A new VOICE for village government?

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

As the years have gone by, I find that I write less and less about village government. My children have long since graduated from the high school. Their families live nearby, but not in the village. Paying high taxes doesn't bother me. Most anything I might write would be redundant or cumulative, but a recent story has awakened my interest.

The announcement that a new political group, calling itself VOICE, has formed and will run a slate of candidates in the April 2019 village board election was good news. Yippee! We need contested elections. They provide copy to the newspaper and remind the incumbents that not everyone thinks they are so great.

However, I must admit to a twinge of disappointment reading VOICE's stated goals of restoring democracy in village government, making Oak Park affordable, building a better not bigger village, and protecting our environment. I was hoping for more matter, and less art.

Restoring democracy seems a reach. I was unaware of any coup in the village, but as noted, I haven't paid much recent attention. As for affordability, I'm afraid that train has left the economic station. The $300,000 house has left the village, and it ain't coming back anymore. Our economic diversity is between those paying a lot for a house or a condo, and those paying a lot for rent for an apartment. 

As to protecting our local environment, we seem to already have plenty of rain barrels, mulching and plastic prohibitions. I'm not sure greater local protection will make much difference to Mr. Pruitt, or to the environment.

I'm guessing VOICE hopes to mine the ore of discontent arising from the kind of sneaky railroading process of all the high-rise buildings through the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation. It wasn't really that sneaky, as every post-Great Recession election made it clear that the winners of those elections favored these big buildings. The development forces won. The preservationists lost. The Russians had nothing to do with it.

I do recall that Reagan implored Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, but tearing down Albion, Emerson, Vantage et al seems unlikely, although "Tear down that high-rise, Mr. Abu-Taleb" does have a memorable symmetry. It is probably cold comfort to the preservationists, but maybe all the viable high-rise development spots are developed, so the worst may be over. Then again, there is the Hong Kong model.

The reality of Oak Park politics is that most of the voters are pretty much the same — relatively affluent liberal Democrats who enjoy an upscale lifestyle with a side of conscience, and who want their children to share that lifestyle and those beliefs. 

We talk cutting edge, but we really just want things to stay the way they are. As long as the crime rate and student achievement test scores are flat, then high taxes and congestion are the price a majority of voters are willing to accept.

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Rich Schurr  

Posted: June 18th, 2018 3:27 PM

John, I agree, you are out of touch. Regarding democracy and the lack of it in Oak Park- I'll give you a real example: For years the residents of the 1200 blocks of Euclid, Linden, Columbian and East have tried to get cul-de-sacs to stop the incredible amount of cars racing down our streets to avoid the light at North and Oak Park. We were even willing to pay for them. At every turn the Village said no, that cul-de-sacs were bad, they impeded emergency vehicles, made leaf collection, street cleaning and snow removal hard and so on. Now two proposed developments on Madison and Roosevelt are going to get cul-de-sacs. I don't know what the Greek word is for devleloper so I'll just say that Oak Park is a developocracy, not a democracy. If VOICE can turn things around so the Village is once again run by the people then I'm all for them.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: June 15th, 2018 3:55 PM

John, you say that "every post-Great Recession election made it clear that the winners of those elections favored these big buildings". Simone Boutet, Deno Andrews, and Dan Moroney all opposed Albion in its original form. Andrews and Moroney later changed their stripes, and many of their previous supporters were appalled. In the case of Abu-Taleb, he ran unopposed, but that might have been because the Albion exception to the downtown plan was not known until after the electoral papers filing date. Abu-Taleb received the highest percentage of write-in votes against him of any candidate in Cook County (I checked), even though no one filed as an official write-in. So there were a lot of votes for comic book characters. John, you misjudge the deep discontent in this Village with our elected officials, across many Boards.

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