An open letter to the Lake Theatre and Oak Park business leaders

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Carolina Song

Dear Willis Johnson,

Unlike many of my neighbors — who have understandable concerns about noise, congestion, etc. — I have been a vocal proponent of business development in downtown Oak Park, and of the possible expansion of the Lake Theatre, even if zoning variances would be needed. I have done so because I understand that the greater good of a community may outweigh what is most convenient for an individual. I have always assumed that you, as an Oak Park business owner, shared that same commitment to our community values, and to keeping all aspects of our community strong and attractive to families. After all, the success of the Lake Theatre depends on the continued appeal of our local community to families.

However, after examining the Business and Civic Council statement that you cosigned in opposition to the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 referendum, and the factual misrepresentations within that statement, I regret that I can no longer assume that the BCC has any interest at all in working toward building a stronger Oak Park community [Business leaders urge no vote on referendum, Viewpoints, March 23]. I can no longer assume good faith on your part; going forward, I will have no choice in the future but to act accordingly.

I believe strongly that quality public schools are a bedrock to building a strong community. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I serve as a co-chair of The Committee to Support Oak Park Schools. I have served for several years as either a PTO co-president or PTO Council co-president, and have worked hard to arm myself with the facts regarding quality public education. In writing this letter, I speak solely for myself as a private citizen.

Let me be clear: It is entirely appropriate for you and for the BCC — as a group of bankers, real estate developers and business owners — to weigh in on a tax referendum's possible impact on local businesses. However, it is offensive for the BCC in its statement to make forays into educational policy on a variety of issues (many of which are beyond the control of local school districts and are set at the state and federal level), especially when, in doing so, the BCC willfully misrepresents the positions of educational policymakers like Arne Duncan in order to give your policy advocacy a false veneer of legitimacy. I have no problem with your opposition to tax referendums; I do have a problem with the use of misstatements, whether intentional or not on your part, to bolster your position.

To quote from the BCC statement: "According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the latter (larger class sizes) wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing: He says better-performing educational systems in Japan and Korea have up to 36 students in each class, compared with a U.S. average of 25: 'In fact, teachers in Asia sometimes request larger class sizes because they think a broad distribution of students and skill levels can accelerate learning.'" However, the reference to larger class sizes comes from Arne Duncan's speech "The New Normal," in which Duncan is referring specifically to high school education. In fact, just a few sentences prior to the statement that the BCC misrepresents, Duncan mentions the research that shows that smaller class sizes can boost academic achievement in grades K-3.

Elsewhere in Duncan's speech, he recommends some of the very actions that District 97 is trying to take in asking the community to approve a referendum: maintenance of the arts as part of a complete education, and investment in classroom technology to bolster student achievement.

I hope you will not resort to pleading ignorance of Duncan's publicly available statements. I ask my 11- and my 13-year-old children to perform due diligence before they affix their names to anything, and I think it is reasonable to hold the board of directors of the BCC to the same standard.

Here is the question I am forced to ask: Since you and the BCC have published a statement about something so essential to our community as our children's education that is either careless or duplicitous, why should I have any confidence in the honesty and accuracy in any past or future BCC position?

Carolina Song is an Oak Park resident and co-chair of The Committee to Support Oak Park Schools.

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Posted: April 9th, 2011 5:57 PM

Seems like OP Apts could have thought of the Children of Dist 97 as a charity? The real question will be when and by how much do the rents increase?


Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:18 PM

Here's some recent news about one of those loathsome, anti-social, Oak Park business leaders on Ms. Song's hit list (curiously missed by WJ): For the next six months,, the largest private renter of apartments in Oak Park, will donate $2,025 a month to a local charity.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 4:27 PM

@OP. I agree that the timing of her letter could not signify either "poor winner" or "poor loser," etc. However, re-read my 2:38 post and explain to me the pt/purpose of the end of her 2nd paragraph. Only much later, near the end of the 4th paragraph, does she address "the evidence" that you refer to. The ref is over and many struggling OP businesses and residents are considering their options. Some propose that 45% of the voters, who voted NO, should just move. "Healing" might take a while.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 4:13 PM

The letter was in the Wed edition of the WJ. I keep hearing that she is a sore winner. She wrote the letter NOT knowing the outcome of the ref!! Her point is taken out of context. She speaks to the evidence that the Lake Owner and the Biz group took. No more no less.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:49 PM

The WJ needs to do some reporting on this issue, and investigate whether other leaders of the YES side have now taken an anti-business development approach in order to punish their opponents. An approach which, needless to say, will only end up forcing residents to bear an even greater portion of the tax burden.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:42 PM

C Song: "I ask my 11- and my 13-year-old children to perform due diligence before they affix their names to anything." Apparently Ms. Song is also teaching her children how to be sore winners and to exact vengeance on their enemies. That anyone associated with the YES side would accuse anyone else of distorting the truth is beyond irony. If Ms. Song's goal is to continue to poison the community and to raise a generation who does the same, she's on the right track.

chet21 from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:38 PM

@opie. Here's her quote at the end of the 2nd paragraph: "I can no longer assume good faith on your part; going forward, I will have no choice in the future but to act accordingly." How would you define "act accordingly"? Especially when you link it to the full sentence. Next? Reread her first paragraph and then observe how the second paragraph pivots with its opening word of "However." She's very, very angry.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:15 PM

Also, it seems that people here are saying Ms. Song is saying she will boycott these businesses or not patronize them. Maybe it's just me skimming but I missed that part. From my reading, she is taking them to task for what she believes are misrepresentations. Where does she say to shop in oakbrook? Where does she say diversity of opinion isn't allowed? It seems she says the opposite.


Posted: April 7th, 2011 2:10 PM

Jon, I missed something. What personal attack did I make?


Posted: April 7th, 2011 12:30 PM

It is so sad that in a Village that prides itself on respect for others and diversity - diversity in opinion is not allowed. This will teach those evil business leaders to be concerned about the economic viability of the community! Go on everyone - just shop at Oakbrook and let them all shutter their doors because they have a viewpoint different from yours. What does that teach the children? Revenge.

Jon Donohue  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 9:22 AM

@opie. I see you suffer from the same hypocrisy as Ms. Song. You accuse others of hiding while making "cowardly personal attacks," but you do the same. Hold yourself to the same standards in which you hold others!


Posted: April 7th, 2011 6:17 AM

Clique! too funny. I forgot about you guys and your conspiracy theories.

Easily Amused from Oak Park  

Posted: April 7th, 2011 5:41 AM

@opie: Well, I guess one's opinion of Ms. Song depends on whether or not you're part of her "clique"... the other cheerleaders all think the head cheerleader is great. Those that the head cheerleader harasses and bullies may have a different opinion. Isn't middle school fun?


Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:16 PM

thanks, john, for your vote! Also, Easily amused, I am very amused by your image of Ms Song as a Mean Girl. Which is about as far from reality as you can get.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:14 PM

scharre and scharre alike

Tom Scharre  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 9:07 PM

Song sung blue, everybody knows one...

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:45 PM

I voted Yes after considering voting No. My decision was based on a strong belief that we should always put children first. My hope was that D97 would recognize that many YES votes were contingent on the district accepting the challenge offered -- Improvement, Success, Better Money Management, and Reconciling themselves with the community. Attacking and threatening civic leaders who have made huge contribution to OP and voted with their conscience is a bad start for D97's revival.

Easily Amused from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:43 PM

@opie: I merely laughed at another's comment. And, apparently, the actions of some people simply bring out my inner middle schooler. I won't apologize...and apparently nor will Ms. Song who seems stuck in her own middle school "mean girls" mindset.

Best laugh all day  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:11 PM

Thanks for the laugh interested. Carollina began the referendum with the 52k average for our teachers holding Masters degrees with 13 years experience. It's still out there in the forums. No retraction. There has been a credibility gap ever since.

Due Diligence? Really? from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:10 PM

I think my favorite part of this letter is that Carolina herself misunderstands Arne Duncan's key message. The title of the speech being referred to is: "The New Normal: Doing More with Less" and was part of the American Enterprise Inst.'s panel entitled "Bang for the buck in schooling." It specifically refers to OTHER items for potential reform (like unecessary Masters' degrees for teachers) that D97 is very guilty of! Here's the link:


Posted: April 6th, 2011 3:06 PM

@silliness and easily amused, I see you are hiding behind the "just kidding" excuse to make cowardly personal attacks. Just like my middle-schooler! I guess some people never grow up. Stay classy.

Sillyness from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:44 PM

I think the sight of Carolina watching a movie at North Riverside Mall would be something to behold! Or, perhaps she prefers the Cineplex in Melrose Park with the conveniently located Taco Bell nearby. "Let them eat chalupas!!"

Cake eater  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 2:19 PM

With the threatened flight of our moneyed elite to the apparently more socially conscious proprietorships of our neighboring communities (and with all due respect to our valued local businesses) maybe now it will be possible to shop for something more than perfumed soap and titanium spatulas in downtown OP.

Easily Amused from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:49 PM

@Interesting: Very funny...I laughed out loud! Marie Antoinette, indeed!

not gracious at all  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 1:20 PM

To those of you who voted "YES". You won. But spite and vindictiveness have no place in this victory. Get over yourselves and move on. And those of us who voted "NO" are not anti-school or anti-teacher. We just think there are better ways to move forward rather than just TAX & SPEND

Interesting from Oak Park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 11:35 AM

And the winner of the Marie Antoinette award for 2011 goes to.....Carolina Song of Oak Park, IL!!! Now, for the "Shoot myself in the foot" award, the winner is....oh, what are the odds, it is AGAIN Carolina Song of Oak Park, IL!!! Finally, we have the Ms. Petulant award. The winner is....

oak parker  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 10:42 AM

Thank you, Ms. Song for an excellent, well-reasoned letter.

Jon Donohue  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:38 AM

It is ironic that the author states that she has a "problem with the use of misstatements," but that is what those who supported D97 referendum did. There were misstatements, and some outright lies, being flung around to get people to support the referendum. Sadly, neither side in this debate was completely honest in their arguments. The hypocrisy is humorous when the co-chair questions the integrity of an organization when her organization participated in spreading misstatements as well.

Luke Scottwalker from oak park  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 8:20 AM

Ms. Song, please get over yourself. The referrendum passed, but it was clear that throughout this whole process both sides put out "facts" that were dubious. At the end of the day, we all had honest disagreements about how to move forward, all focused on the best interests of the community. We had an election, and we'll see how it works. Impuning your opponent after the fact is childish. We ALL should now focus on helping OP business succeed. Mr Johnson, I'll be right over to buy a gift card!

Fed Up  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 7:52 AM

Let's boycott all local businesses, then tax revenue goes down and we'll need to raises taxes again - that will teach people to disagree with you. Meaningless grandstanding and threats because someone has a difference of opinion. You won Ms. Song, Oak Park's future is still in limbo.

As Expected... from OP  

Posted: April 6th, 2011 4:55 AM

...the retribution begins. We are all about diversity here in Oak Park....just so long as you don't THINK differently than I do.


Posted: April 6th, 2011 12:20 AM

Carollina, DIDDO!


Posted: April 5th, 2011 11:21 PM

Well Said Carolina.

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