I have lived in Oak Park since October 2001, just after 9/11. I have experienced that we Oak Parkers have a taste for expensive projects. Starting with the “Cap the Ike” project to put a roof over I-290. Another smaller example was the Tasty Dog relocation across the street — only to have it torn down to make way for expensive condos. There was also the $35 million library replacement of a perfectly functioning and expandable library built in the 1960s.

More recently, there was the multimillion-dollar pool proposal in 2016. Eventually a referendum for the pool failed — just barely. Well now the pool is back as part of a larger athletic facility package that is more than twice the price at over $100 million plus financing costs.

Inequitable Decision Process: Thus far this decision process is taking place without the use of a referendum. Firstly, the 2016 referendum serves as a precedent; second there was a non-binding ballot proposal in 2020 that required all capital expenditures over $5 million be put to a referendum — passing by an overwhelming majority. Why then is this $100 million program being “pushed through” without a referendum?

Equity: Is a $100 million sports facilities package going to help educate students? Superintendent Johnson has argued that the pool is, “what equity looks like.” Sure all students need to know how to swim for safety reasons, but this could be accomplished in other less costly, more efficient ways — including through a shared facility at Ridgeland Commons.

Imagine: I believe that a better use of our tax dollars would be to fully assess each student’s needs the summer before they enter the high school and then tailor a program that is necessary for all students, but especially necessary for at-risk students. Rather than over-investing in sports facilities, I would rather invest in our students’ education by providing teaching and tutoring resources, after-school and summer programs, and retooling our counseling program to include psychological counseling for those students with emotional difficulties.

This is what equity looks like.

Jeffrey Sobczynski
Oak Park

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