Unhappy at the hall

Opinion: Editorials

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By Editorial

We are reporting the obvious this week. Over the course of many years, many managers, many village presidents, there is something sour among staffers at Oak Park's village hall.

A year ago, and again now, village hall is paying the Gallup Organization to survey employee attitudes at the hall. On today's front page we report that many village staffers are disgruntled, feel unheard and underappreciated. When the 2015 version of this study is completed we'd expect not a lot has changed.

The village board and president deserve credit for trying to quantify the lingering unrest through a professional survey of attitudes a year ago. They learned what they expected to learn. Why the village chose to hide the results away, to cloak them in some cockamamie claim that an anonymous survey is a personnel document, makes no sense to us. Especially after Village President Anan Abu-Taleb explicitly told the Journal a month ago that the results were "very unfavorable to us." We would call on the board to specifically release these survey results.

Oak Park's village hall is in a double funk. Its employees aren't happy and the taxpayers who interact with them catch the virus and aren't happy either. Village leaders are pushing effectively to add more streamlined technology, to consolidate functions to save tax money, and to simultaneously improve customer service. Not an easy trifecta to pull off. 

All involved need to do better at embracing change, letting go of grudges, and listening more respectfully. Taxpayers deserve no less.

Reader Comments

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John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: September 10th, 2015 9:01 PM

Jim - perhaps its time to bring the 21'st Century to labor relations. We are not moving forward using 1990's way.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 10th, 2015 8:40 PM

John- Ray Johnson,when asked if he was anti-union, responded to me that he was not and confided that his father carried a card for many years. He's the only trustee I am aware of willing to go on the record. There was very strong opposition to the clerical staff organizing efforts with Ray Heise leading the charge. Rob Cole was a member of the bargaining unit prior to be appointed to the Village Manager's staff. That was his reward for working to undermine the employees' collective bargaining unit. One of the strangest promotions in Oak Park government history. No prior experience or training but still selected to a key position. Heise even approached me and asked that I speak against bringing a union to Village Hall. I told him to 'get lost"!

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: September 10th, 2015 8:24 PM

Jim, I agree. I have been involved with the village for ten years. During that time I ran into people, including board member, who slandered union workers without considering whether or not I was anti-union. They must have thought I was a republican. Somehow we need to get the board, staff, and union together to made the village better.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 10th, 2015 1:35 AM

John, it was not my intention to discredit Jon Hale and understand he did attempt to define the role of Village President in regards to staff management and involvement in day-to-day operations at Village Hall. I don't dispute that it was a difficult time for some board members. Staff was equally frustrated and certainly could have benefited from any voice advocating for meaningful reforms to a broken system. There were many in management who actively engaged in union busting tactics. Those methods contributed to a hostile working environment that did not serve the best interests of the community and even increased tensions.

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: September 9th, 2015 11:03 PM

Jon Hale ?" I have no doubt that the adversarial union vs management atmosphere fiasco was a big cause of the disarray in the last 15 years. Will it ever end?

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: September 9th, 2015 10:49 PM

Jim - not fair. Jon Hale was sharp as a board member and pushed hard to get change. He was the only true independent during his term. He did not go for a second term. I suspect that he had have enough of the madness of the mid-2000's.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: September 9th, 2015 9:54 PM

Jon Hale was in a position to possibly help improve the working conditions at Village Hall when he served as a trustee. He was apparently aware there were some serious issues that were having a negative impact on operations. Did he think to call for a review of personnel policies and practices or seek professional advice on ways to address employee morale? There were many staff members at the time who were willing to work with the board and administrators and even proposed workable solutions that were cost effective and could be implemented without causing any disruption in the delivery of services to the community. I cannot recall Hale ever voicing any concerns publicly about an "adversarial atmosphere" and wonder if he was just content to do nothing when he had the chance.

Jon Hale from Oak Park  

Posted: September 9th, 2015 5:35 PM

Three inter-related factors at work here: An adversarial union vs. management atmosphere rendered worse since the financial crisis forced the Board into being more fiscally conservative. Ten years of confusion as to who is really in charge because of Village Presidents acting like "mayors" meddling in everyday affairs at Village Hall (made worse last night by the Board's ill-advised vote to let the President use the title of Mayor going forward). And finally, so few Village employees living in Oak Park, which puts the emphasis on the "servant" portion of "public servant."

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: September 8th, 2015 3:38 PM

The editorial should have been targeted at the WJ. press -- change, grudges, and listening fit the paper well.

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