D200 referendum fails by 28 votes

After mulling a possible recount, referendum supporters let go

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

It's now official. According to election results certified by the Cook County Clerk's Office, the Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 school board's plan to borrow up to $25 million to partially fund a $44.4 million facilities plan failed by just 28 votes in the Nov. 8 election. 

Last week, members of the pro-referendum Vote Yes group considered a possible discovery recount. According to a spokesman for the clerk's office, if a losing candidate or ballot measure earns a vote total that amounts to at least 95 percent of the votes earned by the winning side, then the losing side has a right to a discovery recount.

In a statement released Monday, Vote Yes campaign manager Lynn Kamenitsa said that her group would not take that course. According the Clerk's Office spokesman, a discovery recount is only designed to collect information about an election. It doesn't change the election results. 

The failed facilities plan would have entailed the demolition of the village-owned 300-space garage, the construction of an estimated $21.4 million, 25-yard by 40-meter swimming pool, plus a roughly 240-space new parking garage on the site of the old one. The plan would also have included expanding the performing arts and learning spaces at the high school.

District 200 officials have said that the administration will recommend suggestions for restarting community deliberation about an alternative plan at a Dec. 13 special meeting. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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Reader Comments

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Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 10:05 PM

Neal I see your unleashing your inner Mark Twain. Nicely done.

Neal Buer  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 5:06 PM

Serfdom is the status of many taxpayers in Oak Park. It is a condition of debt bondage and indentured servitude, which developed during the Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid-19th century and was recently revived in a village near Chicago, called Oak Park. Wikipedia.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 4:47 PM

Yes I agree Tom. Nice revisit ... particularly in regard to the present tax crisis we are now experiencing. But I disagree with your contention that "... no one did a thing about it." In fact the voters of D200 "did a thing about it." Last spring, they elected a union shill - Mr. Martire - and an officer of the IEA / NEA - Ms. Harris - to the D200 BoE. How's that for a classic example of doubling down on inane, expensive and ludicrous policy?

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: December 9th, 2019 3:09 PM

Nice revisit here. As we know now, they did not do a recount, they simply ignored the result of the entire referendum by creating IMAGINE with gosh, Lynn Kaminitsa as co-chair. How was that even legal to ignore a referendum? The voters of Oak Park were disenfranchised by OPRF and no one did a thing about it.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: December 9th, 2016 1:56 PM

Bridgett: The pool lobby and the school board is very sensitive to this issue: size. Size matters. Does it ever! They think a normal sized competition high school pool is undersized at 25 yards, and therefore the 40 meter super ginormous pool is not oversized but right sized. Of course they "need" their ridiculous absurdly sized giant swimming pool because of their nonsensical antiquated and unnecessary mandatory swimming requirements: all Freshmen and Sophomores must take two semesters of swimming. This despite the fact that the school admits 50% of this cohort know how to swim. This creates their (artificial) need for such an enormous amount of pool water. Well it is time to say NO (again). And it time to demand that the school offers a more rational and cost effective swimming program to its students.

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: December 9th, 2016 1:19 PM

And Jacek, to the other part of your comment, "Also, 'unnecessary' and 'oversized' are not facts either but, simply, opinions."--Not according to the year-long commissioned study, the Stantec Report, which clearly states that high school aquatic programs are supported by one 8-lane, 25-yard pool. It's doesn't take a rocket scientist to then conclude that a 40-meter stretch pool with its 70% more water is "oversized" and "unnecessary".

Bridgett Baron  

Posted: December 9th, 2016 10:40 AM

Jacek, I think it's helpful to complete the thought, "...if the school board and its citizens' group, Vote Yes, had represented it in an honest and straightforward way." After she made this statement, Monica supports it with specific facts. And let me add that the Board used tax-payer money to promote this referendum, which is against state law. The most blatant example is continuing to pay their "communication consultant" to promote this referendum, even after they were called out about it, and were forced to not extend her $20K contract back in August. She turned in another $9K+ worth of invoices, after that point, which the school board approved, bringing her compensation to over $30K. And then, at the November 17 Board meeting right after the referendum failed, the Board voted to change this in their policy://"Contracts in excess of $25,000 shall be approved or authorized by the Board." to this: "Contracts and Purchases in excess of $25,000 in a single fiscal year or multi-year Contracts and Purchases that have a total combined value in excess of $25,000, unless specifically exempted in 105 ILCS 5/10-20.21a, or unless specifically authorized to be approved in another manner in accordance with this policy, shall be approved or authorized by the Board."//In other words, the Board just voted to absolve themselves from having to approve the very kind of contract that the Vote No folks brought to light with this "communications consultant." Now that the Board doesn't have to approve these contracts, such contracts won't appear on the Board meeting agendas, and therefore the public will have no awareness of the money being spent or the possible laws being broken.

Jacek Lazarczyk  

Posted: December 9th, 2016 9:50 AM

I am with Jim; you started it Monica. Your opening statement that "the referendum would likely have failed by a much greater margin..." is not a fact but a pure speculation. Also, "unnecessary" and "oversized" are not facts either but, simply, opinions.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: December 9th, 2016 9:13 AM

The referendum would likely have failed by a much greater margin if the school board and its citizens' group, Vote Yes, had represented it in an honest and straightforward way...ABSOLUTELY! .

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: December 7th, 2016 4:05 PM

Jim, my comment highlighted facts, nothing more. That you felt the need to personally attack me was an odd response. I find it fascinating that you can speak for 17,800+ people.

Nick Polido  

Posted: December 7th, 2016 3:41 PM

If you really want to know how our elected bodies and managers think regarding stewardship of tax payers dollars, I would encourage you to read the article (in this issue) and rationale thought process they use. No More Late Fines at the Library. http://www.oakpark.com/News/Articles/12-5-2016/No-more-late-fines-at-the-library%3F/

Mark Luptak  

Posted: December 7th, 2016 3:30 PM

Jim- I highly doubt 17,800+ people all researched the matter as you suggest. Its impractical. Some may have not understood the issue and could have been fooled by a particular opinion. Some could have been just naive. I'm sure there were many on both sides of the issue.

Jim Peterson  

Posted: December 7th, 2016 1:20 PM

Monica Sheehan - just as gracious in victory as expected. 17,800+ of your fellow citizens voted yes, not because they were uninformed or didn't understand the issue, or were fooled by a dishonest pitch. They read up on the the issue, and made what they thought was the best choice, just like the no voters did. It's really not necessary to demean the intelligence of the yes voters.

Barbara Joan  

Posted: December 7th, 2016 9:17 AM

I want to thank everyone who voted no. By voting no, you acted in the best interests of ALL of the students at OPRF and the community.- AMEN!

Monica Sheehan  

Posted: December 7th, 2016 8:38 AM

The referendum would likely have failed by a much greater margin if the school board and its citizens' group, Vote Yes, had represented it in an honest and straightforward way. They masked it as a "comprehensive facilities" referendum when in fact 84% of the money would have been spent on an unnecessary, oversized pool and its associated building costs. It is incorrect for them and the Wednesday Journal to list the cost of the pool as $21.4 million without adding in the garage and repurposing costs that would have had to have been incurred in its construction. The actual cost of the 40-meter, 25-yard pool would have totaled $37.3 million. With the relatively low readership of both newspapers, many voters may only have had exposure to the referendum by its listing on the ballot, the question's phrasing was intentionally vague, and through mailers and door hangers. In the many circulated by both the school board and Vote Yes, none of them listed the immense size of the pool nor the demolition of the structurally sound parking garage. Instead, they deceptively marketed the referendum as academic in headlining "21st century classrooms". This token and arguably unnecessary $1.6 million line item was added at the last minute and would have consisted of reconfiguring six interior classrooms on the third floor. The premise was that the school would need more classroom space for the reported 10% increase in enrollment by 2021. Yet, the school board failed to publicize that its own assessment shows that classroom utilization is currently only at 70%. There is no actual need for more or more efficient classroom space in the foreseeable future. Please read the opinion letter "The Expert's Pool Solution" in this week's Wednesday Journal for the logical and responsible way forward for the school board on the pool issue. I want to thank everyone who voted no. By voting no, you acted in the best interests of ALL of the students at OPRF and the community.

Michael Nevins  

Posted: December 6th, 2016 9:17 PM

I look forward to working with the "D200 officials.....for restarting community deliberation about an alternative plan at a Dec 13 special meeting." I'll be there on the 13th.

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