District 97 referendum foes to file appeal after suit dismissed

Opponents plot next step after judge throws out challenge

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

The plaintiffs who saw their lawsuit against District 97's tax hike referendum dismissed in the Cook County courts have decided to appeal that decision.

"First and foremost it is our constitutional right to appeal a judicial decision and we intend to exercise this right," wrote Oak Park resident Noel Kuriakos in a statement released Monday.

Kuriakos was a plaintiff along with Taxpayers United of America in filing the suit April 26. On June 30, a Cook County judge dismissed the suit, which sought to overturn the April 5 election result in Oak Park. Kuriakos and Taxpayers United argued that the district's referendum ballot intentionally misled voters and understated the financial impact of the tax increase. The district and entire elementary school board were named as defendants.

The judge, however, sided with the district, saying it was not done intentionally, and that the district was protected by a so-called "safety clause" in the law concerning potential mistakes on a ballot.

The referendum was approved by voters on April 5 by 55 to 45 percent. Speaking to the Wednesday Journal following the judge's decision to dismiss the suit, D97 school board president Peter Barber said he hoped that an appeal would not be filed, insisting that it would take time away from the district's responsibility to educate students.

Kuriakos has become a vocal critic of D97's board and administration. He has also spoken during public comments at board meetings following the election. After aligning himself with the Illinois-based Taxpayers United of America in filing the lawsuit, Kuriakos started his own local, anti-tax group—Taxpayers United of Oak Park. An Oak Park resident and parent, Kuriakos has argued that the district needs to prioritize its spending before asking voters for more money.

The referendum was approved with a total of 6,067 votes; the no votes totaled 5,084. As a result, the Oak Park elementary school district won a $6 million increase to its overall levy, bringing that to about $48 million for this upcoming school year.

Despite the referendum winning by roughly 10 percentage points, Kuriakos in his statement believes his appeal has broad community support.

"We are encouraged and supported in our appeal by the nearly 4,900 citizens of Oak Park who voted no on the recent property tax referendum," he said. "We would like to remind our detractors that the referendum only passed with the support of less than 12 percent of the citizens of Oak Park. We will continue to engage our diverse citizenry about fiscal responsibility and educational outcomes, and debate in a respectful manner with epistemic vigilance."

Contact:
Email: tdean@wjinc.com

Reader Comments

11 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Bob  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 9:13 PM

@Carol- you insult philosophers, even freshman students who seem to be missing the point, by suggesting that Herr Kuriakos is like one. His absolute refusal to care about the truth, listen to reason, or use argument suggests that he is more sophist than philosopher.

epic lulz   

Posted: July 12th, 2011 9:11 PM

@Carol, LOL at the eagle comment. And I agree - keep up the full press release. Reading Noel is his own words is the best way of getting to know him.

46%  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 5:17 PM

Wow, Mr. Dean seems perpetually math impaired. The election by the numbers he lists was 54% to 46% or an 8% difference, not his exaggerated number of 10%. And didn't District 97 state in the past their legal expenses were covered by insurance? Kudos to Mr. Kuriakos for persisting despite the cheap personal attacks and mockery from members of our community.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 4:56 PM

Hey WJ, why did you take down the full statement? That was an opus that should remain in view so that everyone can appreciate its glory. Leave the photo of NK up as a background, although I think it would be better if you photoshopped an eagle on his shoulder or something.

Wow from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 3:50 PM

Perhaps being stoned may have helped. I just read through the full statement again and, setting aside typos and grammatical errors, it's marginally coherent. From what I've heard, same might be said of the attorney representing the misguided plaintiffs. What an unfortunate ordeal. Nice to know D97 will now be forced to divert even more money for unnecessary legal expenses. Thanks Noel and Christina!

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 12:36 PM

@Wow, yep. I knew several philosophy majors my freshman year in college. They spent a lot of time getting stoned, and then trying to impress people by using words and concepts that they didn't really grasp. Note: I am not suggesting that Noel was stoned when he wrote his statement.

Wow from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 11:31 AM

Also, not sure what audience Noel and Christina/TUA are aiming for, but "deterministic, probabilistic and epistemic" are interesting word choices, particularly when combined with the reference to "bumpkins" in Oak Park. Probably not winning over many new fans (or "adherents" as the case may be).

Wow from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 10:32 AM

The comments about Cook County judges (and Judge Mikva in particular) are way out of line and should prove useful to D97 attorneys if they choose to move for sanctions (including legal fees) against Mr. Kuriakos and TUA. A strong case can be made that this is a frivolous appeal -- the applicable standard being what an objective attorney would do in the face of 2 slam-dunk adverse rulings by 2 different judges in the Wilmette and Oak Park lawsuits. Grab popcorn.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 7:26 AM

...also, you probably want to leave out the arguments above, where you suggest that Mikva is not able to render a fair decision based on her "pedigree." The appellate court won't look favorably on that, at all, unless you have rock solid evidence that her decision was influenced by anything other than the facts and law in front of her.

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: July 12th, 2011 7:22 AM

This is really just bizarre at this point. There's no chance at all that Noel will win an appeal, and he continues to give off the impression that this is all about getting attention. Sad. Noel, try talking to a good trial lawyer, and ask him or her how often a case loses against a motion to dismiss. It's rare, and usually only the bad cases with no grounds are dismissed. At this point your atty is just taking your money. I thought you disapproved of that?

epic lulz  

Posted: July 11th, 2011 8:29 PM

@Noel, you need to give it up. I was against the tax increase, and even in favor of the law suit as a way to put pressure to change the law, but you are going way over board here. You have nothing else to gain but to waste tax payer $ on a meaningless crusade. You have a lot to give this community, but if you keep going down this road you will loss any credibility you may have left. Take your medicine like an adult and let it go.

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