Haven't we heard this one before?

Opinion: Columns

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By Amy Williams

The proposed new District 97 administration building debate is heating up, which leads to the question of what exactly a public servant is understood to be, and what responsibility the D97 board has to Oak Park taxpayers. The definition of a "public servant" on Dictionary.com is "a person holding a government office or job by election or appointment; person in public service."

There are a few key points in this — that the person has their job due to an election by the people, and the concept of being in service to the public. The definition of "service" is "an act of helpful activity."

The D97 board seems to be public servants in name only. They don't seem to understand they are supposed to serve the people of Oak Park with helpful activity, not completely ignore them and do whatever they want or be reckless with their financial resources and property.

The news for D97 hasn't been good lately. First, despite the fact that the community vehemently opposed the idea of a new, multi-story administration building in the village hall parking lot in two public forums last fall, and despite the fact that they claim they have "no plan in place to build a new facility," here we are at the start of a 75-day decision-making period to evaluate the proposed construction of the same exact building in the same exact location.

Then we find out that 47 iPads were stolen from D97 headquarters sometime during a time span of over two months during the summer, and, for whatever reason, taxpayers are only learning about this now. This loss should never have even happened. To leave in-demand $300 devices lying around without being secured in any way and then not even realize they had been stolen is baffling and insulting to us, the people who actually paid the $14,523 for them.

And what if the loss is not covered by insurance or what if the insurance rates go up due to this irresponsibility? That's right, Oak Park taxpayers will have to pay for it.

I know a person has to have a thick skin to be in government or public office, and it's not possible to make every Oak Parker happy with every decision, but what happens when people do vote, get involved, go to the board meetings, read the meeting minutes, go to public forums, and generally do everything in their power to make their views heard, and the government still rolls right over them? That's where we are now.

I would've hoped that since the D97 board needs to find a solution for their aging headquarters, they would not think to themselves, "Hmmm, the community really hated the idea of a new office building in the village hall parking lot last fall. I know! Let's propose it again and maybe they will have forgotten about it!"

No, I would hope that the board would reflect on the fact that many people took the time to make their voices heard — and there seems to be no record of anyone in the community thinking it was a good idea. I would hope they would not waste their time and our time reinventing the wheel by proposing the same idea a year later. I would hope that they would learn from the key objections (high cost, risk of increasing taxes, neighborhood traffic/congestion, the current lack of AC in schools, possible use of TIF money, not enhancing the Madison corridor, not being "green," etc.) and come up with a new idea that people could possibly support.

It seems incredibly arrogant and disingenuous to know full well that the community is opposed to a plan for very valid reasons, and still try to ramrod it through, all the while claiming that is not your intention.

D97 board, you seem to forget that you are in public service. If you take the time to read the comments in the online version of Wednesday Journal on the following articles, you may begin to understand why Oak Park taxpayers are so disappointed in you:

http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-12-2013/OP-D97-to-host-joint-meeting-on-new-admin-building

http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-12-2013/A-rush-to-build

http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-12-2013/Say-no-to-a-new-D97-building-behind-village-hall

http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/11-13-2013/D97-iPads-theft-still-under-investigation/#Comment-e0c0b377be74fd30dd37ad7d39b3a4ea

 

Reader Comments

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: December 3rd, 2013 1:05 PM

Come to the meeting at Village Hall on December 14, 8:30 A.M. - this is a combined D97 and Village meeting to discuss this new building. Interesting that they set it for 8:30 in the morning, no? They are betting on our apathy. Let's make them lose that bet. Please attend! D97 does not need a brand new building, they are pursuing this out of pure self-interest.

Amy Williams  

Posted: December 2nd, 2013 12:22 PM

I now have 18 x 24 NO D97 BLDG HERE yard signs if anyone would like one for their front yard - message me at poetgirl67@comcast.net and I can deliver to your home. Cost is $6.66 each if you are able to reimburse. We only have a few days left to spread the word about the 12/14 community forum...

Resident 834  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 7:17 AM

The problem is that the board thinks that the vocal opposition to the new building comes from a minority of the community. I think this displays the board's arrogance, but without a huge mobilization that is unlikely to happen the board will assume that everyone who is not speaking out is a silent supporter.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 27th, 2013 1:55 AM

Thank you for taking the time to write this much needed article. I am in full agreement with you.

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