May 20 Village Board: Order in the village

At one point in the May 20 village board meeting, Village President Anan Abu-Taleb described three Oak Park business strips as each unique — Oak Park Avenue from Van Buren to Garfield, OP Ave. south of South Boulevard, and Lake Street. This in a general discussion of zoning variances and how to give them.

This gave pause to Trustee Ray Johnson, sitting to his immediate right. “Does this mean applying different standards to each?” he asked.

Abu-Taleb paused a fraction, then asked, “Why not?”

To which, Johnson, taken aback, replied, “That would cause confusion.”

Here, in businessman Abu-Taleb’s first full board meeting as president, was the evening’s stark contrast between and entrepreneurial mentalities.

As entrepreneur, you look for your opportunities and you seize them. As organizer, you bring order out of chaos or what looks like it. The one optimistically (some would say myopically) moves ahead. The other cautiously (some would say obsessively) holds back.

There will be more of this, Abu-Taleb injecting his perspective, others holding to what they feel is tried and true, keeping order in the village.

Meanwhile, much talk, phrases such as:

* “I’m where you are”

* “tighter parameters”

* “We need to do that”

* “pots of money”

* “matrix”

* “operationalize”

* “I hear what you’re saying”

Technical, complicated, mixed with standard meeting talk. Trustee Colette Lueck’s voice pitch rises at the end of declarative sentences. You can imagine her looking around a table, seeking real-time affirmation or signs of understanding, point by point. Habit bred of many hours (hundreds?) sitting at such tables, gauging acceptance.

She’s persistent. She seeks to “structure discussion,” requiring the explicit where others are satisfied with the implicit. At one point she protested, “We haven’t talked about” such and such. Very funny moment when Trustee Johnson turned, said, “I’ve been talking about it,” emphasis on “I’ve.”

The village manager, a cool head, seeks to help, clarifying. She sits with the lawyer, another cool one, at one end, the two of them speaking up periodically, the one to clarify, the other to specify requirements. The lawyer at one point stumps them all with a conundrum, including the two citizen chairs — Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals — who had brought ordinance language for trustee approval.

Abu-Taleb stumbled briefly on procedure. It didn’t matter that he called for vote without discussion on five candidates for citizen commissions, a formality in this case. But it did when he called one for motions from Plan Commission and Zoning board, to “accept” or “receive” language on zoning-variance matters referenced above.

Trustee Lueck, on Abu-Taleb’s left, gently reminded him sotto voce, offering something on the order of “You want short meetings but not this short.” Of course he didn’t. I chuckled if no one else did.

Later, when her objection had apparently been answered as to inadequate discussion of the planning and zoning issues, Anan turned and checked with her before calling the vote: “All right, Colette?” It seemed a fairly relaxed moment to me, if perhaps not to others.

Indeed, the meeting I attended — arriving at 8:10*, leaving at 9:45 with the Planning-Zoning matters completed — was characterized by an atmosphere of the “collegial and productive working relationship” called for by Trustee Adam Salzman at the May 6 meeting.

As for business-friendliness, Abu-Taleb made another reference to it during the zoning-variance discussion, asking if Chamber of Commerce people had been part of Plan Commission discussions. They had not, apparently. [Yes they were. See below.]


* Thus missing the meatless-Monday work of art, about which more later . . .

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  • Jim Bowman  On May 22, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    Reblogged this on Blithe Spirit.

  • Ray Johnson  On May 24, 2013 at 5:35 AM

    Jim….the Chamber of Commerce did participate in the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals joint meeting. It is referenced in the minutes from that meeting, and was discussed during our May 20 meeting. The ‘easy to use’ matrix referenced during the meeting is a recommendation from the Chamber, and its a great idea which will spell out to anyone interested allowed uses in the various zoning districts. To that end, having distinct allowable uses which are different in each of the three very limited transit overlay districts would not only be confusing to users, it could be viewed as spot zoning, where there is significant case law.

    • Jim Bowman  On May 24, 2013 at 7:11 AM

      Was already feeling queasy about that from reading the C of C director’s Wed Journal blog on the matter. Much obliged for the correction, Ray. I stand corrected.

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