Oak Park Village Trustee (3 open seats)

Deno Andrews | Peter Barber | Simone Boutet | Glenn Brewer | Dan Moroney

simone boutet



What motivates you to seek this office?  How have you participated in public service in the past?  What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the board, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of Oak Park?

Twenty-five years ago, I moved to Oak Park because of the values.  In recent years, I have seen a drift in focus from our traditionally progressive values.  I am also concerned that the Village has lost the trust of the public.  I am running to return the community to its citizens and their values, and to do my part to restore the public trust.  

I served as the Village Attorney and Assistant Village Attorney for more than 14 years.  I have been a municipal law attorney for my entire 26 year law career.  Because of this, I am professionally qualified to be a trustee.  I will use my knowledge of governance principals to fight for changes that will restore the public trust.  I will also use my relationships throughout the Village to connect people, solve problems and re-engage the community.

In addition to my service as Village Attorney, I am on the board of Housing Forward and a former member of the board of Prevail.  I helped negotiate the successful merger of those two organizations to create a stronger, successful not for profit to serve the community.  I am also a volunteer attorney with the Pro Bono Network where I have helped low income clients in the areas of domestic violence and custody, landlord tenant disputes, housing choice vouchers and divorce.

Would you describe yourself as an agent of social change?  Why or why not?

I am running to make a difference. I am not running to be a placeholder of the status quo.  I have the knowledge, the patience, the ability to listen and to understand human beings, and the passion and persistence to affect change. I engage and am not afraid to speak up.  I am ethical and strong and I will fight for what I believe is right for my community.  So, yes I will be an agent for social change.

Oak Park has a long history of racial and ethnic as well as economic diversity.  How would you engage marginalized communities in the political process?  How can we maintain economic diversity in the Village with rising real estate prices and taxes?

Economic Diversity.  High taxes are threatening to drive out the middle class, including young families, working class families and creatives.  I will advocate to strengthen the existing IGOV structure so that all taxing bodies in the Village review major expenditures and cooperate on creating a capital improvement plan for the community.  Each elected official owes the public a duty to provide quality government services while limiting tax increases to keep Oak Park economically diverse.

With regard to low income housing, the Village has or will receive $1,000,000 in an affordable housing fund.  A group of citizen stakeholders has formed the Oak Park Affordable Housing Working Group to suggest to the Village how that fund should be used.  I have participated in that group and look forward to hearing their informed opinion on how best to use those funds.

On reaching out to marginalized communities:  Inclusion means allowing each citizen to participate in government.  We will have real vibrancy in Oak Park when Village government supports grass roots, citizen led initiatives from all sectors of the community.  Citizen engagement is the hallmark of Oak Park and the foundation of good government.  The Village’s current culture has driven out those seeking to participate. As a relationship builder, I will network with the community to ask people to ask people to become involved.  The Citizen Involvement Commission and the Village Clerk need to recruit individuals to serve on boards and commissions from every segment of the community.  We may need to develop additional commissions or committees to hear from demographic sectors of the community.  We also need to be welcoming and tolerant of the people who come to Village Board meetings to create a “government for the people” culture at Village Hall.

With shifting values at the national level, what role do you see for the Village in helping provide access to critical services such as healthcare or housing support?  How would you approach a loss of funding from the Community Development Block Grant program?

A loss of CDB funding would cut critical programs at the not for profits which serve our community.  If we lose federal CDBG funding, one way we could fund those programs is to decrease our capital improvement budget.  In recent years, the Village has tripled the capital improvement budget to accelerate street and alley repairs.  Street and alley repairs are important, but I believe we can continue street and alley improvements at a slower pace and use some of those funds to support the partners who provide critical social services to our community.

Oak Park recently passed a strong Welcoming Village Ordinance clarifying the relationship between Oak Park officials and federal immigration authorities.  What else can we do to provide protections for residents?  How far should the Village go in responding to injustices at the federal level that reach into our community?

It’s hard to be specific on how to address injustices until we know what our dysfunctional state and federal government have in store for us.  I want to maintain Oak Park’s leadership as one of the most progressive communities in the country.  But I do not have all the solutions to every problem.  I will rely on engaged citizens to advocate for solutions to problems they are passionate about.  Let’s each do our part.

Do you support the Albion development?  What responsibility does the Village have to obtain public input on this project and similar requests for significant zoning variances?

I am opposed to the 18 story Albion high rise.  In my view, it is simply too tall for its surroundings. The community has never weighed in on creating the type of urbanization we are seeing downtown.  Communities grow and change, but change in Oak Park needs to be managed thoughtfully. There are reasons for density, including increased vitality for businesses, adding transit oriented housing options and increasing the overall value of properties in the Village to spread out the tax burden.  But we need growth and improvements that do not harm existing assets, and we need community buy in.  

I believe if we set clear expectations for developers, we can solve some of our development angst.  If the Village created a plan or a clear process for what type of developments we will approve, and if that process had public input and buy in, we would not continually have proposals the community rejects.  The Board needs to be confident in our community and our ability to attract the right kind of developers rather than accepting every proposal as if it is our only chance for growth.

Please describe how environmental stewardship has been a value in your own life. How do you envision bringing that perspective to your service with the Village?

I was fortunate to work for the Village during the time when environmental initiatives were a priority and to participate in a number of exciting initiatives.  I did the legal work to create the Community Choice Electric Aggregation program and then negotiated the contract to bring green energy to the Village. I helped create a community garden on an abandoned commercial plot on Madison. I did the legal work for the installation of the solar panels on the Avenue Garage. I also worked on bike initiatives and agreements which provided parking for ride sharing services.  I took part in a Com Ed trial project related to real time energy metering.  In my personal life, I am a hiker, a biker and an avid gardener.  I grow my own vegetables, compost and use natural cleaning products in my home. I have volunteered as a film reviewer with the One Earth Film Festival and was happy to attend a screening of Growing Cities, a film about growing vegetables in urban environments.

I will advocate to fill the Sustainability Director position at Village Hall and stop the bureaucratic stall tactics.   We need a professional who understands energy and the environment to bring initiatives to the board table.

Violence is a significant problem in neighboring areas and has taken its toll on our community as well.  What should the Village do to improve public safety?  How can Oak Park work with neighboring communities to support their efforts? 

There are few things more basic in municipal government than providing public safety services.   We are fortunate to use a community policing model in Oak Park.  This means the police focus on problem solving rather than strict law and order.  But morale in the police department is at an all-time low.  Under the current administration, over 32 members of the Oak Park police department have quit.  At the same time, although it is just March, we have had 7 shootings this year to date.  Compare this to last year, when there were a total of 5 for the whole year.  In addition to internal issues, officers throughout the country are suffering from low morale caused by an anti-police sentiment that stems from bad police officers unjustly shooting African Americans.  But just as with every other ‘ism, when society imputes the bad deeds of a few to an entire class of people, it is both unjust and damaging to society.  Even in a progressive, activist, liberal community, we need to remember that police officers are individuals who are often called to public service through a commitment to helping people.  I want to do whatever is necessary to make sure our officers know that we have their back as they continue to serve us.  I believe improved morale will result in improved service.

Recent years have seen primarily multi-family and retail developments coming to Oak Park.  What ideas do you have for bringing more commercial development to the Village?  Would you consider funding an incubator for tech start-ups?  How can the Village attract and support entrepreneurs?

Yes. I would love to see an incubator, a tech company or other small to medium sized employers come to the Village to provide jobs.

Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.

Jane Boutet (my mother)
George Hanus, Attorney at a Law