Siding with Anthony Clark

Opinion: Editorials

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Anthony Clark was blocked Monday from the April ballot for Oak Park village trustee. The action came as the three-person local election board met to consider a challenge made to Clark's candidacy brought by an Oak Park resident best known for filing just such challenges.

The split vote was 2-1 with Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and Trustee Jim Taglia voting to remove Clark from the ballot. Village Clerk Vicki Scaman, also a candidate for village president in April, voted to allow Clark to remain on the ballot.

This may or may not be the final word on the issue as Clark could choose to appeal the decision to the Cook County courts and even beyond. Two years ago, two incumbent Black trustees were tied up in court challenges almost through Election Day, based on challenges brought by the same Kevin Peppard.

Some argue that Peppard must be displaying racism based on this history of challenges. And he may be. But he can also point to any number of white candidates he has also challenged with mixed results over the years. He'd claim to be protecting democracy by policing the tics and peculiarities of election laws. 

Our preference is most always to allow voters to protect democracy at the ballot box.

The same three-person panel had previously disallowed Peppard's challenge to another Black man running for the village board. Chibuike Enyia remains on the ballot after the panel unanimously rejected Peppard's claim that Enyia was not eligible to run, based on Peppard's extraordinarily thin claim that he had been convicted of a felony some years back in Iowa. This claim was based on a scanty Google search that coughed up just hints of a legal issue a long while back.

Peppard wished Enyia well after the panel ruled in his favor. What Peppard ought to have offered was an abject apology for slandering the young man's reputation. And we'd suggest that Enyia consult a defamation attorney.

When it comes to Anthony Clark, things are always more complicated, often sort of messy. And so it was in this instance. Peppard's charge against Clark was that he is not a resident of Oak Park, that he owns a residence in west suburban Lombard on which he has claimed a homeowner's tax exemption making it his principal residence. Much of the evidence Peppard presented, and which the board considered, came from the legal documents Clark assembled in his bankruptcy declaration in 2020. 

For his part Clark tells an intensely personal story of having bought the Lombard residence several years ago for a woman who claimed Clark had fathered a child with her. That was later proved to be untrue, he said. Clark says he never lived there but has long lived with his aging parents on Lombard Avenue in Oak Park. He says he is registered to vote in Oak Park, that his driver's license reflects that Oak Park address.

In a statement Monday to the Journal, Clark argues that life is complicated, that hard and imperfect family choices are made and that those choices are all the harder if your financial means are stressed and if you are Black or Brown. As a high school teacher and activist, Clark says he is fully committed to Oak Park, his hometown. We take his points.

And we agree with Scaman that this is a tough call. Fundamentally, the electoral board was charged to decide only the issue of Clark's residency. Clark's various decisions and choices opened a door for Abu-Taleb and Taglia to offer their views of Clark's character. That wasn't their job. Deciding on a candidate's character is the task of voters.

Straight up on residency, we side with Anthony Clark. And we side with the right of voters to decide.

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Reader Comments

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Bill Maxwell  

Posted: January 27th, 2021 9:24 AM

Jeffrey Smith you can be the one to make the change. Mr. Clark can move the case to the court system. The most unfair part of this all to Mr. Clark, it is going to cost money to seek out competent legal counsel specific to this matter. Oak Parker's know Gofundme campaigns. Take out ads in the Wednesday Journal letting people know where to send in donations. Call the news stations. Give Mr. Clark a chance to possibly over turn the ruling. The Electoral Board had to go by facts they had and they were difficult to challenge

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: January 27th, 2021 9:05 AM

I believed from the beginning that Anan had a flawed character, was deceptive, had thugs campaigning for him in River Forest outside Whole Foods (saw that, actually), thought that selling fish dinners made him qualified to run a government and has behaved throughout as if he had been elected prince instead of village president. But I registered my doubt about his character at the ballot box. If character decided who would be on the ballot, *rump would never have been allowed to run for office and most of the Republicans in Congress would be selling watches on the street, doing time in jail for a variety of crimes or be confined to asylums for the criminally insane. Abu-Taleb and Taglia infantalized voters and set a precedent that the right wing would love to establish as law: you can vote for who you like, but we get to decided who you can choose from.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: January 27th, 2021 8:03 AM

The WJ is simply wrong here regarding Abu-Taleb's reasoning. He didn't kick Clark off the ballot because of his character. Rather he found Clark's character lacking and so did not belief his statements that he didn't;t live in Oak Park despite swearing under oath that he lived in Lombard, IL.

William Dwyer Jr.  

Posted: January 27th, 2021 7:49 AM

It's undisputed that, faced with the question by the electoral board of "where do you live?" Clark was unable to explain away his answer under oath to the exact same question on his bankruptcy affidavit: That answer was "170 Oakton Drive, Lombard, IL."

Gregg Kuenster from Please sing this Italian love song  

Posted: January 27th, 2021 12:41 AM

Fascism is a political philosophy (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts government and often race above the individual. Kevin Peppard has the right to challenge candidates for reasons big and small. Nothing wrong with that. I generally do not agree with many who call to cure social ills by granting reparations, examining humanity, changing language and doing the hard soul searching work (whatever that means). I do not agree with the high school dumbing down education so everyone can be equal. Taking Anthony Clark off the ballot is much **bigger** The ballot is the core of our successful democracy. Hilary Clinton had a constituency in NY without being from NY.. Mr. Clark obviously has a nexus to the community. Where, when how, why he slept ? Is not our business. That he may be a liar and a con ? Is not our business. That he has a constituency of young and minority voters Is our business. Clark is one of us. We may not like Clark but he is one of us. If the Bills that sleep without a partner without a family cannot see they are enabling our community to abandon democracy, shame on all of us. Anthony Clark has the right to community. Anthony Clark has the right to free speech. Anthony Clark has a right to receive a vote. He is speaking from his slanted view to not only give voice to his race but to all of us. I disagree with most of his solutions but he represents a voice of the repressed.. This creeping fascism is coming in like a fog from all sides.. Hang Mike Pence?..Attack AOC?.. Stop feeding the homeless?.. Ticket and take the car with the broken taillight on Chicago Avenue in RF? Look how ugly we have become. You broke the rule. No job for you. No family for you. Go sit in jail ... like all of us alone in front of our screens. Perdonami . uma parola che,. Tu non dice mai,. E non ti facile dirme,. Io t'amo... una parola che... tu non dice mai...Ci sono parole... Che tu non sai dire., o non vuoi Quando a volte non c' bisogno di pi., Di uno scu

Bill Maxwell  

Posted: January 26th, 2021 11:23 PM

If Mr. Clark was never challenged then the Electoral Board would not have had to do their due diligence. As the editorial mentions, Mr. Clark can move the case to the court system. The most unfair part of this all to Mr. Clark, it is going to cost money to seek out competent legal counsel specific to this matter. Oak Parker's know Gofundme campaigns. Take out ads in the Wednesday Journal letting people know where to send in donations. Call the news stations. Give Mr. Clark a chance to possibly over turn the ruling. The Electoral Board had to go by facts they had and they were difficult to challenge

Ed Egan  

Posted: January 26th, 2021 10:02 PM

I watched the hearing live and I got the same impression. Abu-Taleb's decision was on the basis of character, not the hearing's established purpose of residency. The board's decision to move the goal posts denies the citizens of Oak Park all the options at the voting booth. Abu-Taleb attempt to dismiss community input solidifies for me this was an attempt of voter suppression. I'm glad he isn't running for re-election.

Eric Friedman from Oak Park  

Posted: January 26th, 2021 9:39 PM

Although there was a split decision by the election board, all three members of the board seemed to agree on one thing: Anthony Clark lied about his residence. The outstanding question was whether he lied to the Village of Oak Park in his candidacy filing or to the federal government in his financial filings. Mr. Clark could have made it easy on the election board by admitting the mistake and correcting it. Instead, he chose to stand by his prior, obviously inconsistent declarations of residency and force the election board to guess which one was a lie. I find it strange and fascinating that Mr. Clark, a person who does many things that demonstrate high character, chose such a route. Similarly, it is interesting that his supporters (and this editorial) seem unbothered by such a significant ethical lapse. I don't know whether the election board made the right decision, but given how Mr. Clark handled things, it is hard for me to feel bad for him.

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