I, John Bokum, candidate for Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 school board, would like to take this opportunity to rebut Wednesday Journal’s endorsement of the three incumbents John Allen, Ralph Lee and Sharon Patchak-Layman. As a group, John, Ralph and Sharon, along with the rest of the current school board, unanimously voted to file a lawsuit suing the Oak Park village for TIF money owed to it and District 97. As of Feb 9, more than $100,000 in legal bills of Oak Park and River Forest taxpayer money has been wasted by the current board on a frivolous lawsuit that could have been settled out of court.

On Jan. 31, Judge Peter Flynn suggested that the three parties hire a mediator and settle their dispute out of court. It is now March 24, and still no word of a settlement. Allen, Lee and Patchak-Layman all profess to be good stewards of taxpayer money. I don’t understand how Wednesday Journal can endorse board members of one tax-supported institution suing another tax-supported institution. Isn’t something wrong with this picture? Is this being fiscally responsible to Oak Park and River Forest taxpayers? And Wednesday Journal says stay the course.

Since May of 2010, the Citizens Council of Oak Park and River Forest has worked tirelessly, holding meetings and coffees, gathering information regarding alcohol and substance abuse. I have attended many of the meetings and brainstormed with numerous concerned residents and parents of both communities. They have dutifully presented their findings to the current board, including Allen, Lee and Patchak-Layman. The citizen council is seeking to have the OPRF campus closed to help students before they fall victim to drugs and alcohol. At the February board meeting, members told the citizen council the board needed more time and information before making a decision. Only one of the three incumbents, John Allen, said he would support closing the OPRF campus. Wednesday Journal advocates that the OPRF campus move to being closed. Isn’t it hypocritical that the Journal would indorse all three incumbents when only one member is in favor of the citizen council’s recommendation?

Dan Haley talks about the importance of being able to listen and learn in last week’s column. He pointed out that John Allen mentioned that he thinks that OPRF can push out its request for the next potential referendum to the year 2023. Back at the October and November monthly board meetings, John Allen and the current board projected they thought they could push the next referendum to 2019 from 2018. Unless John and the current board can make 10 percent interest per year compounded, I have no idea where he can all of a sudden add an additional five years, for a total of 12 years. Even if he wins next week, that would mean he would serve until 2015. Why would someone project out eight years past his last year on the board? And Wednesday Journal says stay the course. I don’t know whose ship the Journal has set sail on. I would get off quick before they all become shipwrecked.

For strong leadership you can count on, vote for John Bokum on April 5.

n John Bokum is an Oak Park resident running for a spot on the District 200 board.

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