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CARE Party of Oak Park
The CARE Party of Oak Park (Citizens Active for Respect for the Environment) had its founding in 1985 in Oak Park, Illinois. From 1989 until the current date, its president has been Les Golden. Under his direction, CARE has achieved numerous environmental successes, including the ban of pesticides, conservation of water and paper, reform of garbage collection, preservation of trees, landscaping, and the election of numerous individuals to positions on various boards to legislate such concerns.
- 1 History
- 2 The River Forest TURF Party
- 3 Political Activity
- 4 Ban on Pesticides
- 5 Tree Activism
- 6 Water Quality
- 7 Landscaping and Conservation of Resources
- 8 Bird Kill and Road Kill
- 9 Animal Welfare
- 10 Toxic Chemical Removal
- 11 Intergovernmental Cooperation in Environment
- 12 Water Conservation and Waste Reduction
- 13 References
- 14 Categories
The CARE Party was formed to run candidates in the 1985 village elections. Under Dan Elich and Florian Swanson, an enthusiastic organization was formed, with precinct workers working most of the precincts in Oak Park. Using as headquarters a shuttered automobile dealership on Madison Street, the large-statured, charismatic Elich held a formal candidate convention was held in the ballroom of the Oak Park Arms residence. Three candidates were slated for the open three seats. They each won election in an unprecedented, major upset against the Village Manager Association (VMA) candidates, the group which had ruled the village since non-partisan elections began in 1951.
Elich and Swanson utilized three issues that had polarized Oak Park residents. These were unhappiness with the administration of the current village manager, Ralph DeSantis, handgun control, and the granting of liquor licenses. The disparate groups unified under Elich’s lead.
Elected were Patricia Andrews, the popular, physically attractive manager of the Heritage House senior residence, Susan Helfer, an activist fighting intrusive gang activity in her Harrison Street neighborhood on the south side of Oak Park near the crime-riddled Austin area of Chicago, and Tom Edwalds, a certified accountant. Florian Swanson was defeated by former park district president Clifford Osborn for village president.
Once elected, only Edwalds proved competent. The flamboyant Andrews, married to an Oak Park cop, quickly bolted over to the VMA. She later had an affair with the Oak Park police chief, notably found having sex with him in the parking lot of a nearby Forest Park church, and moved to Denver with him in disgrace years later. Predictably, neither the Oak Park nor Forest Park police filed charges on moral issues, disorderly conduct, or any other citation against one of their own. The incident was hushed over and not covered in the local press. (Imagine how many fines would have been levied, not to mention prison time, and public coverage, if a non-cop had an adulterous affair in a church parking lot!) Helfer was silent on the board, rarely expressing an opinion. Edwalds was articulate and made periodic visits to the CARE Party meetings describing current issues.
In 1987 Elich appeared at a meeting of the party at Cal and Theresa (Tedesso) Greene’s home and announced he was becoming inactive in the CARE Party. Because of his leadership skills, this was not greeted happily. Greene, however, volunteered to become the new chairman and CARE member Dan Callahan, owner of a successful Oak Park plumbing firm, became the new president.
Callahan contributed little, but Theresa Greene was a strong leader. She and her husband had a long history of attending village board meetings and she knew how to conduct a meeting, involve others, and delegate responsibility. Attractive with a good sense of humor, the congenial CARE meetings were well attended. Regulars included the distinguished physicist and former board member Bernard Abraham, his wife Annabel, activist and animal welfare advocate Marge Haddix, who had saved the Oak Park Conservatory from closing, tax reform advocate, actor, and professor Les Golden, attorney Robert Ransom, mathematics professor Richard Compton, Len Mueller, jeweler Bob Ryan, urban studies professor Galen Gockel, who would later bolt to the VMA and get elected to the board as a VMA candidate, infuriating the CARE regulars, and Sue and Hubert Helfer, he a former school board member. It was a formidable, talented group. Tom Edwalds would appear periodically to report on village board issues, and Patricia Andrews appeared once.
The major accomplishment of the CARE Party under this administration was the placing of a back door referendum on the ballot to stop school district 97, the elementary school district in Oak Park, from raising taxes. The activity began with a meeting at the home of Oak Park Township assessor William (Bill) Shafer on East Avenue, a retired Commonwealth Edison engineer. Attending were Shafer, Abraham, Gockel, Golden, Ransom, perhaps Theresa and Cal Greene and Compton, and others. In the ensuing weeks, they acquired the challenging number of more than 3200 signatures on a petition. In the subsequent election, the tax-increase was defeated.
No candidates were slated during this administration. When district 97 again floated the tax increase at the next election, Theresa Greene was disenchanted. Believing that once defeated the tax increase could never be proposed again, she resigned in disgust at the political process. The CARE Party became dormant for six months to a year.
With the approach of the 1989 local elections, Les Golden contacted Ransom and suggested they reenergize the CARE Party. The two had formed a friendship of mutual respect from the many meetings at the Greene home. Ransom agreed. Golden was chosen president and Ransom chairman. Golden’s responsibilities were to locate, slate, and run the campaigns of candidates and to articulate issues. Ransom was to be in charge of fund-raising and to chair meetings.
Golden had first come to the CARE Party during the 1985 village elections by attending an outreach meeting at the playground fieldhouse near his home. He had been attracted by the possibility of renewing friendship with his Little League coach of Oak Park Trust and Federal Bank, Florian Swanson, for whom Golden became the leading hitter in Oak Park and the cleanup hitter for the All-Star team. Golden had no intention of entering local politics but was smitten.
Golden and Ransom invited Richard Compton and Sue Helfer to be part of their team and an article to that effect appeared in the local press, although they contributed little to the efforts of the new administration.
Although this administration was not to duplicate the success of the Elich/Swanson administration in obtaining election of multiple candidates to the village board, it began the most active period of the CARE Party. Both Golden and Ransom were fervent tax reform advocates, both Republicans. Meetings were held in the office building at 711 South Blvd., the building purchased by Ransom’s father and passed on to Robert himself where the law offices of Ransom and Ransom were located. Ransom was born and raised in Oak Park, while Golden had resided there since he was five years old.
In the ensuing years, Golden perfected a technique for attracting press coverage, candidates, and workers. He would hold a tax reform meeting at either the village hall council chambers or the Veterans’ Room of the main branch of the Oak Park Public Library on Lake Street and invite tax-reform speakers.  These included Jim Tobin, president of National Taxpayers United of Illinois and and economics professor at Elmhurst College, Andrea Raila of the tax appeal firm Raila and Associates, and a tax reform official from Evanston, Illinois.
After the presentations, Golden would introduce various tax appeal specialists and the members of the audience would be invited to meet with them with their property tax bills. Those experts included Bill Shafer and Galen Gockel, who had succeeded Shafer as Oak Park Township Assessor, Raila, and others. Golden would use the opportunity to request those who were interested in running for office to approach him. These meetings generated stand-room only crowds, and numerous candidates came forward to be slated.
Golden would bring along sign-up sheets and with other members of the party would get everyone entering the hall to sign their name. This formed the basis for increasing the voter base of the party.
Golden and Ransom ran full slates for every local elected board from 1989 through 1991.  These included both school boards, the library board, the village board, and the park board. The Tax Accountability Party was the name of their slate for village board. By 1991, the CARE Party could count on a number of voters equal to 40% of those who supported the 40-year old VMA.CARE candidates who were elected included Christine Comer and Barbara Jepsen to the park board and David Ristau, a nephew of Bob Ryan, to the high school board. With Golden’s life-long friend Francis “Bud” Corry, fondly remembered as “Mr. Oak Park,” Comer and Jepsen formed a majority on the park board and at the first meeting in April 1991 banned the use of pesticides in the parks of Oak Park, National Taxpayers United of Illinois to honor Golden with a distinguished leadership award in 1991.
In 1991, Harriet Hiland, a candidate for elementary school district under the CARE Party, an editor at Encyclopedia Brittanica in Chicago and wife of Playboy magazine art editor and artist Skip Williamson, pointed out to Golden that the character Moe Silver, Chairman of the LOVE Party, in the new comic strip “Shrubtown” was modeled after him. It was drawn by artist Marc Stopeck and published in the Wednesday Journal of Oak Park.  Golden’s reputation as a candidate-finder had become legendary. A play by the same name was written by Stopeck and producer at the Circle Theatre in Forest Park, Illinois.
In 1992, local elections were approaching and Ransom and Golden spoke about running candidates. Ransom, however, was recovering from minor surgery and was not to contribute an effort. Golden called a meeting of those who had been active in CARE and prepared a list of tasks needed to run a viable campaign. He challenged those present to volunteer in working on those tasks, his not wishing to “do all the work myself.”
One of those present was Paul Sengpiehl. Sengpiehl was a charisma-challenged Republican who had lost a bid for Cook County Recorder of Deeds, he entire campaign consisting of handing out emery boards. He had approached Golden and Ransom in 1990 with the promise of providing tax-reform GOP candidates for the CARE Party. Golden and Ransom obtained a pledge from him that his goal was not, and never would be, to seek office locally himself. They had learned that the secret to viability was a continuity in leadership, with the implication that those leaders were not interested in slating themselves.
Sengpiehl was a skill-challenged attorney, and soon after routinely visited Ransom’s law offices at 711 South Blvd. to obtain guidance in legal matters. Ransom was never one to turn a friend down, and aided Sengpiehl repeatedly.
At the 1992 meeting, Sengpiehl, without Ransom present, turned the meeting into chaos to achieve his political goals. Golden resigned.
Sengpiehl then held an slating convention at the Art League building, where Ransom and his wife were long-term members. He packed the convention with parishioners from his First Baptist Church, individuals who had never appeared at a CARE meeting before, and would never appear again. They provided proxy votes naming Sengpiehl as the presidential candidate for the village election from the CARE Party, defeating Sue Helfer who was supported by the CARE regulars, and left the meeting. Sengpiehl had violated his pledge to Ransom and Golden for his own personal gain.
In the spring elections, the CARE Party suffered its worst defeat, getting no one elected. The CARE Party was essentially dead. As a further act of non-righteousness, Sengpiehl would henceforth place on his professional resume, “Candidate for President of the Village of Oak Park.”
In a press interview months later, Ransom was asked if the CARE Party would be slating candidates. His published reply was “we’re resting.” Sengpiehl managed to destroy the most viable opposition party in Oak Park that had existed since the transformation from partisan to non-partisan political parties in 1952. Golden had slated nearly 80 candidates, obtaining the election of eight, including those of the TURF Party (later) against the entrenched VMA.
In 1995 Sengpiehl ran unopposed for committeeman of the Oak Park Republican Party, a group with a 15% voter base compared to the 85% voter base of the local Democratic Party. Golden was named to his executive committee. Again unable to attract and slate Republican candidates, he gladly accepted the candidacy for State Representative from attorney June Edvenson and Golden. Golden, however, advised Sengphiel that he had been selected to be a professor on Semester at Sea and would be absent from September through December traveling the high seas. Sengphiel nonetheless encouraged Golden's candidacy and promised that he would cover for Golden in his absence. Despite this pledge, when Sengphiel was criticized for slating an absentee candidate, a factor noted in a Chicago Tribune endorsement editorial, Sengphiel incredibly stated he had no knowledge that Golden would be absent. So much for righteousness of this Baptist Church zealot, hypocrite, and dissembler.
In 1998 Sengphiel ran again, but was opposed by Steve Meyer, a UPS dock supervisor who had moved from the nearby working class suburbs of Cicero and Berwyn, Illinois. Sengpiehls’ reelection committee consisted of himself, his wife, and Golden, loyal to the incumbent despite Sengpiehls’ destruction of the CARE Party. Meyer, a frustrated athlete, who became a born-again Christian, flooded the election with members of his congregation, the Calvary Church. In an act of retribution, Meyer did to Sengpiehl what Sengpiehl had done to the CARE Party. Sengpiehl became uninvolved in all politics after his defeat.
Golden remains active, slating candidates under other names such as TOPS! (Township Oak Park Party), UTOP (Taxpayers United of Oak Park), The Park People, and Oak Parkers for Sanity in the Parks. Even through the 2000’s, Golden would hold tax reform meetings and, although they would not appear, he would routinely personally invite the veterans of the CARE Party to those meetings as a show of respect and affection.
The River Forest TURF Party
On December 30, 1991, a tax protest meeting was held in the neighboring village of River Forest concerning an increase in property taxes planned by elementary school district 90. Golden, wishing to extend the CARE Party into River Forest to gain strength for Oak Park and River Forest High School, district 200, elections, attended. He hoped to attract a group to ally with the CARE Party.
After school administrators tried to appease angry taxpayers, the meeting was ended. Golden then walked up the microphone, commandeered it, and addressed the eager crowd, to the chagrin of the school administrators. Golden introduced himself and invited those interested in forming a party to slate candidates to meet him in the lobby. Nearly fifteen people signed up. An initial meeting was scheduled at the home of one of the River Forest residents, Ralph Vivian. The TURF Party was born.
Although Golden preferred the name CARE Party of River Forest, to provide a explicit connection to the CARE Party of Oak Park, the River Forest residents on the board preferred to name it Taxpayer United of River Forest, or the TURF Party of River Forest.
Golden was embarking on his own first foray into political office, running for Illinois State Representative. After a number of meetings, and believing that the high level of talent, intelligence, interest, and commitment would, with the guidance he had provided, leave the TURF Party able to go forward successfully. He left the TURF Party, aware of the need for the fledgling group to gain experience on its own. His admonition consisted of telling the committee that continuity of the organization required that the leaders not seek office themselves, which had been the practice of Elich, Greene, Callahan, Golden, and Ransom.
Unfortunately, Steve Robinson and George Doherty, two leaders in the group, did later seek office in River Forest, successfully. The TURF Party soon thereafter became inactive, as had been the basis for Golden’s continuity advice.
Dr. Les Golden of Oak Park, Illinois, has directed successful candidacies for nearly 10 people and has slated dozens, all with a focus on environmental issues. He has also run as a candidate for the park board to bring forward environmental concerns. These include Francis "Bud" Corry, who became president of the park board, Christine Comer, who became president of the park board, Barbara Jepsen (park board), David Ristau (high school board), Steve Robinson (village board), George Doherty (township board), Gary Johnson (library board), Bruce Samuels (library board), and others.
Save the Pedestrian Mall
In 2005, Les Golden organized a movement to save the dozens of trees, hundreds of bushes, and numerous floral gardens on the Marion Street Pedestrian Mall from destruction from the plan to put in a street and destroy the pedestrian mall. One of the political parties adopted his position as its major platform which led to a ban on future streeting of pedestrian areas.
In 2009, following Dr. Golden's advocacy, the Oak Park Park District created a Green Committee and enacted a Tree Preservation Ordinance. Although this was done to deflect criticism of the Park District by the CARE party and their supporters, the effect will have unquantifiable benefits.
Green Building Design
The $50,000 “Trees: Our Natural Infrastructure for the Environment” Challenge
On January 1, 2010 Dr. Golden announced a program to raise $50,000 to inoculate trees against Dutch Elm disease. Elm trees require inoculation every three years to prevent the devastation of this disease, but governments prefer to cut down diseased trees rather than prevent their demise. In his press release, Dr. Golden wrote: “One of the most effective means that the individual can do to prevent global warming is to secure the lives of trees, the natural cooling infrastructure of the Earth. Each moderate size tree has the cooling capacity of dozens of air conditioners. Trees provide habitat for animals, both in their canopy and in their root structure, food, natural mulch, and prevent water run-off. The longest living and largest of all of nature’s creatures, we should devote ourselves to saving trees.”
Ban on Pesticides
Ban Put in Place
In 1991, as the president of the CARE party (Citizens Active for Respect for the Environment), the local environmental group, he slated and led the campaigns of three individuals who won election. On the first day in office in April 1991 they banned pesticides in the parks of Oak Park. For years a group of women in town had been writing letters and giving speeches to ban pesticides, to no avail. Dr. Golden knew the only way to achieve this was to get control of the park board, which he did. The ban remains in effect to this day! Before the ban, dogs had died of ingesting pesticides and kids who had crawled in the grass were developing intestinal problems. Dr. Golden wrote about organizing school kids to pick the weeds instead, which received widespread accolades in the local press.
Weed Picking and Green Committee
Educating Against Volcano Mulching
With the onslaught of Dutch elm disease, the village plants new parkway trees. But the landscapers “volcano mulch” the newly planted trees for appearance sake and this leads to root-bound trees which then die prematurely. Dr. Golden in 2009 led a movement which led to the Boy Scouts in Oak Park being recruited and instructed in proper mulching and their properly mulching all the newly planted parkway trees in the village.
Saving Old Growth Trees
In 2007, Dr. Golden discovered that all the old growth trees in a park in Oak Park were to be destroyed for a ball field. He contacted the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, organized a rally on two days notice, arranged for the Chicago Tribune, Chicago t.v. stations, and the local media to be present, had speakers including the Green Party candidate for governor appear, and in an emergency meeting the Department of Natural Resources forced the local park district to save many of the trees slated for destruction.
Prevention of Deforestation
Another tree-lined park in Oak Park was to be deforested as part of “development.” Dr. Golden organized a movement to save the trees in that park, and they have now been preserved as part of the redesign.
Organization of Neighborhoods
Landscaping and Conservation of Resources
When another park was developed, Dr. Golden lobbied the contractors and the park district to save the dozens of flowering bushes and to make them available for homeowners to plant in their gardens. He obtained the services of landscapers for no charge and those bushes now thrive surrounding numerous homes in the area. This also saves ground water.
Each Fall, the park district resods worn portions of soccer and baseball fields. Les Golden met with park district officials and arranged an annual “Sod Distribution Week” during which the trimmings are made available to homeowners for use in their lawns rather than driven to landfills.
Bird Kill and Road Kill
The new library was built with a façade of glass windows, which led to massive bird kill. Dr. Golden brought this to the attention of the public and the library installed shields that the birds view as an obstruction and the bird kill has ceased.
Believing that the Earth belongs to all its creatures, Dr. Golden writes frequently about animal welfare and is an activist on their behalf. This includes combating dog fighting, incarceration of large mammals in zoos, wildlife advocacy, and animal rehabilitation facilities. 
Toxic Chemical Removal
In the Fall of 2007, Dr. Golden, who has degrees in engineering as well as astronomy, observed children in the park playing with a large bucket of the extremely toxic construction chemical, crystalline silica. Among other indicators, the State of California requires a label stating it is a carcinogen. It had been left by workmen outside a daycare center in the park. After receiving no aide from municipal officials, Dr. Golden took matters into his own hands and at his own health risk removed the bucket, covered it up, and drove it to the local waste management site for proper disposal.
Intergovernmental Cooperation in Environment
Around ten years ago, Dr. Golden suggested that the chipped up mulch from dead parkway trees be used in the parks and school grounds for landscaping rather than driven to landfills, with the waste of gas and associated pollution. He contacted the school district, the park district, and the village and organized them to cooperate to make this their policy.
Water Conservation and Waste Reduction
When the park was installing a splash pad, Dr. Golden argued that a mechanical on-off switch would lead to massive waste of water and persuaded the park district to install an electric eye switch so that water would be used only when kids were in the splash pad area. He estimated this saves 3 million gallons of fresh water every summer season.
Saving Newsletter Waste
Over a period of years, Dr. Golden wrote letters and spoke to the various elected boards in Oak Park about the need to save trees by combining newsletters. As a result of his efforts, the library and the grammar school district combined their newsletters with that of the municipal government.
Political Lawn Sign Recycling
He has consistently lobbied against the use of political lawn signs during election cycles. After the polls are closed, he contacts the schools, churches, and other polling places to gather the yard signs. He also has organized volunteers to walk the neighborhoods to pick up yard signs. He then delivers the yard signs and their metal spines to orphanages, schools, and libraries for use by children for art and architecture projects.
- (2001) Golden, Les, “It’s not easy being green, but here are some ideas”, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, April 11, p. 40
- see, for example,(2006) “Oak Park tax gripes to be discussed”, September 26, http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2006-09-26/news/0609260292_1_property-tax-property-owners-steep-hike; (1987) 200 turn out at CARE tax forum, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, October 7; CARE tax forum adds speakers, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, September 9, 9; http://www.oakparkjournal.com/Stories2002/2003-national-taxpayers-protest-op-sept-25.html
- (2003) Golden, Les “Cut the Taxes” Golden, How to turn the Barrie negative into a positive,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, February 26
- see, for example, (1989) CARE joins school board fray, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest , July 31, page 1; (1989) CARE tries to seek new identity, Oak Leaves, October 11, page 7; (1990) CARE endorsements have defeat the "incumbent" goal, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest , October 31, page 21; (1991) CARE challenges shake up village races, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, February 6, page 1; (1991) CARE: a party in search of an image, Oak Leaves, August 14, page 8; Thomas, Sherry (1995) “Is Runningbear really ‘Cut the Taxes’?”, Oak Leaves (Oak Park, Illinois), August 23, p. 13; Linden, Eric (1995) “New OPRF ‘slate’ reads like a hoax,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, August 9, p. 7
- see, for example, Stopeck, Marc (1991), “Shrubtown,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, July 24, p. 17; Stopeck, Marc (1991), “Shrubtown,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, August 14, p. 22; Stopeck, Marc (1991), “Shrubtown,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, August 21, p. 23; Stopeck, Marc (1991), “Shrubtown,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, August 28, p. 21; Stopeck, Marc (1992), “Shrubtown,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, August 12, p. 24; Stopeck, Marc (1993), “Shrubtown,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, August 11, p. 22
- Linden, Eric (1991), “’Dandelion Dig’ idea blooming,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, May 29, p. 7
- Dwyer, Bill (2007), “Tree Fury at Field,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, July 10, p. 1; http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/07-10-2007/Tree_fury_at_Field
- Noel, Josh (2007), “Oak Park tree-removal plan heads for debate,” Chicago Tribune, July 12, p. 7; http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2007-07-19/news/0707181717_1_trees-park-renovation-plan
- (2004) http://www.oakparkjournal.com/2007/2007-Field-Park-ralley-July-8th-2pm.html
- Kennedy, Bridget (2007),"Field tree removal sparks some controversy," Oak Leaves, July 11
- Golden, Les (2002), “All it would take is a fence to keep critters alive,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, June 12, p. 41
- Golden, Les (2000), “Les ‘Cut the Roadkill’ Golden says, Slow Down!”, Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, April 19, p. 25
- Golden, Leslie M. (2005), “Elephant deaths are a matter of physics,” Chicago Sun-Times, January 28, p. 24
- (2000) “Trailside needs a champion,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest (editorial), November 1, p. 32
- Vincent, Ed (2002), “The Lost Chukar,” http://www.suburbanjournals.com/Stories2002/Lost-Chukar-Returned-Home-2002.html, August 10
- Golden, Les (2000), “Hey, Sylvestri, save our furry and feathered friends,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, October 25, p. 34
- Little, Rebecca and Trainor, Ken (2000) “Silvestri responds to Golden, Trailside,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, November 1, p. 2
- Golden, Les “Let’s Save the Dogs” Golden (2002), “Ask politicians to make dog fighting a felony,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, May 22, p. 32; (2008)
- “Inside Report: Les ‘Cut the coyotes a break’ Golden,” Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest, January 23, p. 5
- “Oak Park Environmentalist Persuades School to Save Taxpayer Dollars, Intergovernmental Cooperation the Key to Recycling Dutch Elm Mulch,” www.oakparkjournal.com/stories2004/2005-les-golden-mulch-nov.html