For those of you reading who are not from Oak Park, we have a local paper with a decently active comments section. I read but rarely post. Which I suspect is true for many others. It's not a bad little local paper. Could be better--could also be dead like most other small newspapers. So it's easy to forgive. But it's also easy to forget that the negative views expressed there do not represent the entire community. It becomes an echo chamber. (And especially confusing now that multiple viewpoints are being expressed with comments on all of them at the same time.) You'd never guess that while I'm out on my weekly long runs around the village that the yard signs in favor of the high school facilities plan outnumber the opponents about 10-1.
A few people who have lived here longer and know a bit more about "typical" election cycles will tell you that a school tax issue in the general election is terrible because "regular" voters tune out and vote no on any increases. In the spring, the elementary district (D97) will be coming to voters with their own referendum to pay for operation. So while failure of the D200 referendum doesn't mean the end of the need for a pool replacement, it does open up another prolonged, unnecessary round of bickering. Of course, this isn't a normal election year. And Oak Park usually votes extremely liberal in Presidential years...which one would think would transfer over to be people more willing to raise tax money to pay for school infrastructure. I can make the case both directions and we'll see who is correct. There may or may not be a beer riding on the outcome. I know I want to see the referendum pass. I've got my button to wear. I've volunteered to help when I can.
I have lived in Oak Park since 2006. In that 10 years, I can count a long list of things Oak Parkers have opposed: stadium lights, artificial turf, a new school administration building, bike lanes, affordable housing, new development, speed bumps, closing school when it’s too cold, brick pavers, removing pigeons from underneath the L tracks, keeping the Housing Center open. That’s not an exhaustive list, either! No offense to those of you trying to make this a broad airing of grievances, but I’m really hoping voters in November take a much more holistic view of improving our school than your negativity. We’ll see.
First, a word about parking (I am on the village’s transportation commission)…the high school gets parking passes for the streets around the school from the village in a bulk amount. Students are not purchasing all the passes meant for them currently and there are spaces on the street going unused. So let’s be careful in talking about student parking needs/safety since a number of students parking Chicago Ave and north are doing so despite closer passes being available for purchase.
Anyway, there are two Yes voters in our household. Our kids are in elementary school and may never be frequent pool users. But we’re happy to live in a community where holistic approaches to education provide broad access and opportunity for students in many pursuits. We care about what goes on in the band room and on the swim team or the robotics club as well as what happens in history or biology class. If you’ve ever been in the current pools, you get it.
The pools are no longer viable and must be replaced. They’re leaking 3,000 gallons per day while we’ve had a long, long process of community bickering over the final plan. Meetings. Proposed designs. We’re not going to all agree on the best option, but at some point an action is necessary. Voting “Yes” avoids extending this already tedious (but necessary) process any further. It’s a positive step that moves us forward in fixing crumbling infrastructure. While I certainly understand why/how some are frustrated with spending levels, governance, etc., I’m firmly on the side of ending this with construction already. Enough. For our household, the facilities plan will cost an extra $37.29 per year. If you live in the median home value in Oak Park of around $360,000 then it would be $90 for you. That's somewhere between a nice dinner and one family pizza you're being asked to give up for renovating our 100 year old building.