The Indian Head Park Board of Trustees has been, at least to outside observers, a monolithic group under the control of Rich Andrews, the Village President. Excepting the recent resignation of Carol Coleman (which occasioned Rich to appoint one of his supporters in her place), the present Trustees have each been in office for multiple terms.
Why do I describe them as monolithic? Well, for example, within the past two years IHP residents have been bombarded with five different referenda to increase the Village’s taxing power. These referenda were all shot down by impressive margins, ranging from 58% to nearly 70% (see table). These “No” votes were largely consistent from election to election and from precinct to precinct. There was never any precinct that ever voted “Yes” on any of these measures.
And yet the Board of Trustees consistently and unanimously voted to place them on the ballot. You would have thought that they should have gotten the message after three referenda failed this past spring. And I would have thought that at least one Trustee would have voted “No” just once, but no.
For a good look at this lack of debate or discussion, attend a Board of Trustee meeting. The ones I’ve attended have been rather drab affairs. With few exceptions, Rich Andrews is the only Trustee who speaks and I’ve never ever seen Trustees actually debate matters.
Not long ago I was speaking with another IHP resident about this and she questioned me: “Don’t you think that there’s disagreement behind the scenes?” I said that there perhaps was, but I was hoping for discussions out in the open.
Now there have been some residents who have challenged the Trustees at the ballot box. Rita Farrell ran an active campaign in 2005, compiling 15% of the vote. Unfortunately, no challengers to the status quo emerged in 2007 or 2009 and the same Trustees were back at it for another 4 year term. In 2011, Chris Metz came within 14 votes of getting on the Board, gathering 21.5% of the vote. To his credit, Chris has continued to be actively involved, regularly attending the Trustee meetings and, when possible, challenging the administration, and Rich Andrews in particular, with interesting perspectives and suggestions. But these perspectives and suggestions are not the party line and have gone no further (although Rich will occasionally lecture Chris for his trouble).
And this year? This year we will have quite the vibrant campaign: three long-time residents have stepped up to challenge the three incumbents on the 2013 ballot.
These three challengers, Amy Wittenberg, Tom Hinshaw, and Brenda O’Laughlin, are certainly well-known in the community. Amy and Tom have both been elected to the Highlands School Board where they served us well, bringing more process and structure to the proceedings there. Brenda, as you may know, is the mother of Kelli O’Laughlin and works in financial management at McDonald’s HQ in Oak Brook (and heaven knows IHP could use a financial guru).
This is not to say that the three incumbents have done a bad job. I am particularly fond of Anne Bermier who has always been quite active in the community (more on this in another column). What I don’t like, however, is that the IHP Board is so “party line”. In addition to unanimously placing doomed tax referenda on the ballot, Village President Rich Andrews endorsed the incumbents for re-election way back last fall, before he even knew who else might be running. Did Rich Andrews believe that the three incumbents were absolutely the best candidates possible and that any potential challenger, no matter who, couldn’t be as qualified as these incumbents? Or does he just want a Board he can control?
So, the next couple months leading up to April 9 election should prove interesting. I am eagerly anticipating a contest of ideas, and hope that at least one of these challengers cracks the monolith that is the Indian Head Park Board of Trustees.