The Mayor and The Six Who Resigned . . .

"A Failure of government," groans the candidate

July 27th, 2020 1:53 PM

By Jim Bowman


Oak Park's mayor explained why the village trustees did not play ball with the Community Relations Commission in hiring a village staff equity educator. Not theirs to pick vendors and establish contracts, he told Wednesday Journal. The board has "processes" for that.

So speaking, he got to the heart of the matter: Who runs the village? Elected officials and staff. "I don't think taxpayers want that to be a commission's responsibility." No, but commissions get upset when ignored.

Another concept is in play here, one that turns up regularly in village politics: governance by referendum. Put decisions to the vote, repeatedly. None of this "set processes" business. Call a meeting. Show up, you got a vote. Can't make it, gotta put the kids to bed, you don't. Keep the pot a-boiling, have lots of meetings, where "the community" decides, that is, those who show up and don't leave to put the kids to bed.

No need to end the meeting now, a man said at a school meeting decades ago. "I've got all night." School board meetings go on and on, into the wee hours. Many still do. People get worn down.

The Community Relations Six, who resigned dramatically, seem to have that in mind. The mayor and his majority seem to have decided that was no way to run a railroad or a village.

Their choice for equity-teacher was Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), not the national service organization that got the job. GARE's name is odd. It's not a government anything, it's a citizens' alliance, living cheek by jowl with U Cal-Berkeley, which says something. Writers call Oak Park "Berkeley on the prairie" to highlight the village's progressive proclivities.

It's a sort of leftist conglomerate, with at least two web site identities -- the Center for Social Inclusion and The Haas Institute for a Fair & Inclusive Society. The latter was renamed last year the "Othering and Belonging Institute at UC Berkeley," which I love. It is devoted to "Expanding the Circle of Concern."

A report "showcases [Othering and Belonging] projects that illustrate the way we approach our work as well as the breadth of our focus areas. The diversity represented here underscores the way the Institute's approach has always been multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral—rejecting the push to stay in a singular lane, we do our work in a way that aims to break down silos."

Hmm. Silos, eh? Do you hear academic-speak, highly theoretical, its own vocabulary etc.?

"The decision was based," said the mayor, "on a competitive bidding that . . . GARE did not respond to."

A trustee who is running for the mayor's job said on Facebook that CR Six's resignations were a sign of "a failure of government" and says "we" -- she and the other trustees apparently -- "should be ashamed." The problem lies with "the current administration," her presumed but not certain opponent in the coming election, which "will not accept INPUT"!

Egad, won't accept INPUT? "We [villagers] are a community rich with expertise in many different areas." Stand up, Oak Parkers, you the best. She's running for office, remember.

"The CRC had EXPERTS in racial equity." Flatter them, Ms. Candidate. "Their input was rejected and their opportunity to make a difference was frustrated at every turn." How could he, they?!

And not only they: "Over the past 7 years, members of other boards and commissions have also spoken out that their work is not valued or they are not allowed meaningful input." For shame indeed!

"This needs to change." Elect her and it will, by golly.

"Democracy is inclusive" -- another electric word -- "of the people and by the people." With input by commissions, yes!

Email: Twitter: @BlitheSp

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