What made you stay in Oak Park?

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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"Come for the food, stay for the ..." is the gist of an advertising slogan for a popular national restaurant chain. Many of us came to Oak Park for a variety of reasons, including its location and reputation for welcoming diversity. But why did we stay? As the District 97 referendum draws near, it's time to reflect on the role that our elementary school district plays in making this a community in which we all, regardless of age and child status, want to and will continue to choose to live.

A strong elementary school system is a keystone of the foundational bedrock that attracts young and prospective families to our village. These families bring more than bicycles with training wheels to our neighborhoods; they join our churches, enroll in our park district programs, shop in our stores, eat in our restaurants and vote in our elections. In short, they become the next generation of families and community leaders who will help shape the future of Oak Park for all of us who have chosen to make this village our home.

So what message do we, the current voters of Oak Park, want to send to these new and prospective families — the families that will shape our future? Will we say, "Yes, we will continue to support a school system that offers art, Spanish, music and a vibrant program of extracurricular activities," or will we say, "Sorry, that extra $38 per $1,000 was just too much — you should move somewhere else if you have a kid who likes to draw, sings, plays the clarinet, runs track or dribbles a basketball — we don't offer those programs here in Oak Park!"?

If for no other reason, vote yes in your own financial best interest. Do you think your home value has suffered from the recent "burst of the real estate bubble"? If this referendum fails, the sound you will hear won't be the "burst of a bubble," it will be the sucking sound of the plug pulled out of the drain, the bath water swirling down, and the new value of your home will be the ring of soap scum left around the edge of the tub! Families with options will leave; those shopping for a home and school system in which to settle their families won't even bother with Oak Park — there's always Evanston, Glen Ellyn or Naperville.

You came to Oak Park for the ... you fill in the blank. Now, stay the course for the schools and vote yes on April 5!

David Ripley
Oak Park

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