candidate for 2019 OAK pARK VILLAGE TRUSTEE
1. What motivates you to seek this office?
I am running because representation matters. I recognize the current Village Board lacks the diversity and inclusion that makes Oak Park a great community. It lacks renters, blue collar workers, African-Americans, LGBTQ individuals, and differently-abled community members, all who reside in Oak Park. I also understand that our people are our greatest asset and I’m committed to honest representation and creating a Better Oak Park for All.
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 have been active in progressive politics for over two decades and participate in several civic organizations where I have honed my leadership and negotiation skills. Through my labor union background, I have gained knowledge on how to bring about change through honest dialog and I have an appreciation for working people, fair practices and economic justice. I am a renter, union activist and LGBTQ community member, a tireless worker and knowledgeable leader who will make sure the interests of all Oak Park's residents are treated fairly and are represented.
2. What do you believe makes an effective Trustee?
An effective trustee studies, listens and is willing to have preconceived ideas challenged. They vote in the best interest of the village, while being mindful to put the law, village code, and citizens first, regardless of personal benefit or bias. They are emotionally and relationally mature - this will show in defeat. They stay calm when the vote goes the “wrong” way. An effective trustee respects the voter and the legislative process.
3. What is your understanding of the purpose of the Village Board?
Oak Park has a Managerial form of Village government that consist of a Village President and (6) at-large elected trustees. Under this form of government, the village board is responsible for creating local ordinances and resolutions. The Village Manager is the only employee of the board, responsible for administrative and executive functions of government.
What do you see as the appropriate relationship between the Village President/Mayor, the Board of Trustees, and Village staff?
That relationship is defined by law. The boards of trustees have one employee and that is the Village Manager. I will work with anyone who is committed to creating a better experience in the village for all of our citizens and will be a vocal critic of those that don't share that simple goal.
4. When in your experience have you had to balance competing interests?
I have been a Union Official and Fiduciary to the Health, Welfare and Pension funds. As a union leader, I wanted to improve benefits for all plan participants, but as Fiduciary of those benefit funds, it wasn’t practical because all plan improvements have a cost. As a young leader, this was a tough, but necessary, lesson in decision making.
What process did you use?
I looked to those with more experience and knowledge in that situation, to help me balance my moral compass with the legal obligations.
What did you learn?
To never be afraid to ask for help and seek guidance. That through thoughtful, honest conversation we can accomplish many things.
5. What does transparency in government mean to you? How would you put it into practice?
The Open Meetings Act should be the first rule for guiding transparency in government. During the decision making process, I would keep in mind, “ Would community members want to know this? Can I legally share it?” Then, I would share as much as possible via some sort of social media post or e-newsletter.
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?
If elected, my social media presence would be limited to factual information about the village, trustee decisions, and current community events.
How will you engage with the breadth of the community, and not just the voices that are loudest or easiest to find?
I will continue to attend local events, meetings and forums. I would also consider holding meetings with local communities that want to promote civic engagement. I would also like to start a discussion about surveying Oak Park residents about their concerns and priorities. This data would allow taxing bodies to incorporate the perspective of average people, as well as those who are more experienced at getting their perspective considered.
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 attend community meetings, listen actively, and contribute when appropriate.
8. To what extent should the Village Board rely on the expertise of its citizen commissions?
If elected, I would rely on them as subject matter experts. They have the time and knowledge to thoroughly research issues and provide recommendations to the Village Board. I would also view them as the voice of the people, because the commissions allow citizens to interact with commissioners in informal ways and capture that community input.
Do you feel the balance has been correct?
What do you see as the appropriate responsibilities of the Village Clerk?
The responsibilities of the Village Clerk are defined by law. I support the position and the Village Clerk’s past role as a citizen’s advocate and FOIA official.
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?
I’ve considered a resolution that creates a villager of the week program that encourages elected officials to invite residents of underrepresented communities to be recognized at the board meeting and post their picture on the villages website. It’s a different way to include those that may not normally be included.
How can we maintain economic diversity in the Village with rising real estate prices and taxes?
An affordable housing program that encourages people to relocate to Oak Park, and supporting aging in place.
10. How do you define equity?
Creating a supportive community where everyone has access to the services they need, with outcomes that cannot be predicted by race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability or socioeconomic background. On the personal level, people should feel like they are treated with respect when they interact with government.
Do you favor implementing a Village-wide equity policy, and if so, what specifics should that policy include?
Yes, But I am not an expert on equity policies. Throughout the election process, I have read past articles that show community leaders pressing for equity policies for over a decade. I would like to form a commission "Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Commission" that could utilize existing policy priorities from the over 30 Oak Park community groups focused on this issue, to create one policy that could be implemented in the Village, Township, Parks and Library. The commission should be limited in time, to produce a recommended policy and include representatives from all the above taxing bodies. The commission should also hold community equity sessions to help the general public understand this issue outside of the school context.
Have recent discussions in the larger community informed or changed your thinking?
I’ve learned through conversations and small meetings, that we seem to be leaving too many people out of the equity conversation. We also are not bringing our older adults into this conversion and helping them grasp the issue or listening to what equity means to them as Oak Parkers.
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?
As a community, we have been talking about rising taxes for at least the last 3 election cycles. There is not a will to solve village spending. It has been lip service, with no demand from the voters. We have continued to elect business people, lawyers and consultants to the board of trustees. Increased taxes are a direct result.
Can the Village continue without additional tax increases?
Create a balanced budget that doesn't shift costs into future budget years. Hold the line on new spending and commit to making service cuts. These ideas are not revolutionary, but they are realistic and practical.
12. What impact can a municipality such as Oak Park have on climate change, and how will you prioritize that work among other issues?
Our impact as a community is still to be determined, but the cost of doing nothing is much greater. The simple act of paying for plastic shopping bags has changed behaviors and resulted in less plastic bags being used. Oak Park is one of the top public transportation communities in Chicagoland. People use public transportation to commute. Oak Park should be pushing for the Chicago region to be gradually pushing people to use public transportation more and to use automobiles less.
Do you think Oak Park should implement a Climate Action Plan, and if so, what specific elements should it include?
Yes, Oak Park should have a climate action plan and as a trustee, I would looked to the Environment & Energy Commission for guidance and work to make their recommendations a reality.
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?
I support development that is aligned with the needs and vision of the community. All future development should seek input from the impacted businesses and neighbors at the beginning of the development process, to address concerns and expectations.
What is your ideal vision for future development going forward?
Development is often talked about in the context of high rise buildings. Developers should figure out how to build in our community and make a profit without seeking exemptions to current building and zoning codes.
14. What does affordable housing mean to you?
Housing is a social justice issue. Affordable housing needs to work for everyone in the community. Politics by nature focuses on people in the middle or when politics is corrupted a small number of insiders & elites. Housing policy needs to work for everyone. Ideally in a properly functioning economy the economy matches people with housing in well over 90% of cases & government helps fix stuff at the margins. It's less & less the case that we have a properly functioning economy. So government has to play a more active role in housing.As a community, we should provide housing options and related relief to all who need it, giving every community member the opportunity to live a better life.
Do you feel that the Village should should work to support housing affordability?
If so, what specific policies would you advocate?
The current VOP commission structure has a "Housing Commission" with four plus different missions. One of these is to maintain the existing affordable housing. I favor splitting off an Affordable Housing Commission that would create a long range plan to increase affordable housing in Oak Park. This commission would then monitor progress on implementing the plan.As a specific policy, I support rent control legislation. Until rent control is a legislative reality, I envision housing that is spread throughout the village using existing rental property. I want a policy that assesses developers the market value of a unit, if they choose to pay fees in-lieu of providing affordable units. Then those funds could be used to subsidized affordable rental housing in existing properties.
Would you support an inclusionary zoning ordinance?
15. Describe a specific initiative you would undertake in collaboration with one or more neighboring communities.
I want to work with Austin community leaders and elected officials to support economic development. I think a supportive relationship with Oak Park elected officials could be an asset to westside revitalization efforts. I also think the Roosevelt Road corridor should be handled in a way that takes into account communities east and west of Oak Park, including Berwyn & Cicero
16. Please list the three largest donors to your campaign by dollar amount contributed.
• • • • •
[The above answers were submitted on 2/13/19. For current financial information, please see Citizens to Elect Tim Thomas financials at Illinois Sunshine. Illinois Sunshine is also a useful resource for identifying past contributions by individuals to political candidates and committees in Illinois.]
We need progressive trustees (WJ 3/26/19)
Village needs bold, progressive trustees (WJ 3/26/19)
These 3 will help 'Reclaim Oak Park' (WJ 3/26/19)
Three for economic equity (WJ 3/26/19)
Who you gonna trust? (WJ 3/26/19)
Oak Park Development Watch candidate questionnaire (Facebook 3/22/19)
Candidate Profile (WJ 3/15/19)
Candidate Interview (The Doris Davenport Show livestream 3/12/19)
Chicago Federation of Labor endorsement (PDF 3/10/19)
A VOICE for Oak Park (WJ 1/15/19)
VOICE candidates call for right-sizing development (WJ 1/15/19)
VOICE endorses three for Oak Park trustee (WJ 10/30/18)
Four to run for Oak Park Board of Trustees (WJ 9/18/18)
Citizens to Elect Tim Thomas campaign disclosures (Illinois State Board of Elections)
Citizens to Elect Tim Thomas financials (Illinois Sunshine)
VOICE Oak Park campaign disclosures (Illinois State Board of Elections)
VOICE Oak Park financials (Illinois Sunshine)
• • • • •
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)