Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Local Voting

Yesterday, I voted in local elections. Most of the races were pretty uneventful. The mayor of Markham, my hometown, ran unopposed. However, I guess that makes sense because he's done a very good job so far. The one thing I noticed about local elections versus state and national elections is that I didn't really know half the people I was voting for. I did not take the time to even attempt to research the candidates. There were some races where I knew who I was voting for. I knew I was voting for Frank Zuccarelli for Township Supervisor (aka President) because I like that programs such as General Assistance (which is through the township) exist. However, when it came to positions like board trustees and the like, I just voted almost randomly. I mean, the only parties that ran candidates were the Democrats and the Freedom Party whose slogan was..."Independent Democrats For Thornton Township." What kind of motto is that?

The most important thing I voted on, though, were two referendums. Both of them were about tax increases.

The first one was a vote to raise the library tax to pay for a library expansion. Markham's library sorely needs work. It's small and somewhat outdated. I remember when Grande Prarie Library (the library of suburbs Hazel Crest and Country Club Hills) had to put barcodes on our Markham Library cards so we could use them there. At that time, Markham's library had not yet updated to that system. It would be nice for our library to be up-to-date.

The second one was again about District 205 High Schools. With federal and state school grants getting smaller and a large deficit to deal with, the district has put a referendum on the ballot asking for an increase in taxes to pay for the schools. Just before the current school year went into effect, the district had to cut (or consolidate) many extracurricular activities at the three schools to cut the school's deficit. The schools also went to a block scheduling format in an effort to save money. Unfortunately, for the third straight time, voters rejected a plan to increase taxes to help the schools.

This saddens me immensely. My sister and I both went to Thornwood High School, one of the three schools in District 205. When I went, there were a lot of extracurricular activities available at the school. There was a very nice honors/gifted program (including a yearly districtwide conference for gifted students) and there was a nice amount of class choice. For example, during my senior year, I had the choice of taking either AP English, English 4 Honors, or World Humanities as my fourth-year English requirement. Considering that most of the students at all three schools were low-income, we had nice facilities and good programs. Sadly, with the referendum failing again, what little is left will probably have to be cut more.

I swear that the whole tenuous relationship between public schools and residents annoys me to no end. This is especially true when some of the numbers come in. Get this...people in Harvey, a economically depressed suburb near Markham that is part of the school district, voted for the tax increase. What killed the referendum was that people in South Holland, a suburb that is not economically depressed and part of the school district, voted against it. Each of these suburbs has one of the three high schools (Harvey has Thornton Township H.S. while South Holland has Thornwood H.S.) but only one voted for an increase in taxes to support the district.

Why do some people feel no responsibility to help their public schools? Why the hell isn't public school money taken from income taxes as opposed to property taxes? It just sickens me sometimes how individualistic some people can be. Education is extremely important to making something of yourself in the world and some people would rather save a few bucks than help others get at least the opportunity to be somebody. And people who have more often times would rather horde it than ever help anyone else out.

I will admit that the District 205 schools were never on the caliber of Homewood-Flossmor (a school that President Clinton once visited). But it's rather sad that the people who need a good education the most are now less likely to get it. I voted for the tax increase as did both of my parents. We also voted for the new library referendum (which did pass). As much as we sometimes complain about some taxes, we would gladly rather pay a few extra dollars to help our schools or to help our library become better than let them rot.

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