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Village meetings show candidates in action

The purpose of my letter is to encourage each and every registered voter of Brookfield to attend a village board meeting before election day on April 5.

Village community political parties operate on conservative budgets and don't have large sums to spend to make their platform known to voters. Do you know which parties are running, and the names of candidates who are running? What is each party's position on community issues in Brookfield?

Competing parties in small communities like ours usually make themselves known through yard signs, billboards, party headquarters with slogans in the window and literature delivered door-to-door.

Parties cannot afford to pay for air time on radio and television, and struggle in finding ways to present their position and vision for the future to their constituents.

If you are like me, when I read the literature from competing government parties in my mailbox, I am skeptical, because I don't know who is telling the truth. I find the campaigning frustrating and mysterious, and I make a personal decision to not get involved.

On the flip side, I truly believe that when a community is run by a party which is intentional, open, honest and motivated, changes can be effected that increase the quality of life for its residents.

Between yard signs, campaign material and public forums, I vote that public forums are the truest testament to each party's strengths, weaknesses and position on issues. Public forums allow those in attendance to see the candidates discuss issues face to face.

Once you attend a village board meeting, you are informed and can feel confident about the choice you will make on election day. Your vote can effect change in this community.

Village meetings schedule are available at www.villageofbrookfield.com; click on Village Government, then click on Calendar of Events.

There is one more Brookfield village board meeting before election day, on Monday, March 28, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the village hall, 8820 Brookfield Ave.

Claire Westrick
Brookfield

Keep the progress going by voting for Russ, VIP

Increased fire and police protection, more park land, refurbished existing parks, new streets where it used to be almost undrivable roads, fair and equitable treatment, increased village services, renovated train stations, increased property values, great schools, business areas improved, the list of improvements goes on and on. All under the current VIP administration in the last four years. Keep up the progress, vote for Bill Russ and his slate on Tuesday, April 5.

John M. Gallagher
Brookfield

Stirek the right choice for Riverside-Brookfield High School board

Every now and then you're fortunate enough to meet someone who embodies what it means to be a friend, neighbor, and community leader.

Luann Stirek, who is running for District 208 School Board, is such a person. Her community involvement is too extensive to list, but includes being past president of Riverside Juniors, and co-chair of Neighbors United for Continuing Excellence (the community organization formed to support the last funding referendum for District 96).

Wherever our kids need a mentor she is there, whether it is coaching sports or being a leader at her church. And whatever the issue, you can count on Luann to be fair-minded and considerate of alternative views.

She is a natural leader, and people willingly gravitate to her enthusiasm and good humor?"rare finds in an increasingly polarized world. She is just the ticket for school board member and I would entrust my child's education to her judgment without hesitation. I encourage everyone to vote for her on April 5.

Ben Sells
Riverside

No 'blank check' for District 95

As a District 95 resident and taxpayer, I feel compelled to write regarding the proposed District 95 referendum to be presented on the April 5 ballot. I feel a "No" vote is the appropriate vote at this time, although saying no to funding our children's education is a vote I do not take lightly and have pondered over since the referendum came to light.

As a former school board member and parent of two high school children, formerly District 95 students, I have observed what I would call over the past several years as a "credit card" spending attitude where you buy now and worry about paying the bill later. Well, folks, the bill has arrived and guess who is being asked to pay it?

District 95's past philosophy has been to use borrowed monies in the form of bond issues to finance their budgets along with the minimal state aid that is received. That is the primary reason we haven't seen a tax referendum increase in 15 years.

However, the taxpayers of this district do pay the principal and interest payments through their real estate tax bills. In June 2004, a $3.6 million bond issue was floated and those proceeds are now sitting in the working cash fund balance.

In the fall of 2004, I attended a board 2004-05 budget meeting and, to my shock and dismay, discovered the board ready to approve a budget with a $1 million deficit in the education fund.

We are now being asked to ante up 38 cents per $100 of assessed home valuation or to come up with $350-$400 more in additional taxes per year. In my mind, we are giving the board and superintendent a blank check with no accountability or fiscal prudence as to how or how much is spent.

It is time for the board and superintendent to get a grip and take a more prudent approach in managing District 95's finances. The economy is what it is?"taxpayers' home budgets are feeling the strain of corporate layoffs and minimal salary increases.

Stop the excessive spending and prove to the taxpayers that you are indeed keeping a watchful eye over the district's budget. I urge the board of education to come back to us once you pay down some of the district debt and gain control of excessive spending and present a realistic plan for passing the referendum, and a future plan for how those dollars will be utilized for the good of the district.

I, for one, feel more planning and information is necessary before I hand over a blank check.

Kathleen Howe-Hrach
LaGrange Park

'Home ec' at Hauser benefits kids

I'll admit that I'm surprised to be defending the family and consumer science program at Hauser Junior High School, in light of the battles?"bloody, at times?"I waged with the sewing machines and seam rippers back in my junior high home economics class.

And I won't deny that the products of my early cooking efforts were more interesting than edible. But, more importantly, through struggle, I acquired these practical skills in junior high, and they've proven useful throughout my life. As the parent of two children in District 96, I urge the school board to maintain the core of FCS's curriculum.

Why does the school board president believe that the FCS curriculum is "not what we need to be doing"? ("D96 debates future of `home ec'," NEWS, March 9). Won't our children be eating food and wearing clothes throughout their lives? Should they only know how to order out? When a clothing item needs repair, should they respond by going shopping?

Ms. Berdelle's comment regarding "sewing on buttons and filling muffin cups" does the current FCS program a disservice. At Hauser, my eighth-grader has learned not only the basics of sewing and cooking, but also about meal planning, nutrition, budgeting, small business planning and much more.

With a friend, she produced a (very entertaining) cooking show video that required not only live, hands-on food preparation, but research on a foreign country and its cuisine. FCS has been a unique and valuable complement to Hauser's other excellent curriculums. And there already exist opportunities for students to explore further through the school-sponsored FCCLA club, learning fashion design, interior design, culinary arts, etc.

I support Principal Joel Benton's proposal to make a good FCS program better, through adjusting?"but not gutting?"its core. Expand the FCS curriculum to include apparel and textile design, but first give the children a context, via hands-on experience in how clothing is constructed. Add culinary arts, but first teach basic cooking. Just as in reading and math, the basic skills are the building blocks for higher applications.

It's curious to me that the skills that the industrial technology class teaches are not being called into question in this debate. Despite being "revamped," the core of this class is still band saws, sanding belts, other machines and electrical circuits. Again, this teaches useful life-skills, but arguably not as necessary, day-to-day, as knowing how to feed and clothe oneself.

As long as humans need food, clothing and shelter, there will still be a place for practical knowledge in a child's education. The junior high years are ideal; our children are starting the transition from dependence to independence. This is the time to teach them basic life skills.

Let's position them to succeed as adults, rather than deprive them of practical knowledge?"knowledge they can build upon in unimagined directions?"when they're most receptive to learn it.

Why retain the basics of cooking and sewing in the Hauser FCS curriculum? Because they provide lifetime benefits to the children of District 96.

Susan Locander
Riverside

Keep District 95 excellence by supporting referendum

I am writing this letter in support of the Brookfield-LaGrange Park School District 95 referendum. The public wants good schools and I believe that District 95 schools (Brook Park School and S.E. Gross Middle School) are excellent. The teachers and staff are doing a wonderful job, and I would like to ensure that our children continue to receive a quality education.

However, that expectation can't be met without cost to the community. The fact is that, in Illinois, all of us pay for public education whether we use it or not. Statewide, local property taxes and other local funding account for 62 percent of the revenue collected to educate our children. In District 95, 77 percent is from local sources.

Tax caps were implemented in Cook County in 1994 in an effort to limit the increase in property taxes and ease the burden on citizens. Unfortunately, due to the school's heavy reliance on those funds, the result has also been to consequently limit how much schools can spend to educate their students.

Our district, like most districts in the state, cannot secure enough money in local property taxes through the normal levy process to pay for the increasingly rising expectations we place upon it for a quality education.

It simply is a situation in which the costs of providing education (textbooks, supplies, salaries and benefits, etc.) are rising at a faster rate than the schools can raise the money to pay for them. Referendums have increasingly become the way to fund education in Illinois because the school financing system is broken.

In fact, since 1989 there have been 1,347 referendums on ballots across the state's approximately 900 school districts. Our district hasn't sought an education fund referendum in 20 years. I think that demonstrates a high level of stewardship by the district and shows that, as a previous writer requested, the schools have been doing more with less.

In an effort to raise awareness of the referendum and discuss the issues, the District 95 Referendum Committee is holding a community meeting on Monday, March 21. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the second floor conference room at S.E. Gross Middle School located at 3524 Maple Ave. in Brookfield. I encourage anyone interested to attend. And remember to vote "Yes" on April 5.

Jon Dunker
Brookfield

Brookfield needs open, honest political debate

Here it is election time in Brookfield and, as usual, some people don't know what to think or they're just tired of the mudslinging. It has started already with mysterious, unsigned letters being mailed to senior citizens criticizing a PEP candidate and a flurry of glossy campaign literature making some questionable claims.

Personally, I'm tired of it and, in order to make an informed decision, I propose a simple idea. Let's get back to the basics of choosing the best leadership for Brookfield by demanding all candidates face us the residents in an open and honest debate. By getting answers directly from the candidates, we can eliminate the wild claims and exaggerations we sometimes see in campaign literature.

Another great benefit of open debate is that we can constructively discuss what's right with Brookfield as well as what's wrong with Brookfield without being labeled negative by the VIP Party. Just ignoring problems in our town will not make them go away.

The PEP Party has already agreed to this great idea. The VIP party has refused to face the residents of Brookfield claiming that PEP has nothing new to say. Call Bill Russ, call the VIP party and ask them what are they afraid of? If PEP has nothing new to say, VIP should do well in a debate.

In closing, if you're tired of politics as usual do something about it. Demand this debate and get some straight answers once and for all.

Mark Weber
Brookfield

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