need leaders who spend wisely...taking money from the feds, robbing Peter to pay Paul, doesn't sound like good stewardship to me. You just want those dollars because they're there...I get it. It's just screwing somebody else over for our benefit though.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 26th, 2012 8:33 AM

Kyle, you are always welcome to pay more in taxes if you desire. You dont have to claim the exemptions you do. How the government spends money is a whole different ball of wax. What we do know is that Oak Park would qualify for these dollars and why not get them? You wouldnt be a very good advocate on behalf of Oak Park if you dont work on behalf of the people of Oak Park.


Posted: April 26th, 2012 7:05 AM

I should have known I was starting a federal argument. I don't talk national politics on a local site, usually...but will clarify. Even if we're talking federal dollars meant to go to infrastructure/trans, there are projects that are much more needy/worthy than us. We need to spend some money on that here, but I actually advocate cutting our own waste/excess in the OP budget & focusing our spending better.

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2012 1:38 AM

Yeah Jim - The only way. What is it about cutting (not increasing $$into these entitlements from the previous year) to save these programs, don't you want to understand? They will be there if we take these measures. Cutting is not eliminating. Your guy and the Senate have not produced a budget for over 1,000 days because it would prove this sham is unsustainable. You want to see austerity vote against Romney and be proud to hand the next generation that 16 plus trillion $$ debt. The children?!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: April 26th, 2012 12:43 AM

The Ryan/Romney budget plan is our only hope? No way! Explain how increasing the defense budget and cutting taxes again for those at the very top of the economic ladder improves our lives and strengthens the economy. Understand that contained in the Ryan budget there are severe cuts targeting, and in some cases completely eliminating all federal funding to, programs that provide vital services to vets, disabled citizens, seniors, children, women's health and the poor. Where's their hope,rj?

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: April 26th, 2012 12:15 AM

Some of you are delusional - Forty cents of every dollar is borrowed from China. Government(we) don't have any money - we're bankrupt. If entitlements are not reduced they will not exist in the future. They don't hurt "rich" but they do the middle class. Airport machines owned by rich? Like George Soros who owns voting machine company in Spain who will count or likely discount some votes in Nov. What a sham and a shame and you're worried about Romney/Ryan? They're our only hope.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:39 PM

How do you think Oak Park gets things like a new Library, park buildings, schools, PW building. The people always pay for the government. Not a new concept here. If you make Oak Park a more desirable place more people will move here and pay more in taxes. Its a perfect circle of money. Spend it and you will make more.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:32 PM

OP Rez - enlighten me. Where exactly do we get the 17M. Are you suggesting the village pass the hat, rob a bank, or take another loan? Yeah, I talk ROI. If the village had handled the TIF money properly, it is possible that they would have the 17M. That is; they would have got a ROI on all the money spent on the Downtown Fiasco and the Madison Disaster. No ROI, no money in the development budget. That's the way things work!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:31 PM

I like the cut of your jib,Q. How we care for those most in need defines us a civilized society. The Catholic Church has taken a strong position against elements of the budget plan proposed by Paul Ryan and endorsed by Mitt Romney. Contrary to their plan, the reality is there is real need to provide a safety net for children, seniors, vets and the poor. Let's hope for a focused debate by both candidates on the issue and get some answers for questions relating the financial industry.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:31 PM

Shovel ready. We meet that criteria

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:17 PM

OP Rez, that's the way it works, but the more it goes back for programs like Sarah Palins bridge that lead to no where, or bricks for Oak Park, it's useless money. Leave it to be used for good social programs. Either way, if Mitt gets in, there won't be any money to send back. That will be used for programs that make the rich richer just like the machines to keep people safer at air ports. You don't think the government is making those machines do you? They are being bought from rich republicans

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:14 PM

I believe monies get earmarked for different issues. These funds would come from the dept of transportation. Its not a matter of them being spent in a different way if Oak Park is not awarded them.I am surprised you all file a homeowner's exemption. Perhaps those dollars could go to a better use?

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:10 PM

The federal dollars come from many people all of whom pay taxes. Think of it like its our money coming back to Oak Park. All of government money, regardless of size comes from the people it serves.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:04 PM

Kyle, you are correct. It is money that could have been used to help American's with quality of life, but as any rich person will tell you, you need to be responsible for yourself because they already have theirs so they don't care. Mitt Romney can explain it better if he becomes the next leader by removing all social programs to save the rich money.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:01 PM

OP Rez, you know what the problem is with leveraging? It's like a teeter totter. When the leveraged money can't be paid back, it the crappy idea hits the bottom and everything tumbles down. Since you seem to like creative ways of getting money, explain to me if the banks were bailed out for bad mortgage loans, why are the banks still collecting mortgages since they have been paid back?


Posted: April 25th, 2012 9:54 PM

It's more complicated than that though, OP Rez. Where's that $47 mil from the feds coming from? Some poor old granny who needs pills? Uncle Sam isn't a piggy bank. Then locally you have the problem of community...who benefits? People who drive down Lake St or do we do something with it that benefits every block? Have you kept up with Rahm's infrastructure plan in Chicago? I think people are rightly suspicious of large sums of money coming from nowhere.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 9:42 PM

Have you heard of leveraging money. If it costs Oak Park $17 Million to receive $47 then I am OK with that. I thought you were the ROI guy. You invest 17 to make 47. We (the community) are the beneficiaries of $64 Million. We would get the money from the same place municipalities get their monies. There are numerous vehicles in which we can choose.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 9:03 PM

I was at least going to give him "transparently" but I'm having 2nd thoughts. The budget is, what, 147 pages? lol

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 8:56 PM

FROM RAY JOHNSON 2011 TRUSTEE CAMPAIGN PR RELEASE: "Ensuring we (the board) spend your money wisely, effectively and transparently must be at the very core of our actions. Taken together, this vision will lead Oak Park into greater vibrancy for the 21st century."

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 8:54 PM

OP Rez - good reply. One more question - Where would you get the 17M that OP has to put up to get the Fed share? Clue: It won't be from the Magic Tif Train. That has already left town!

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 3:49 PM

Where is the refund or rebate for the $100 Million from Dist 200?

Dist 97 Referendum  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 3:28 PM

As stated many, many times: You can thank the schools for most of your high tax bills.

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 2:01 PM

Re extra $47M - how about a tax rebate for all taxpayers - so we can pay our next tax bill!


Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:45 PM

Add my wife and I to the "now that the kids are gone" list of leaving OP. Wouldn't be necessary, though, if our bd members simply understood that our location and transportation opportunities are the key assets of this town. If they understood that, then their "I'm important!" and "Build it and they'll come!" mentalities would diminish. They are chasing people away with extravagant taxes - esp OPRF and their $100M surplus! Could you imagine how attractive OP would be if taxes were lower?

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:29 PM

If there is a balance for the already performed work on Marion, I would put it towards that and put it towards more work that is needed on Lake St and Oak Park Ave. I would never, ever in my wildest dreams try to convince the Federal govt or Oak Park voters to lobby against the money for our community.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:16 PM

John "Butch" Murtagh, OP Rez would add more brick streets, or give it to Sertus to build his Lake and Forest project because Sertus doesn't have the money. Butch, when can OP Taxpayers have their land back? Sertus isn't using it.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:12 PM

Exactly what would you do with the 47M OP Rez?

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:11 PM

OP Rez, "Thats the kind of mojo Oak Park needs to stay vibrant and healthy- NOT." You made a lot of sense until you added, NOT. VOTE FOR: PATRICIA O'SHEA, JOHN MURTAGH, JIM COUGHLIN and add LES GOLDEN, just because he must be good if you don't like him.

re-brick-u-lous dot com  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:10 PM


OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:05 PM

Murtagh and O'Shea are bad for Oak Park. Throw Coughlin in there as well. Wheres Les Golden while your at it? How bout a Bob Milstein?

OP Rez  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 1:01 PM

Lets create a website that discourages the feds from giving Oak Park money?! Thats the kind of mojo Oak Park needs to stay vibrant and healthy- NOT. This is coming from the same people that want change at the board table. $47 million is alot of money and WE NEED IT! Dont be fooled by these lunatics that call them selves progressives with insight. Far far from it.

"all" is the problem from OP  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:57 PM

@all: I'm leaving....and I'll be voting against Pope, Johnson, and any VMA-slated candidate. Twice if I can ;) You can try to paint a happy face on it, but taxes are too high, results too little, and the Board too arrogant to listen to the people it should be striving to serve. YOU, all, are the problem because you won't demand that the Board actually does its job...which is fundamentally to serve the taxpayers and act effectively and efficiently.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:56 PM

Silly. A place doesn't have to be a slum to need improvement. This piece doesn't trash OP. It calls for some thinking on why things are as they are though.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:55 PM

It is flourishing relative to other surrounding communities. I always love the argument, we should be that much better.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:53 PM

Nicely written Dad!


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:50 PM

Why would Aldi want to spend millions to reopen in Oak Park if Oak Park is so bad? Why would Dunkin Dounuts open on Madiosn if Oak Park is so bad? Why would kids come in from Chicago to go to OPRF if Oak Park is so bad? Why would Mike Kelly invest millions and forgo millions to make North Ave and Austin and beautiful gateway if Oak Park is so bad? Why would FP Bank open in Oak Park if Oak Park is so bad?


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:48 PM

@@all, I don't think anybody here has said Oak Park is a horrible ghetto with no future. lol We were talking about why our population is declining & what could be done to improve the community. Although note that we've had as many business closings lately as we've had openings.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:44 PM

Why is the bank doing a great job on renovating the Kleranomos building on Lombard and Harrison if Oak Park is so bad? Why did Circle theater move to Oak Park if Oak Park is so bad? Why did Oak Park Hospital invest millions to build a professional building in Oak Park if Oak Park is so bad? I could go on and on?


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:42 PM

Why is someone willing to invest in development on Madison and Lyman if Oak Park is so bad? Why did West suburban invest $30 Million in a new ER if Oak Park is so bad? Why is Volvo spending millions and expanding if Oak Park is so bad? Why are new restaurants opening all over Oak Park if Oak Park is so bad?


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:39 PM

I never made a statement. It was a question. J Murtagh has an OPINION, and we know what they say about opinions. Why is Oak Park outperforming surrounding communities when it comes to real estate bouncing back? Why does Oak Park out perform the general retail sector when it comes to sales tax revenue? Why is someone willing to invest $80 Million dollars in Oak Park if Oak Park is so bad? Why is someone else willing to invest Millions in the Comcast project if Oak Park is so bad?


Posted: April 25th, 2012 12:36 PM

There's some stuff we'll never control--we're not going to have miles of running trails, big open fields for the kids to play in, huge backyards, good weather. It's the stuff we CAN control that we need to take a look at vis a vis Quality of Life. It isn't all high taxes or the ability to afford a house. What's funny is we have a ton of the things that make a place desirable, but then we do a lot to make it frustrating on top of that. (See the op on the dog parks by Dolores Tully.)

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:58 AM

correction - People without children in OP schools should sit down and shut up......from previous post

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:54 AM

@all Sounds like you'd like to suppress free speech/voter turn out if it's not going to result in your favor - amazing - as we're trying to save you from yourselves. And Parent thinks only people w/children in OP schools should sit down and shut up. This is the typical OP liberal's idea of diversity and how not to maintain it. You've thrown all the $$ you can at education but common sense can not be bought - one ingredient not taught in schools and not instilled by parents today.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:52 AM

I don't agree with your statement that low voter turnout is a sign that residents are OK with how things are. You see satisfaction, I see apathy. The big problem is that everything is not OK. If you follow the coverage of the village provided by the Wednesday Journal, you will find there are many issues that indicate that OP is not OK in 2012. That does not mean that Oak Park is bad or undesirable. It means that OP could be better. Whether a person is planning to move someday is no reason that they should not participate in selecting leadership -- that part of your post is plain un-American.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 11:42 AM

By all accounts, Oak Park should be flourishing. It is close to downtown Chicago, is relatively stable and has relatively good schools. Projections nationally are that communities like Oak Park will continue to be favored because of their ideal location. And yet, young people with families appear to be leaving. Why is that? I think we all know the answer.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:53 AM

I ask all the people who dont have kids in the OP public school system or any OP school system to please stand up. Thank You


Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:50 AM

Maybe the low voter turnout is a sign of residents being OK with how things are? Why does low voter participation always have to be unhappy people who are discouraged? To all those leaving, I again request you stay away from the ballot box. You may only be that much more disappointed if the outcome is not what you had hoped for,or if your vote comes in, you will not be here to see it through. Just sayin.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:45 AM

Thank you RJ and Kyle - well said. Here's hoping that enough exposure is made between now and the board elections that ALL get out to vote on the future of our wonderful village!

rj from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:11 AM

@all - Keep drinking that kool-aid - "for the children" as in teachers union. You like being a serf on your supposed property? If it's not a matter of affordability it's a matter of principle. When is it enough $10, $15, $20, $25,000/yr. Try and sell your house when taxes aren't negotiable. My relatives, all over the country, think we're insane!! I'm with Leaving and Done!


Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:06 AM

@@all I always exercise my democratic duty to vote, sorry. Even if I left, the least I can do is try to use my ballot to improve conditions for others who may come behind me.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:06 AM

con't - And hope that we can elect some responsible leadership that understand the times we live in. Not all can afford to live in OP - but we need to Figure out a way to make it affordable or this town will realize MAJOR issues when the bills come due and the tax base can't support the financial implications.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 10:02 AM

Please - you beat me to exactly what I was going to say. I HAVE to vote - we all HAVE to vote. Regardless of staying or leaving, voting is the most important thing we can do. Damn right not all can afford to live in OP - I'm thisclose to not being able to afford it. But I'll probably hang on by my fingernails until my kids are done with school Dist. 97 and 200. Until then I will vote and encourage ALL residents to do the same.

Please All Vote  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 9:55 AM

To all that are thinking of leaving, please do vote. Vote to get trustees that govern and will help you to stay. Only the VMA faithful don't want you to vote so they can retain their power. Vote yes for change, don't vote and @all will get more of the same.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 9:35 AM

Please dont vote if you plan on leaving. It cost to live in such a wonderful community. I have relatives and friends that live in other places throughout the US and they pay much less in taxes, BUT have NOTHING compared to Oak Park. We are lucky to all live here. Not all can afford and that is a hard thing.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: April 25th, 2012 9:05 AM

Leaving - I have 12 more years but I will be doing the same thing - if I can afford it that long.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 8:31 AM

We're in that key property/age demo & have thought about moving. It's a question of where to raise our kids. The property taxes are too high & everything has hoops to jump through--the dog park, opening a business, enrolling your kid in swim lessons even. There would be tradeoffs to somewhere more laidback, but it's definitely something we're weighing carefully. We want to stay, it's just not easy.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 7:30 AM

yeah, @Staying it was a typo. oops.


Posted: April 25th, 2012 7:00 AM



Posted: April 25th, 2012 6:40 AM

I will be 52 when my last child graduates. The day the child is accepted for collage the for sale sign will go up in my front yard. And before your get started, yes I know the rule and I intend to ignore it.

OP Rez  

Posted: April 24th, 2012 10:37 PM

John Murtagh is a political HACK!! No credibility in any way. BEWARE of him and those that associate with him.

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