Municipal government policy spans a variety of categories that have a direct impact on the quality of life in a community. However, historically it has had three main objectives. These objectives should be at the forefront of the Village Board’s focus as we head into the 2020s:
Keep the community safe: Residents deserve to be safe from crime, hazardous conditions and environmental contamination.
Keep the tax burden Low: Elected officials are fiduciaries of tax dollars and should operate with a high degree of fiscal responsibility. They should understand that there is an inverse relationship between tax burden and property values. https://youtu.be/k-beq7r3K98
Keep property values rising: Rising property values are a reflection of a community with a high demand to live and invest. Rising property values ensure that those who have invested in Oak Park receive a return on their investment. Rising property values mean that services are meeting the demands of residents. Rising property values lead to economic investment, prosperity, vitality and supports a high quality of life for residents.
Common Cause: Residents of Oak Park affirmatively choose Oak Park for its diversity and inclusion. We embrace the racial, economic and age diversity that are a product of Oak Park’s unique mix of housing types. We must remind ourselves of this and work collaboratively to improve what we’ve inherited.
Common Ground: Oak Parkers reject segregation and discrimination, unequal opportunity and barriers for any individual to succeed. We embrace a community in which residents of all types have an equal opportunity to enjoy this community and fulfill the potential within each resident.
We must recognize this common ground and view each other as fellow residents of goodwill who can work collaboratively on pathways for a better tomorrow.
Common Sense: Decisions need to be rooted in reality and common sense. Perfection and Utopian fantasies can oftentimes be the enemy of imperfect progress and what is possible.
Present-day Oak Park residents have inherited a community that has been formed for well over a century. We must strike a proper balance between celebrating and cultivating what we have, while addressing current issues and anticipating future trends that require proactive initiatives.
In my extensive interactions with a wide cross-section of community members, Oak Park residents have made it overwhelmingly clear that they have no desire to tear down complex systems, such as our model of Community Policing. We choose to make Oak Park home because of its assets and strengths. While it has imperfections, Oak Park is a community that I would gladly stack up against any other across the country. Like me, most Oak Parkers appreciate this remarkable Village’s value and recognize it as a place where revolution is not only unnecessary, but a foolish knee-jerk reaction to national shortcomings.
Municipal government has a jurisdiction of the four borders of Oak Park and a purview that involves the core services of municipal government. Elected officials should focus on doing these things efficiently and exemplary, rather than engaging initiatives that municipal government is not equipped to do.
Over the past few years, Oak Park has seen three TIF districts expire, divested from Village-owned land and completed massive infrastructure projects on Lake Street and Madison Street. As the 2020s progress, the Village of Oak Park has an opportunity to get back to the basics.
As we do this, elected officials should empower and support Village staff in doing their jobs. Employees that feel valued will deliver better results, there will be greater continuity within Village Hall and residents will benefit.
Downtown Oak Park has seen a great amount of large scale development over the past five years. This has brought a larger tax base, vitality, investment and residents who support our businesses.
This development has served as a catalyst for further, smaller-scale development throughout all of Oak Park. We should work to continue this momentum and the Village should be vigilant in replacing underperforming sites and vacant lots be filled with uses that contribute to Oak Park’s ever-evolving fabric.