Rec center campaign gets two co-chairs

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By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

Two volunteers have stepped up to lead the charge in gathering donations for the Parks Foundation's capital campaign to build a community recreation center for the Park District of Oak Park. 

The "Place to Belong" campaign co-chairs are Dr. David A. Ansel, senior vice president for Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and local philanthropist Mary Jo Schuler.

Schuler and her husband recently donated a large parcel of land on which to build the park district's community center. 

Stacey Sheridan

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Reader Comments

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Kevin Peppard  

Posted: February 19th, 2020 9:35 PM

These "gifts" are not broad-based. The money hinted at for the D200 Mega-Pool and the land for the proposed Rec Center all come or will come from the Schuler Family. My $100 would be just pocket change but their tens of millions of dollars have amplified influence. Many times that amount in taxpayer dollars will be needed to have this seed money bear fruit. But it is fruit that we would not have otherwise asked for. It distorts priorities and moves things up beyond where they would be. It redefines the missions of these districts, away from education toward recreation in the one case, and away from providing recreation services that would not otherwise exist towards using taxpayer money to compete with private providers in the other. These Trojan Horses should be sent back outside the gates.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: February 19th, 2020 8:09 PM

@ Greg. As usual your analysis and insights are spot on. OP Real Estate is not doing well - now 5 houses that did not sell in North OP. Purchased home in 2005 and taxes were $11 and now $29. Tried to sell for $125,000 less than PAID recently and no bites (much less offers). What amazes me is OP is approaching terminal velocity (not really) with government spending, declining school performance .... etc.

Gregg Kuenster from River Forest CPA  

Posted: February 19th, 2020 7:25 PM

THE ORIGINAL DEAL WENT SOUTH. The "generous donors" have the ability to write this off at designated value plus costs. Who else is going to buy this land after homes were demolished to "arrange the parcel". No one. Now they want the public to bail out the failed RE deal. BAD IDEA!! OPRF high end real estate is tanking due to property tax. 15 year mortgages are at 2.75 percent. Property values should be strong because mortgage rates are low and the stock market has doubled recently. Unemployment is low. People have jobs the economy is expanding. Homes over $ 400,000 are not selling because property taxes are 4 percent of valuation. $16,000 on $400,000. A million dollar home costs $40,000 in property tax. Property taxes are scheduled to double in the next 7 to 10 years due to underfunded pensions. Who wants to spend $80,000 a year on property tax? If Oak Park could get this Park project built totally for free, the project adds substantially to property tax. Taxed property is made exempt. The Projects annual operation cost would be between 3 and 5 million dollars = $150 to $300 per year per household plus inflation. We have swimming pools on huge plots of land that are used from June 1 to August 15. 80 days a year. One of the pools is down the street from the high-rises on Lake street and next to the OPRF HS. OP parks is currently paying 2 million a year to operate that pool. This is insanity. Madison street does not have public transportation nor parking. BAD IDEA! All of the local taxing bodies need to reduce the number of employees and freeze salaries or our homes will become worthless. The Head Administrators of the HS, the Village , the Parks, etcetera ... get paid more if they manage more. If they get paid more ... they pay the managers below them more. Plus 25% for pensions and healthcare for life. Homeowners and renters pick up the bill. Poor people cannot afford to live here. Oh yeah ... Equity means no poor people .. I forgot.

Tommy McCoy  

Posted: February 19th, 2020 6:24 PM

Maybe I do not recall correctly although I thought this donation of land to build the Park District was going to be more to the East of Oak Park on Madison street and now who knows if it is going to be paid for with tax payer money or just donations from the people who donated the land who are know going after donations

Kitty Conklin  

Posted: February 19th, 2020 5:53 PM

Maybe I hang out with the wrong people, but I have not spoken to 1 person who lives in northeast OP who is going to tackle traffic and visit this center in Southwest OP. It's geographically undesirable.

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: February 19th, 2020 1:02 PM

If these people want to do this project entirely with donations, awesome. But if it turns into the town paying staff salaries, administrative salaries, pensions, lots of free services that are actually taxpayer paid, building maintenance and so on, forever, then all of us are unwillingly becoming the donors to what amounts to someone else's vanity project. And we are being led by the nose into doing a very large capital project without getting to have a referendum vote on whether we want to do that. So thanks, but no thanks.

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