What do public officials believe, but are too afraid to say? The truth is revealed after a trove of hacked emails detailing the inner workings of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration were published. One adviser’s email commented on the current crises facing Chicago neighborhoods: “I actually agree with the idea of reforming these communities. God knows values such as intact families, education, work ethic, religion, etc. are the building blocks of success in all societies. As young people, we think this is old fashioned. As we mature, we see it is not only true but that the alternatives lead to chaos.” 

Oak Park voters overwhelmingly rejected an April referendum to defund the village’s police department — No 68%, Yes 32%. Oak Park residents already pay higher homeowner and vehicle insurance premiums than other suburbs and have an additional burden of maintaining home security systems. Any measure that affects current village policing won’t go unnoticed by the insurance companies. A “holdover” village trustee believes the new board will reject the voters’ “will” and defund the police. The village board could levy fines on criminals to support the police budget while reducing the local tax burden — judging by Wednesday Journal’s weekly police blotter, most citations and arrests were not Oak Park residents. 

Accolades to Oak Park parochial schools who remained open the entire school year. What will be the real cost to Oak Park public school students who were out of the classroom until the last few weeks of this school year? Illinois teacher unions called for a boycott of the federally required in-person standardized assessments after the Biden Administration refused to grant a waiver. What truths are they attempting to trample? 

“School Choice,” a movement that empowers parental choice, is gaining traction while rebuffing the teacher unions’ control of the Illinois public school system. 

Oak Park Elementary School District 97 has hired not one, but two interim superintendents after receiving advice to do so from a lobbyist who represents school boards. Is this a rejection of the remaining district’s principals and teachers? Anyone would make an excellent superintendent, provide continuity, and won’t add to the district’s revolving door. There is no need to look nationally when we have local talent.

A letter will accompany my second real estate installment to the Cook County Treasurer with a request that no portion of the payment be passed on to District 97. A week doesn’t go by that D97 announces new hires — none of which enhance student education. If enough Oak Park taxpayers request the same, perhaps the district will realize they do not have carte blanche and will again make education a focus.

A D97 Golden Apple-winning teacher with roughly two decades of experience was not given a contract for the upcoming school year. Is the environment in the district so toxic that a teacher could not request two days off for international travel so their experience could be shared with students?

Richard Willis is a former Oak Park Township trustee and Community Mental Health Board member.

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