If the way the Village of Oak Park has been “negotiating” with District 200 is well-represented by Village Manager Tom Barwin’s March 3 editorial, then it’s no wonder that the district has sued. [School trying to ‘extort’ OP taxpayers, Viewpoints, March 3] It’s clear that the District 200 board members are taking their fiduciary responsibilities seriously – building a fund balance that will provide stability now and over the decade ahead, and insisting that contracts be honored.
But rather than address the contractual issues, Barwin relies on hyperbole (“outrageous, brazen and disconnected-from-reality”), overstatement (“$3.3 million or some astronomical number”) and rhetorical body-slamming (“stomping its feet up and down and hiring lawyers to further bloat its cash mountain”). And his argument about the village needing the money more than the district is sophomoric at best: If your household has managed its affairs responsibly and your neighbors are in foreclosure, does that obligate you to make their mortgage payments? Rather than relying on ad hominem attacks and poisoning the well, Barwin should address the actual crux of the issue: What does the village owe the district based on the existing contracts? And what kind of guaranteed payment schedule can the village work out with the district?
Perhaps District 200 should not have filed suit against the village, but at least now the conflict has been brought into the spotlight. But Barwin, a village employee, should spend more time trying to lead a process of investigation, negotiation and conflict resolution, and less time throwing a public snit.