Political groups move ahead after election

VOICE and Oak Park for Racial Equity not going anywhere, organizers say

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

The election is over and Oak Park voters have spoken, but the goal of building a better village continues through the work of two groups that had established a presence during the campaign.

VOICE (Voice, Openness, Inclusion, Community, Environment) Oak Park was established a little less than a year before the election and Oak Park for Racial Equity launched in December.

The two groups share many of the same goals but operated differently in the election – representatives from both have said they plan to continue their efforts into the future.

Oak Park for Racial Equity was founded by Oak Park Trustee-elect Arti Walker-Peddakotla with the goal of electing women of color to various boards in and around Oak Park. The organization won most of its races on April 2, electing Jung Kim and Cheree Moore to the District 97 school board; Erika Bachner to the River Forest village board; Gina Harris to D200; and Virginia D. Bloom-Scheirer to the Oak Park library board.

Walker-Peddakotla also won her race for Oak Park trustee.

"I'm proud of the women who stepped up and increased the diversity of our boards, which is really important," she said the night of the election.

Walker-Peddakotla said in a more recent interview that the group is already beginning its work finding candidates for the 2021 election.

"The work has to start now," she said. "The adage in political circles is a woman has to be asked seven times (to run for office) before she says yes. It takes time to convince women, in general, regardless of whether they are women of color."

The group is planning a meeting to determine what went right and what went wrong in this election, she said.

The VOICE candidates did not have a good election night, failing to elect any of its three endorsed candidates – Joshua Klayman, Tim Thomas and Christian Harris.

Wendy Greenhouse, an active member of VOICE, said the group is trying to learn from lessons of the election "and focus on what we can do moving forward."

VOICE representatives said last year that the group will advocate on issues outside of the election. The recently dissolved but historically potent Village Manager Association assembled around elections to vet and slate candidates, but the group would largely disband between elections.

Greenhouse the organization is now focused on encouraging residents to join the conversation on issues of concern. They hope to attract younger members who are "much savvier about communication and social media" and can help get their message out to the public.

Greenhouse said one focus will be as a watchdog for the village's citizen commissions. Some have argued that recommendations from the commissions have been ignored by the village board, and the role of the commissions has been reduced in recent years.

tim@oakpark.com

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