McQueary: Winners and losers in Tuesday’s races
Kristen McQueary email@example.com | (708) 633-5972 April 6, 2011 6:22PM
Orland Park trustee candidate Patricia Gira (center) watches election returns with her grandson Collin, 4, during a campaign party at Papa Joe’s Italian Restaurant in Orland Park on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. | Brett Roseman ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 24, 2011 3:34AM
Dozens of school officials gazed despairingly at computer screens Tuesday night as vote totals expressed, once again, rejection with a capital “R.”
Voters said “no, no, NO” to school board requests for more money — except one Southland school district where voters proclaimed “yes.”
Homewood School District 153 voters easily approved a $7.5 million bond sale. The request passed with 80 percent of the vote, quite possibly Tuesday’s highest school bond approval result statewide.
Clearly, the committee members who worked on the bond’s passage stand among Election Day winners. So what was the secret sauce?
“We run a very transparent district,” school board president Shelly Marks said. “People in Homewood trust what we do in the schools.”
To demonstrate their commitment to cutting costs, the elementary school district of 2,000 students reopened teacher contracts last year and instituted across-the-board pay freezes, from the superintendent to the lunchroom workers.
The referendum committee also followed a fact-based campaign, strategically avoiding the emotional drama that often accompanies a school referendum. They didn’t market the bond sale as a Hail-Mary pass to ensure kids could continue music and sports programs (although those amenities likely would have been cut).
Instead, they reminded voters the district had not sought a tax increase in 19 years. They circulated facts, not hypotheticals, Marks said.
They also raised money for signs and buttons, hosted public forums, knocked on — literally — thousands of doors and organized more than 40 coffees, long before Tuesday’s vote.
The scene was quite different in Lockport, Mokena and Lemont, where school districts wore down voters’ patience with multiple trips to the ballot box in recent years. The result was a commanding slap-down on three separate referendum requests.
Those southwest suburban communities also play host to a more active Tea Party movement than Homewood. The anti-tax sentiment that swept Republicans into power in the U.S. House continues to impact local campaigns, including school boards.
As a result, one of Tuesday’s biggest losers will be Lemont residents and students. A targeted Tea Party fueled-and-funded campaign against the district’s $20 million referendum request doomed its passage.
The community now faces a looming Illinois State Board of Education takeover of its elementary district, due to in-the-red district finances. Lemont-Bromberek District 113A is poised to join East St. Louis and a handful of mostly rural, downstate school districts subjected to state intervention due to potential bankruptcy.
What a sad distinction for such a fine community.
Meanwhile, the Fiscal Voices for Orland trustee slate of Molly McAvoy Flynn, Steve Williams and John Brudnak backed by Cook County Commissioner Elizabeth Doody Gorman (R-Orland Park) lost to a slate backed by Orland Park Mayor Dan McLaughlin.
Say what you will: The election marks a green light for the controversial Metra Triangle Project. Every candidate who railed against it lost.
McLaughlin’s candidates for Consolidated High School District 230 also took top vote totals, making him a clear winner Tuesday.
Gorman was victorious in the Orland Fire Protection District race. Two candidates she supported — Blair Rhode and Chris Evoy — won.
Crestwood voters came out victorious, too, with the addition of two newcomers to the village board. Let’s hope their message of change closes a chapter of seclusion and obstructionism under which Crestwood government has operated for decades.
Finally, one winner emerging from Tuesday’s results so far is Carlos Salgado, a Calumet Township trustee who died in a drowning last summer.
Blue Island voters rejected a park district candidate, Annie West, who attended an illegal pool party that included drinking, cavorting and nudity on public property, during which Salgado mysteriously drowned.
West certainly cannot be blamed for the events that unfolded — she was, in fact, among the first to leave the party that night — but voters rightly felt the need to hold someone accountable.
The write-in campaign of another reformer for the park board, Josh Tate, remains to be tallied. If he wins, state Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) will register across-the-board losses there.
Madigan’s top elections attorney successfully kicked Tate off the ballot in February. So if Tate wins a write-in campaign, that’s quite a feat.