There was a teapot tempest when The Wednesday Journal published a photo of District 97’s referendum victory celebration that suggested that Board members may have been drinking alcohol. Dan Haley’s column this week remembers that back in 1989 —the last time District 97 passed a referendum–there was a similiar celebration and controversy involving alcohol consumption by Board members.                           

Like Mary Surratt, I can now confirm that that 1989 celebration was at my house. I confess that there was the consumption of alcohol, and speaking for myself only, I was one very drunk District 97 Board member.                                                                                    

Now those of you who would criticize such behavior should remember that of all the many reasons to get drunk, celebration is one of the very best. Sports teams routinely celebrate championships with champagne. If you ever attended a wedding reception you will notice that many of the guests drink–some even to excess. Why even heads of state knock back a few  toasts at state dinners.                                                         

Now I don’t know how the current Board felt about the passage of this month’s referendum, but I clearly remember how this 1989 Board member  felt. Just a year earlier a referendum had failed , so this was our second shot. I was terrified that we would fail again, and that failure would be the beginning of the end for Oak Park. Schools decline. Property values plummet. Oak Park would become Austin West. And it all would have begun on my watch.  

So getting drunk that night was  in part celebration, but it was a more a sense of profound relief than anything else. So I for one do not begrudge the current Board having a glass ,or even  6 glasses of wine on the night a referendum passes.   How about this: District 97 Board members can  comsume liquor in public every 23 years when a referendum passes? Seems reasonable to me.


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John Hubbuch

John is an Indiana native who moved to Oak Park in 1976. He served on the District 97 school board, coached youth sports and, more recently, retired from the law. That left him time to become a Wednesday...

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