JAMES “JIM” TAGLIA
candidate for 2019 OAK pARK VILLAGE TRUSTEE
1. What motivates you to seek this office? What skills, experiences, and perspectives would you bring to the Board, and why would those contributions be valuable to the Village of Oak Park?
I’m a lifelong resident and want to work to keep Oak Park a diverse and affordable community. I care deeply about the Village and believe I bring a skill set that can effect change while respecting the character and values that Oak Parkers believe in. I spent 6 years as a Township Trustee and helped develop policies that ensured the success of social service programs for seniors, at-risk youth, and residents with mental health needs. As a Village Trustee, I’ve worked hard to keep our levies at a minimum and thoughtfully set policy in line with Oak Park values while enhancing livability. I’m also a business owner and CPA which brings a sound financial perspective to the board. I believe the combination of my Village and Township service has helped provide me a solid foundation to lead Oak Park forward.
2. What do you believe makes an effective Trustee?
As a sitting trustee, I believe there are a few things I can point to that help me every day. First, I’m a very good listener. Whether I’m meeting with a resident or sitting at the board table, I always listen intently to what others have to say. Being a trustee means you learn something new every day, and the best way to do that is to listen carefully and give others your full attention. If the roles were reversed, I would expect nothing less. I think it’s also important to keep an open mind on every issue that comes before us. Because we set policy and it affects many Oak Parkers, it’s important to listen to all perspectives and never prejudge. One of the great pleasures of being both a Township and Village trustee is how I’ve been exposed to so many different perspectives of our residents. I think I’ve definitely become a more open minded trustee as a result; it’s been an enriching experience.
3. What is your understanding of the purpose of the Village Board? What do you see as the appropriate relationship between the Village President/Mayor, the Board of Trustees, and Village staff?
Basically, the Village board oversees and monitors the Village manager. The Village manager acts as a CEO and runs the day to day operations of the village. It’s no small task— with a budget of $170 million, Oak Park is essentially the size of a large corporation. The board sets policy and should not micro manage staff or get involved with the day to day decisions unless there is good reason. The Village board is made up of 7 members with 7 equal votes; the Village president is responsible running and guiding the board meetings but is often a lightening rod on public issues. Board members must be willing to form independent opinions based on their own judgment and their votes are co-equal with the Village president’s.
4. When in your experience have you had to balance competing interests? What process did you use? What did you learn?
Nearly every decision a trustee makes requires us to balance competing interests. A good example of this is making decisions regarding our budget. In every single budget decision, there is “competition” between providing a program or service and allocating the scarce resources (our tax dollars) to pay for it. The process for me is simple: listen to all viewpoints presented, ask hard questions and discern what’s best for Oak Park as a whole. Others may disagree with what I’ve voted for, and of course that is their right. But I’m comfortable with my votes because I know that I’ve always done my homework, listened carefully and tried to do what I feel is best for the Village. And it’s not about my personal beliefs— I represent ALL of Oak Park and try to make decisions that reflect what’s most beneficial for ALL.
5. What does transparency in government mean to you? How would you put it into practice?
In one word, transparency is honesty. It means making decisions openly and justifying decisions openly. Village staff is made up of hardworking people who are committed to their jobs and the residents of Oak Park. They work there because they want to, not because they have to. Where I’ve seen transparency as an issue is mostly related to the complexity of government and not an overt attempt to keep information away from those asking for it. One area I see that has the potential for improvement in transparency is our budgeting. Governmental accounting is incredibly complex—and it’s taken me a couple of budget cycles to fully understand how all the pieces fit together. As a CPA, that tells me it’s an overly complex process and begs to be presented in a way that all residents could more easily understand. I’m committed to working to improve transparency in all areas over the next 4 years.
6. As more of our local discourse happens in social media, what is your view on how local elected officials should communicate with and respond to constituents? How will you engage with the breadth of the community, and not just the voices that are loudest or easiest to find?
I do not find social media to be a particularly effective method of discourse for Village government. Each trustee has a village email address and village phone number posted on the website. Not only do I read and respond to those regularly, but I make myself available to meet with residents for any reason at any time. I’m also concerned that, on certain social media forums, participating may actually run afoul of Open Meetings Act requirements. I often find social media to be reactive and based on incomplete information. What I find most off putting is the way people speak disrespectfully to one another. As a public servant, it is fair to expect criticism, but it is more effective if done in a more respectful way.
7. In what ways have you sought to better know and understand the concerns and needs of residents outside your demographic group (specifically the demographic groups of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status)?
I’ve always viewed public service as being about helping the community as a whole, in all its diversity. I’ve greatly enjoyed meeting residents of all backgrounds and it’s been an incredibly enriching experience. No one should be a public servant if they’re not willing to see and take action to address needs outside of their own social circle. I’ve tried in both my role as Township trustee and Village trustee to help those most in need. I’m particularly gratified to have helped get the Village to provide Narcan for our police force to address opiate overdoses in our community. I also recently have strongly advocated for increased regulation of e-cigarettes, which is impacting the health of children as young as 10 years old.
8. To what extent should the Village Board rely on the expertise of its citizen commissions? Do you feel the balance has been correct? What do you see as the appropriate responsibilities of the Village Clerk?
I believe Oak Park is unique in its robust use of citizen commissions, and I truly value their service, expertise and input. Our board members are not experts in all things, and commissions are absolutely necessary. I think the balance has been and remains correct. I do occasionall sense frustration by committee members, and I attribute some of that to the volume of work the 19 commissions produce and coordinating it with a very busy Village board agenda that is sometimes planned far ahead. I have publicly suggested that commissions work closely with their board liaisons to discuss any concerns so they can report to the full board. We need to improve the flow, and we need and welcome the input of all commissions. Regarding the Village Clerk, I am a strong ally and supporter. Throughout the recent FOIA process changes, I strongly advocated for the Clerk’s independence—and I’m very pleased with the final result.
9. Oak Park has a 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?
I think the best way to keep marginalized communities engaged is for the Village board to adopt a racial equity framework for that can be employed for all board action. I have publicly supported a framework discussed at a Village board study session called Government Alliance for Race and Equity and have joined my colleagues in calling for the Village board and staff to undergo training so we can implement this framework soon. As a white male, I acknowledge that I have blind spots but I always work to listen and engage ALL stakeholders—and I highly value the perspectives they give me to consider. I have continued to work to maintain Oak Park’s economic diversity in a number of ways. First, I voted for two fiscally responsible budgets, with the most recent one limiting our levy increase to 3% in order to slow the rate of tax increases. I have also supported affordable housing initiatives such as the Community Builders project on OP Avenue and continue to advocate for the responsible deployment of the affordable housing fund to give assistance to those wanting to live in Oak Park.
10. How do you define equity? Do you favor implementing a Village-wide equity policy, and if so, what specifics should that policy include? Have recent discussions in the larger community informed or changed your thinking?
I’m fully cognizant of the fact that inequality of opportunity and implicit bias greatly impede the possibility of equity throughout the Village. I strongly advocate for racial equity training and believe the program offered by GARE would be very beneficial; I am fully committed to implementing this in the coming months. The idea of a Village-wide equity policy is intriguing and should be thoroughly investigated. Since equity impacts each taxing body in very different ways, however, I’m not sure it would be the most efficient way to go about it, but clearly there are common factors affecting all taxing bodies and they should be addressed comprehensively. The recent discussions in Oak Park regarding equity have confirmed my view that we always have work to do; we are never done. In addition, I do think these discussions have opened my eyes about implicit biases, and I also need to improve.
11. Why have property taxes assessed by the Village (as distinct from other Oak Park taxing bodies) increased so substantially over the past 10-15 years? Can the Village continue without additional tax increases? How?
The Village levy has increased at a higher rate in the past 10-15 years for a few big reasons. First, our infrastructure was to the point where significant investment needed to be done. Our streets, alleys and sewers were of the age that many projects needed to be completed in a relatively short period of time. The Village initiated a capital improvement plan 4 years ago which addressed the greatest needs and included a ranking system for implementation as funding allows. Second, our fire and police pensions were significantly underfunded and new laws governing pensions mandated a more robust funding schedule, leading to a greater annual funding contribution on the part of the Village. The key in controlling the Village’s portion of resident’s property tax burden lies with slowing the growth rate of our levy. Gone are the days of double digit increases; no one can afford it. In a budget update last August, I suggested that we keep our levy increase capped at 3% for FY19– and the board ultimately agreed. Reasonable levy increases reflecting inflation and cost of living increases must become the norm, not the exception.
12. What impact can a municipality such as Oak Park have on climate change, and how will you prioritize that work among other issues? Do you think Oak Park should implement a Climate Action Plan, and if so, what specific elements should it include?
Oak Park must act to impact climate change and I believe this needs to be a priority for the Village. As a whole, residents enthusiastically support the environmental initiatives we’ve focused on, whether it be reducing the use of hydrocarbons to fuel Village vehicles, reducing the use of single use plastic bags in grocery stores, reducing single use plastics that restaurants provide patrons or supporting solar projects paid from our electrical aggregation fund. I support having Oak Park build on the efforts of the PlanItGreen Sustainability Plan and develop a cohesive and comprehensive Climate Action Plan. The plan needs to be in sync with Illinois law and new Future Energy Jobs Act requirements and establish basic indicators (such as a greenhouse gas inventory) for benchmarking. A good plan should include the following elements: transportation, energy use, solid waste, water use, greenhouse gas emissions and air quality.
13. Oak Park has seen a number of larger developments in recent years that have changed the physical space, particularly downtown. What is your philosophy toward development and the changes that it brings? What is your ideal vision for future development going forward?
Every business has a life cycle, starting from the day it opens to the day it finally closes its doors for good. Looking back 75 or even 50 years ago, the vast majority of businesses that existed then no longer exist today. New development is a necessity to counteract the inevitable cycles of business. The idea of transit oriented development in the downtown Oak Park area has been helpful to bring residents and visitors to the area, which has been long suffering from the decline in retail business. We have a number of new high rises that appear to be well received by renters who use the Green Line and are happy to make Oak Park their home. This change has been difficult for some residents who do not like the density this type of development brings. I believe we need to listen more carefully to residents’ concerns revolving around density, and give priority to proposals that are more appropriate in scale to adjacent development- which is one reason why the Village president and trustees came out in unanimous opposition of the 28 story high rise proposed for 835 Lake Street. The path for future development in Oak Park is clear: it requires a collaborative effort and needs to include input of stakeholders every step of the way. Trustees have a fundamental duty to thoughtfully consider all development activities presented to the board and support those activities that provide sound economic and social benefits, while respecting the character and traditions of our community as a whole.
14. What does affordable housing mean to you? Do you feel that the Village should should work to support housing affordability? If so, what specific policies would you advocate? Would you support an inclusionary zoning ordinance?
Affordable Housing is something that I feel is a clear community value and important to maintain the character of Oak Park. I’m proud of my record as a trustee, and here are some of the initiatives I’ve supported and voted on to advance affordable housing in the Village: 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 Boulevard. As a Township trustee, I consistently voted to fund the general assistance program for people who are in financial need or who are in need of job training. In the coming weeks I will be voting in favor of an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance which will help guarantee socio-economic diversity all throughout town and create a self sustaining mechanism to support affordable housing moving forward. Of course, “housing affordability” is equally important. For a Village trustee, that means maintaining a reasonable levy for the benefit of all residents.
15. Describe a specific initiative you would undertake in collaboration with one or more neighboring communities.
I recently attended a community summit in Austin where ‘Austin Coming Together’ unveiled a quality of life plan for a neighborhood renaissance. I was incredibly impressed with the coordinated effort of the 400 people that were involved in bringing together their resources and relationships to help improve the educational and economic development outcomes of the Austin community. The energy and vibrancy exuded in the meeting was uplifting and encouraging to witness. Though it’s a fact that Oak Park’s eastern border ends at Austin Boulevard, we really need to think of Austin in a more proactive way and as a true partner. Our two communities are linked in a tangible way, and when one community supports another, we both improve. I look forward to have the Village undertake a more comprehensive dialogue with Austin Coming Together to see where we might be able to strengthen each other’s vision and promote mutually beneficial outcomes.
16. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
I do not have any donors and do not anticipate having any in the future.
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[The above answers were submitted on 2/13/19. For current financial information, please see Committee to Elect Jim Taglia financials at Illinois Sunshine. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]
Taglia for Trustee (candidate Facebook page)
Taglia is a consensus-builder (WJ 3/26/19)
Taglia for continuity (WJ 3/26/19)
One clear choice: Taglia (WJ 3/26/19)
Keep Taglia on the board (WJ 3/26/19)
Vote for principled, pragmatic candidates (WJ 3/26/19)
Taglia works for the community (WJ 3/26/19)
Wednesday Journal endorsement (WJ 3/19/19)
Taglia: always prepared (WJ 3/19/19)
Building consensus to move the village forward (WJ 3/19/19)
Taglia has been an exemplary trustee (WJ 3/19/19)
Candidate Profile (WJ 3/15/19)
Taglia for Oak Park trustee (WJ 3/12/19)
Appointed trustee now pushing for local support (WJ 3/12/19)
Vote 'No' on Taglia for village board (WJ 3/12/19)
Three candidates stand out (WJ 3/12/19)
Taglia for Trustee (Simone Boutet 3/6/19)
Oak Park reverses public records change (WJ 1/29/19)
Oak Park approves affordable apartment building (WJ 10/16/18)
Oak Park trustee closes Lake Street smoothie shop (Oak Leaves 9/11/18)
Consolidation vote headed to the ballot (WJ 7/31/18)
Oak Park ends Divvy program (WJ 1/17/18)
Properties owned by Oak Park mayor and trustee removed from TIF district (Oak Leaves 6/6/17)
Committee to Elect Jim Taglia financials (Illinois Sunshine)
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SEOPCO candidate forum (Facebook live 3/19/19)
Bike Walk Oak Park Candidate Survey Results (Facebook 3/17/19)
Talking business at Oak Park trustee candidate forum (WJ 3/15/19)
Arbor West Neighbors: Discussion on aging (Facebook Live 2/25/19)
Taxes front and center at Oak Park trustee debate (WJ 1/15/19)
The campaign trail: Trustee candidates weigh in on Oak Park's tax burden (Oak Leaves 1/11/19)
Business retention, assistance on minds of Oak Park village trustee candidates (Oak Leaves 1/10/19)
Suburban Unity Alliance Village Board Candidate Forum Part 1 | Part 2 (Facebook Live 1/9/19)
Election a go-go (WJ 12/18/19)
Now up to eight in race for Oak Park village board (WJ 11/21/18)