Overnight parking in this village is expensive and restrictive. Because of the overnight parking ban in Oak Park, too many apartment and condominium dwellers are without access to overnight parking. We issue too few permits and charge too much money for the permits we do issue. I would like to ease overnight parking in areas of Oak Park with a high density of apartment buildings. Doing so would provide the much needed parking, and could lower the exorbitant cost for overnight parking bans. We could still keep the overnight ban in areas where there is not high demand for overnight street parking.
I am concerned about metered parking and garage costs. I think we need to keep an eye on the parking rates and rules. We need to be in communication with businesses to assess whether or not the higher parking rates are good or bad for local businesses. We also need to assess if the higher parking rates are too regressive. We have high parking costs in Oak Park, because we have a lot of bond debt and operations to pay for in our parking system. Every dollar that is not raised by parking fees will come from property taxes. Making good choices in parking requires lots of thought and deliberation.
First and foremost I support an independent and elected Village Clerk, who answers to residents. Traditionally our Village Clerk has handled Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. We now have new technology that will aid the village in managing FOIA requests and deliverables. Despite the technology, I believe the Village Clerk should maintain the authority to oversee FOIA requests and deliverables.
Oak Park Economic Development Corporation (OPEDC) is an outside organization that is contracted to bring development deals to the village. That organization currently has one Village Trustee, along with the Village President, and the Village Manager, all serving on the board. I think that only one trustee, if any, should be on that board. I also think their budget should be public. I also think that any meetings between elected officials and developers should be disclosed to the public.
Finally, thanks to the effort of this current board, the village has increased its use of social media to share news and valuable information with the public. Making things available on social media brings information to so many more people in a timely basis. The police and fire departments have begun using social media and the response from the public has been tremendous. I will continue to support ways for the village to share more information, more frequently, to more people.
While we have one of the best police departments, there is still crime. Carjackings have many in the village on edge. I have supported increasing the number of patrol officers, per the expert advice of our new police chief. I am also an advocate of our community policing model. Simply adding police officers will not magically make crime disappear. We also need to be sensitive and make sure that our community is not racially profiling people in our village. I believe the best deterrents to crime are community building, better lighting, doorbell and other cameras, and resident education on how to identify perpetrators and suspicious behavior.
Affordable Housing is something that is important to maintain the character of Oak Park. I’m proud of my record as a Trustee, and hope that you will choose me to continue to serve the village in the upcoming April election. Here is my record on affordable housing. Through negotiating with property developers, the village has built the Affordable Housing Fund to $1.5M. I voted in favor of using $500k of that money to give a grant to The Community Builders for a 37-unit affordable housing development. I also voted to grant Housing Forward $500k out of the Affordable Housing Fund to create a rental assistance program at the Raymond Showalter Residence, 324 N. Austin Blvd, and to fund the general assistance program for people who are homeless or on the verge of being homeless. In the coming weeks and months I will be voting in favor of an Inclusionary Zoning Law which will help guarantee socio-economic diversity all throughout town. If you elect me in April, I will continue to support affordable housing initiatives.
A 28-story skyscraper next to Unity Temple is the talk of the town, and for good reason. A building of that size is so completely out of character for Oak Park, and potentially detrimental to the architectural heritage of Unity Temple. I am in favor of transit-oriented development, but it has to work in context to the surrounding area. We have zoning laws for a reason, and I am only in favor of zoning variances when I believe they are in the best interest of the village.
Economic Development is a challenge in a high-tax, high-service municipality. Since we do not have a robust sales tax base to support our government, most of the revenue for all the taxing bodies comes from property tax. Furthermore, commercial buildings are taxed at a higher rate than residential buildings. Our businesses are carrying an extra burden. As a result, some of their tax bills are higher than their rent! High taxes disproportionally affect small and local-owned businesses. If the property tax trend continues, Oak Park will lose its charming independent stores which will be replaced by national brands and chain restaurants. As property taxes rise dramatically, people also have less to spend in local stores and restaurants. As a Trustee, I have passed fiscally responsible budgets that keep taxes predictable while maintaining the high level of services we provide in Oak Park.
There are decisions that the village makes that disproportionally affect socio-economic groups. One such example is overnight parking fees, fines, and booting vehicles for non-payment of tickets. While I understand the need for the village to collect on fines for parking violations, I see it as regressive and potentially draconian to make a vehicle inaccessible to someone who needs it. If someone has unpaid tickets because they can’t afford to pay them, it is unlikely they can afford the extra costs to remove the boot. Furthermore, many rely on their cars to earn a paycheck. Fees for overnight parking are also very high.
Equity is an issue that we need to consider throughout all our decisions. Equity is not just limited race. Equity is also about socio-economics, gender, disability, age, religion, culture, and other categories. Decisions made at the board table may or may not affect different people disproportionally. I work very hard to consider who is affected and how they are affected. Of course we all have blind spots and need to consciously work to educate ourselves. I advocate for racial equity training for all village staff and elected officials. In addition, I believe additional training should be made available online for anyone living or working in the village who would like to be trained.