By John Hubbuch
I believe that voting is an existential act. It provides a snapshot of what you believe in and what you value. Looked at this way, I hope you can appreciate that I would never try to tell someone how to vote on the District 97 referenda on April 4. I know nothing of the life’s experiences that shape your world view.
But I can share mine with you.
I have voted for every education referendum in Oak Park since I moved here in 1976. I have done so for a number of reasons.
I served a four-year sentence with no time off for good behavior on the District 97 school board, and I was the high school booster club president for 10 years. I was involved in a number of referendum campaigns. No school goes to referendum unless they absolutely have to. School boards know of the increased tax burden — they live here, too.
But they also know that they were elected to provide the oversight and resources for the education of our village’s children. It is not an easy job. I defer to their judgment.
My three children all had very good experiences at the elementary and high school level. Those schools helped make my boys the fine men they are today. My wish is that today’s children receive a similar education. Let’s be honest — it’s our only hope.
It just seems wrong to support the schools when my kids go to them then get all penurious when they graduate.
As a self-loathing Baby Boomer, I feel bad that our numbers, narcissism, and entitledness are impairing the lives of the generations that will have to clean up the mess we have made. The least I can do is to provide a quality education to our children so that they can figure out how to fix what we broke.
I’m sorry that higher taxes may force some of us to move. I feel your pain. I moved out of a bigger house to a smaller house nine years ago in order to cut my property taxes in half. I was sorry to leave, but I understood that life does not guarantee that you get to live in the nicest house you ever lived in for your entire life.
While economic diversity is a good thing, maybe worrying about the loss of economic diversity is not the worst thing that could happen to a community in a rising housing market.
Voting down referenda to slowly degrade schools in order to save a little money seems like a flawed strategy.
But my strongest reason for voting for these referenda is a practical one. If Oak Park were a flower, it would be an orchid. It is a beautiful but fragile place. Our diversity, public transportation and proximity to the jobs and the buzz of Chicago make it attractive to many. Yet we live near high-crime areas and poor-performing schools.
We are a data-driven society, but the only data that really matters for Oak Park is the crime rate and the test scores. So if we need more cops and/or costly innovative policing strategies, I’m for it. If we need more money to educate an increasing student population, I’m for it.
We now know that elections have consequences.
So do referenda.