Peter Prokopowicz

Library Board Trustee Candidate

JUMP TO: Questionnaire


*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies

My wife Bonnie and I have lived in Oak Park for 34 years. When we first noticed Oak Park, while reverse-commuting from the city to Naperville, we knew it was where we wanted to live and raise a family, even though it was still a long commute. We were attracted to the diversity of businesses, architecture, and above all, people. We moved from an apartment, to a townhouse condo, to our current home in the Hatch district. Our daughter went through D97 and OPRF, and is in college now. As a family we appreciate and have supported many of the local institutions here.

I have served as a treasurer on two different volunteer association boards. On these boards I learned a lot about listening to all of the community before making decisions, and to balance wants vs requirements. I worked always to maintain focus on the core purpose of each association, and never to let it be driven by any one person or faction.  

I’m now retired after a career as a software developer and researcher. I co-founded an internet start-up and grew it to a multi-million dollar operation, with over 50 employees. I was responsible for the technical vision and delivery of our products. I have experience in recruiting and hiring, managing a budget, meeting and exceeding customer requirements, raising funds, negotiations, and many aspects of overseeing an organization the size of OPPL.


How do you plan to facilitate the re-openings of the Dole and Maze branches?

I would suggest that they be opened in parallel with the main branch. Based on the same diligence done to partly-open the main branch, I think we can re-open the Dole and Maze on similar terms.  

As a trustee, how do you intend to minimize the tax levy increases for residents after almost a year of limited library services and branch shutdowns?

The Library has the opportunity to lead by example here, and declare zero tax levy increases for at least the next few years. The library is funded well above and beyond our comparable districts, including Evanston which is 40% bigger than Oak Park but spends considerably less. 

Especially given the sacrifices residents are being forced to accept (I lost my job in 2020 as so many others did, or took reduced hours, and greatly reduced business income), the Library must show Oak Parkers that it is committed to the long-term affordability of moving into and staying in the Village. Especially during recovery, when we have lost businesses and residents have lost income, the Library must stop increasing its expenses and tax levy.

Explain your position on the library’s evolution from paid security to a social service model.

I think this is an example of the various government bodies in Oak Park overlapping in service, which is something we need to dial back on. The Township is the locus for social work in the Village, and should remain so. 

Why is it the library’s role to focus on equity and social justice issues?

All government agencies must provide their services in an equitable and accessible way, so that there are no barriers to residents making their fullest use of them. The Library has done a good job of providing support to everyone who wants to use their services, so that no one is denied access because of their situation, whatever it may be.

What experience and qualifications do you possess to help the library overcome those obstacles and limitations?

I have served on two volunteer association boards, where the board is responsible for meeting the common, shared needs of the community. On these boards I learned a lot about listening to all of the community before making decisions, and to balance wants vs requirements. I worked always to maintain focus on the core purpose of each association, and never to let it be driven by any one person or faction. 

I also co-founded and led a small company, which over time grew to 50+ employees and a multi-million dollar budget comparable to the Library’s. 

How do you aim to balance the will of board members with that of library employees and that of the public, regarding resources, pandemic precautions and the financial toll of COVID-19?

The pandemic, and its long-term consequences, are leaving many Oak Park residents and businesses worse-off, even financially perilous or closed. The Library explicitly chose to stay above this period of shared financial caution and restraint, and it spent its generous funding as usual, even though the branches were and are closed, and the main library was physically closed or very limited in operation for most of the year. 

I consider this to be unfair to the residents and businesses that pay for the Library. The Library should have reduced its expenses, primarily through furloughs, and saved the money for a rainy-day, or to postpone its annual levy increase. 

Businesses and families that made cut-backs during the pandemic did not have the option of forcing their customers or employers to continue to pay them even if there were less or no work to do. Many other government agencies decided to reduce their costs during the pandemic and time of greatly reduced service. The Library should have done this, too.

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