Month: February 2014

A Conversation with Antonio “Tony” Favela, Candidate for State Representative, 77th District

February 28, 2014 || By Michael Romain

Antonio “Tony” Favela, 31, is running a campaign to unseat the current state representative for the 77th District, Kathleen Willis; he’s a Melrose Park commissioner; while still campaigning, he was completing the last year of law school; and at the time of this interview, he was about a week away from taking the Illinois Bar exams.

Mr. Favela hasn’t slept in months, which makes the uphill climb of taking down an incumbent–albeit a first-termer–all the more steep. However, if there’s a subtle aura of tiredness, exhaustion and even a slight grumpiness (toward his opponent) that contours his presentation, there’s also, ironically, an almost fearless, carefree, abandon woven into his campaign rhetoric. Over the course of this race, that truth serum (combined with the fact that he’s in the race at all) may have put him on a collision path with the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives–by many accounts the most powerful politician in the State and Rep. Willis’s backer–Michael J. Madigan.

The very thought is almost heretical–a young, ambitious, reform-minded Democrat running a race against the biggest Democrat of them all–which is why this particular race is perhaps the closest I’ll get to using the word Biblical in a sentence (as in epic, as in David and Goliath, as in…you get the picture):

Tony Favela Portrait

What got you into this race?

I’ve been involved in the community for a long time. I’ve lived in the district my entire life. I was born and raised here. Just knowing my opponent’s background made me want to give the voters a choice. Our district lacks a true leader and I think I can be a better leader than she’s been.

What about her background made you want to be an alternative for voters?

Here’s a person who was a lifelong Republican. She was an active member of the Addison Township Republican Party. The first time she voted in a democratic primary was for herself. When you trace back all the money, it comes from one source [Speaker Madigan]. Her political beliefs are for sale to the highest bidder. The leadership of the Illinois Democratic Party has dumped an obscene amount of money and invested it in her; they have been holding her hand every step of the way, but their resources can be better spent.

For instance, they could be spending money on Governor Quinn’s reelection, instead of on someone who is really not a true Democrat. She’s a puppet and does what they say. I’m running my own campaign, knocking on doors, everything. And the people who are helping me believe that I’ll make a better candidate than her. Her people don’t even know what she stands for. She goes knocking on people’s doors and says, ‘Hi, I’m Kathleen Willis, vote for me.’

What about your professional and educational background makes you a sound alternative?

I’m a recent graduate of John Marshall Law School. I’ll be taking the bar on February 25th and 26th. I’m a graduate of Fenwick High School and DePaul University. I attended Melrose Park Elementary. I’ve taught at Triton and substituted in District 89. I currently serve on the zoning board in Melrose Park. I was appointed last May by Mayor Serpico and unanimously approved by the board of trustees. I’ve worked for ComEd. I’ve also worked for a startup business right out of college. I’ve spent a lot of time volunteering for organizations and giving back to my community.

Getting back to Rep. Willis. You say that one of the reasons that you’re a better alternative is because you won’t be a tool for the Democratic Party, which implies that Rep. Willis, despite her Republican background, seems to be rather effective in furthering the Democratic Party’s various platforms. Isn’t that what the Party wants? Someone who’ll toe the line and help it pass legislation? Unless, of course, you don’t believe that the legislation it’s passing is particularly beneficial to constituents.

For instance, there was quite an outcry from the public after the General Assembly passed the latest iteration of pension reform, for which Rep. Willis voted. Unions and public sector workers (teachers in particular) felt kind of betrayed and many thought it was consistent with a national trend of states going after public sector unions and their benefits (i.e., Wisconsin).

There are a lot of legislators doing great things. I know a few that are great Democrats. I don’t necessarily think that it’s the Democratic Party as a whole that’s problematic. I think a lot of people who voted for the pension bill voted for it because something had to be done about the pension system. You have to balance the unions’ interests along with the taxpayers’.

So I don’t think you can say that, because the Democratic Party voted for reform, that means that the Party’s automatically anti-union. As far as my opponent goes, I can be seated right next to her talking to you and I can say ‘ditto’ to every response she gives, but there would still be a huge difference between me and her. If a libertarian comes and throws a million dollars at her, she’d be espousing libertarian principles. So the main thing is that I don’t know what she actually believes. The only reason the Party is spending money on her is because they can control her.

Take the gay marriage bill, for instance. According to the Illinois Observer, she had to be given the green light to vote for that. That’s not leadership. What if the Democratic Party would not have been in favor of the gay marriage bill? She wouldn’t have been allowed to vote for it. We need a representative who can stand on her own two feet, make decisions for herself and is not beholden to those whom she counts on for financial support and for help running her campaign.

How can the State stabilize its fiscal situation without doing so on the backs of its poor and working class residents? For instance, there seems to be a lot of focus on austerity measures–cutting public services, cutting public employee benefits, etc.–and yet, barely any talk of raising revenue by raising taxes on corporations, for instance, many of which barely pay any taxes at all. Before jumping to the conclusion that the state has no money, maybe it should first try collecting some of the revenue that it’s owed by the very entities in the best position to be taxed without being unduly harmed.

One of the good things that have come about because of pension reform is that investors have more confidence in Illinois. Unfortunately, however, I don’t think the bill will be proven constitutional in court, so we may have to revisit it.

What we can do right now is streamline services. Illinois has almost 7,000 units of government and a lot of them offer duplicate services and they’re units of government that serve minimal purposes and are relics of the past. We’ve got over 900 school districts and some only have one school in them. We need to take a look at all these units of government and get rid of the ones no longer necessary. Although, some townships in Illinois might still provide something beneficial to taxpayers, others may be redundant. For instance, is a township in Cook County really necessary? We need to at least ask that question.

You’re right about the corporate taxes. Two-thirds of corporations don’t pay any taxes at all other than the property tax, but Madigan just announced that he wanted to give a third of corporations that do pay taxes a tax cut. The argument that high taxes in Illinois are causing people to flee is just not true. The economy has grown in the private business sector by 16 percent in the last five years, according to one report. I wouldn’t be against lowering taxes for businesses, but we do have to make that two-thirds of corporations that don’t pay taxes pay taxes.

I’m also for reforming our personal income tax code. I’m for a progressive tax in Illinois. Studies have shown that if we institute a progressive tax system–where 94 percent of Illinois residents won’t see a tax cut; only the six percent making at least $200,000 a year–the revenue will be in the billions. Right now, the tax rate is at five percent. It’s up from 3.5 percent. It is scheduled to go down, but unless we fix our fiscal situation, we’re going to be back in the hole again.

A number of states have different progressive tax standards. Each state has its own solution. But we can institute a progressive tax system where 94 percent will see a tax decrease. They’re the people who need to benefit. I think it would be okay if Bruce Rauner wasn’t able to afford another commercial. I don’t know anyone who would have a problem with that.

What are some key issues for which your campaign wants to raise awareness and attention?

The most important one is the financial situation of the state. Another issue would be schools. They’re the pillars of communities. The better they are, the more people want to move in. Right now, the 77th district is a working class district and our schools could be better. For instance, I’m a proponent of having schools rely less on property taxes and more on state investment. Right now, Illinois has the fifth largest economy in the nation among states and we’re ranked last in state funding for education. So, the effect of relying so heavily on property taxes is that in some of these communities like Maywood, where foreclosures are rampant, there’s less money for the schools. I was recently endorsed by the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and they really understood that I believe that education is something critical for the state to become better than what it is. We can’t keep cutting and cutting and putting 48 kids in a classroom and expect Illinois to be prosperous.

What are your thoughts on the bipartisan charter school reform movement?

My biggest problem with charter schools is the lack of transparency and the potential for patronage and nepotism and awarding contracts. Take a look at Juan Rangel, the former CEO of UNO Charter schools, for an example. I think we need greater transparency and accountability for charter schools. The other issue I take with them is that, in the City of Chicago, almost half are under-enrolled. And yet, the City is proposing to open thirty more in the next year or so. If we’re going to open any new schools, it should be to serve communities where the schools are overcrowded. In my district, District 89, some schools have 38 kids in a classroom.

The privatization of public education is just one aspect of the privatization the world, really. Everywhere we look, we see functions and services that used to be within the realm of the public (whether we’re talking parking meters, roads, schools, etc.) that are now in the hands of wealthy private investors. What is your perception of this global move to privatize the public sphere? Do you see any potential benefits in it?

I don’t see the benefit to the people of Illinois in privatizing everything. The City of Chicago lost billions of dollars privatizing parking, for instance. Worse, when you start privatizing, you’re going to see prices go up. When you privatize something, the purpose is to maximize profits. And when main goal is profits, profits, profits, people suffer. You have to pay $15-$16 to park somewhere downtown for three hours now. So, I’m against privatizing public services.

But, as you probably well know, the ideology of privatization is rampant, especially in a place like Springfield, where, just like in Washington, powerful private corporations have lobbyists and those lobbyists have lots of money. Money talks. How do step into a place like Springfield and not get eaten up by the “profits over people” and the “pay-to-play” culture so pervasive there?

I think the reason why a lot of that is happening is because private interests donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to campaigns. The other thing is that it’s on the voters as well. We elect the people we elect, and so when people don’t care about voting, then the politicians that do get elected see that people don’t come out to vote. They’ll take that into account when the foreign investors come in and want to donate thousands of dollars to them. That has a lot to do with it. That’s why I think we should have some kind of reform in campaigning and government ethics.

In the majority of legislative districts in Illinois, there’s hardly ever a challenger. These districts are either heavily Democratic or heavily Republican, so no one bothers putting up a fight. But in districts where there is a fight, the party leadership ends up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to win it. That’s what happened to the 77th district. We need an independent commission to draw these districts so they’re not gerrymandered and so that they reflect the population and not the party most likely to win in that district. And we need to have some restraint on how much money parties can dump on a candidate. We should open up the democratic process and maybe that will take care of that pay-to-play stuff.

Maywood isn’t really aware of the 77th District. A lot of people don’t realize that Maywood has two representatives, since the 77th only covers a sliver of Maywood North of Lake Street. However, that sliver encompasses several hundred residents, which is significant. How would you make Maywoodians more aware of the fact that, as a Village, it has two representatives in the State House, not just one?

Most people don’t know what a state legislator does, so the simple answer is to explain what we do. And yes, Maywood has one precinct in the 77th district, but that’s still about 900 people. So one of the things we can do to bring awareness is work with Rep. Chris Welch more. He clearly has the majority of Maywood in his district, but people have to see us working together more because we both represent Maywood.

For example, when the library closed, Chris Welch got everybody together and found a solution. Now imagine if Kathleen Willis was there. It would’ve been twice as effective. But she was nowhere to be seen. I was there. Not campaigning for political reasons, but because I’m concerned about my district. So if people don’t know that there’s a 77th District in Maywood, that’s the representative’s fault. We need to make sure people know that there’s somebody representing them in Springfield.

What are some lessons you’ve learned about the democratic process during the course of this campaign?

I think that one of the things I wasn’t prepared for is how easy it is to knock someone off the ballot. That’s a situation where the rules are meant for the game to be fair, but people use that in their favor. I wasn’t challenged, but you have to make sure that your sheets are clean, because any little mistake will get challenged. They didn’t challenge me, but they terrorized my supporters. I wasn’t expecting that. So in the future, I know that I’ll inform my volunteers on how to get a 100 percent clean signature. Also, you learn a lot of election law. You think you have a grasp on something until the moment when you realize that the way things are is not the way you interpreted them to be.

Any closing statements?

I want the voters to know that i’m a true Democrat. My beliefs haven’t been bought. I can’t be sold to the highest bidder. I’m truly in this because I’m passionate about where I live and I think our district deserves better. I can offer better leadership that’s accountable to voters and not to one person who donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to me. I can stand on my own two feet and effectively represent the people of the 77th district. We deserve better. VFP

Legislative Update: Senator Don Harmon On Concealed Carry, Illinois Poison Center and More

The following legislative update was issued by the office of State Sen. Don Harmon: 

Dear Friends,

The General Assembly is back in Springfield. After a productive year in 2013, we again face major challenges in our state. A difficult budget and Fair Tax Amendment are both major issues we will likely vote on in the coming months. To hear my views on last year and the upcoming session, please click here.

I look forward to another year of representing our communities in Springfield, and please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any questions you may have over the coming months.

Don Harmon
Senator Don Harmon
39th District – Illinois

Concealed Carry Legislation

Last year after a ruling by the 7th Circuit Court, the General Assembly passed a heavily criticized law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public. While I did not support this measure, it is now law in Illinois. After many questions from business owners who want to keep guns out of their stores and restaurants, I proposed Senate Bill 2669.

The legislation would change the law, requiring businesses that wish to allow guns to post signs to avoid confusion. If there is no sign, then guns are not allowed. Read more here, or watch a video on this legislation here.

Illinois Poison Center

After years of federal and state budget cuts, the Illinois Poison Center is in imminent danger of closing its doors unless they can find more funding. The center, which handles nearly 82,000 cases of potential poisoning a year, announced it will close June 30 unless we find a solution.

In our cash-strapped state, this issue has been particularly difficult. However, I am proposing a possible solution. My plan would redirect a small portion of the fee currently charged by cell phone companies to pay for 911 services – 2 cents per user– to pay for poison control services. This money will not come out of 911 funding, but rather the administrative fee charged by cell phone companies. This innovative solution to a serious problem will allow us to continue poison control services, while not raising taxes or slashing other state services. Read more here, or watch a video on my thoughts here.

Charity of the Month

Many of us remember to donate to food pantries during the holidays, but tend to forget about them during the rest of the year. That is why, this month, I would like to highlight Feeding Illinois, a group that coordinates the efforts of food banks throughout the state to provide a food supply for needy families in Illinois. Every year, Feeding Illinois feeds over 1.4 million hungry people, including 605,000 children. To learn more about volunteering or donating to Feeding Illinois, please click here.

District Office

6933 W. North Avenue • Oak Park, Illinois 60304 || 708-848-2002 (Phone) • 708-848-2022 (Fax)

Springfield Office

329 Capitol Building • Springfield, IL 62706 || 217-782-8176 (Phone) • 217-558-5013 (Fax)

Eisenhower Tower Welcomes New Client, Illinois WorkNet Center, As State Unemployment Centers Close Doors to Public

Thursday, February 27, 2014, MAYWOOD || By Michael Romain

Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014

At first glance, Charles Hunt and Lynn Maloley make a rather odd couple, despite sharing an atypical passion for their jobs and a rare workplace buoyancy.

Mr. Hunt grew up in the Henry Horner Projects. At 17, he became a father. A year later, he found himself raising his child alone, just like his mother who raised him. He sold drugs to get by and fell into the wrong influences. Eventually, though, he managed to pull off a 180 degree life change, enrolling in Illinois State University and majoring in applied computer science.

Ms. Maloley is a former special education teacher and adult literacy instructor at Heartland Alliance. Few of the young people who come to her looking for work would guess that she’s from Gary, Indiana. She probably likes it that way.

Together, the duo form the core of the Illinois WorkNet Center’s youth employment program, which is responsible for linking young people, ages 18 to 21, with jobs and the skills necessary to execute them.

“Charles and I bring different perspectives to what we do. We have a really, really high level of retention,” said Ms. Maloley.

“Once we get kids placed in school and work, they keep coming back. We have a big word of mouth game, which is great. The kids like us and respect us, because we don’t treat them as a number.”

Mr. Hunt, who discovered his passion for working with young people while volunteering at the Bloomington Boys and Girls Club during his senior year of college, said that he often sees youth dealing with the same problems he himself faced as a young person.

“We get it all–homelessness, low levels of literacy, scattered work histories, no work histories, drug use, low levels of self-esteem, ex-offenders,” he said.

The WorkNet Center’s director, Deborah Wright, hopes that more Cook County youth and adults alike who need employment make their way to the Center’s new location on the first floor of the Eisenhower Tower at 1701 S. First Avenue in Maywood.

The WorkNet Center, which opened at Eisenhower Tower on January 29th, had previously been located inside of the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) on 19th and St. Charles Rd. in Maywood. Ms. Cronberg said that the difference between the two locations is rather stark.

“It’s so much cleaner here [in the Eisenhower Tower],” she said. “There’s ample parking and bus service [Pace Suburban Bus Service recently added a new route, the 320, with drop-off and pick-up service right in front of the WorkNet Center]. At St. Charles, we couldn’t let people in the front door for weeks, because the sidewalks were under construction. As a result, our customer flow was really for the last couple of months when we were there.”

Mrs. Wright said that when the IDES office closed, many people thought the WorkNet Center had closed with it. However, she’s quick to reinforce the point that WorkNet, unlike IDES, which primarily handles unemployment benefits, is focused on employment.

Another crucial distinction is that unlike IDES, Illinois WorkNet is not a state agency; its funding comes through the Chicago Cook Workforce partnership. The Maywood-based WorkNet Center, which services people from Tinley Park, the north side of Chicago, Oak Park and Forest Park, among other areas, is one of ten such Centers throughout Cook County.

Mrs. Wright believes that the present Maywood location–with its comparatively bright, airy ambience and office feel–will also serve as a physical point of departure between the new and improved WorkNet and its former location inside of IDES on St. Charles.

“We’re trying to be a center of hope,” she said. “You’re not supposed to enter a place and feel downtrodden. People are already down enough when they’re unemployed. They should go to a place where they feel uplifted and treated with respect.”

With the unemployment office at St. Charles virtually closed and WorkNet now located in a space of its own, the tendency to confuse the two should lessen dramatically.

As to precisely where the unemployment office would go now that its St. Charles location is closed, Mrs. Wright said that the future of most unemployment services in Illinois is mostly online or over-the-phone.

“The State is closing pretty much all of the unemployment offices,” she said. “The point is to go exclusively to call centers. For instance, the Lombard center will close to the public within a month, but it will still be open as a call center.”

In an article published in the Daily Herald last month, Greg Rivara, a spokesman with IDES, said that the move to virtual service is simply more cost effective.

“It’s more cost effective and easier to distribute unemployment through the Internet and on the phone,” Rivara said.

However, Rivara also noted that people will still be able to go to physical locations to receive the kinds of skills that the WorkNet Center offers. Young people and adults looking to create resumes or build on existing ones; use computers, telephones, fax machines and photocopiers on job-related activities; receive in-person advice from counselors such as Charles Hunt and Lynn Maloley; participate in workshops designed to enhance interviewing skills, resumes and job search techniques; and engage in other career-enhancing activities can visit the Center

In today’s economy, the ability to find a job or transition from one career to another isn’t just the province of teenagers and young adults. Mrs. Wright said that older adults are a growing demographic among the Center’s clientele.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who thought they were going to retire from their companies, but who still need to work in their 50s and 60s,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing a lot of older workers with great experience, but who are finding it very difficult trying to replicate what they were earning in their previous jobs.

“One of the things we talk about in our workshops is how to address the issue of age and turn it into a positive. We go into those issues in detail. We help them practice, because they’ve got to be comfortable with their responses. Agism is real and we deal with it head-on. We don’t pretend it doesn’t exist, but we look at strategies to get past it.” VFP

For more information on the Illinois WorkNet Center, please visit its website by clicking here, or call (708) 223-2652.

Corrections: The previous version of this article mistakenly referred to Deborah Wright, the Center’s director, as Deborah Cronberg. In addition, the wrong phone number was provided. These mistakes have since been emended.

From the Review: Big Endorsements Change 1st District County Commissioner’s Race

The Forest Park Review is Now Partnering with The Village Free Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 || By Michael Romain 

All five candidates for 1st District Cook County Commissioner primary race faced off Saturday, February 22, 2014, at the Maywood Public Library for the Think Democracy Candidates Forum. The forum was sponsored by The Village Free Press, Forest Park Review, Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO) and other community organizations.

The five candidates were former 29th ward alderman Isaac “Ike” Carothers; attorney Blake Sercye; attorney and lobbyist Richard Boykin; educator and consultant Ronald Lawless, and community activist Brenda Smith. This was the first forum in which Smith has participated.

Many of the same issues, such as the County Land Bank, taxation and the budget, were brought up by all five candidates.

The difference on Saturday was that, with the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle endorsing 27-year-old attorney Blake Sercye, the dynamics of this race have changed. What many may have considered a two-man duel between Carothers and Boykin has turned into a race of three.

Carothers, who carries the baggage of 2010 corruption charges, to which he pleaded guilty in exchange for a 28-month prison term, urged attendees to look at his record of achievements while an alderman in the 29th ward. Among the achievements he touted were a new school and a senior housing complex.

“I’d like to provide the same leadership I provided for the 29th ward,” he said.

Smith heralded her status as the only female on the ballot and stressed that as commissioner, “excellent service” would be her priority.

“I’m Richard Boykin–unbought, unbossed and unafraid,” said Boykin, in what sounded like a rhetorical pivot following the Emanuel-Preckwinkle endorsements.

During a February 18, press conference, Preckwinkle said that she and Mayor Emanuel plan to pull no punches in helping Sercye get elected–even to the point of pledging to commit more than $50,000 each to his campaign. The development seems to have motivated Sercye’s opponents to overplay the underdog card.

“You have a clear choice on March 18,” said Boykin, Congressman Danny K. Davis’s former chief of staff, during his closing statement. “You can go with the machine or the people’s candidate.”

Funds Preckwinkle pledged have yet to fully materialize according to sources inside the Sercye campaign and public records show Boykin has a clear fundraising advantage. Yet that still hasn’t stopped Boykin and Sercye’s other opponents from painting him as the puppet candidate of forces bigger than himself. A Manchurian candidate, of sorts.

During his opening comments, Sercye didn’t directly address the backlash surrounding the endorsements. Instead he talked about his personal story as the son of a single mother who was able to go to Princeton. He framed himself as an honest alternative to his older opponents.

“I can talk until I’m blue in the face about policy, but what matters most is a commissioner who you know is ethical and trustworthy,” said Sercye in what may have been a subtle reference particularly to Carothers’s corruption charges and questions regarding Boykin’s official residency and his acceptance of multiple homestead exemptions.

Lawless was the first candidate to explicitly bring up the endorsements, when he said during his opening comments that endorsements don’t win elections–people do. And people, said Lawless, appear to have had it with Mayor Emanuel, a claim that, if true could turn a major endorsement into a major liability for Sercye.

“I’m the only candidate who has the people’s endorsement,” said Lawless. “You have to be true to yourself… anyone who will close 50 schools in Chicago is not a friend of mine and he’s not a friend of yours … if [Emanuel] got his city right, he wouldn’t have to worry about the county.”

Carothers said he didn’t understand Emanuel’s reasoning for getting involved in a county race, since his jurisdiction is the City of Chicago.

“Why aren’t they [Emanuel and Preckwinkle] endorsing all those other races that are down ballot?” Carothers asked.

Since he landed those major endorsements, it’s been a common complaint lodged by Sercye’s opponents that his campaign is now being bankrolled by interloping heavy-hitters bent on pulling the West Side and the western suburbs into their sphere of influence.

“We have nothing against Mr. Sercye,” said Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church in Austin and a supporter of Boykin at a Boykin campaign press conference held on the same day of the Emanuel-Preckwinkle announcement. “But we do resent when the Mayor sits in his ivory tower and tries to select our leadership. You have too much of this already. The previous mayor [Richard Daley] picked his aldermen and councilmen. Madigan picks his state representatives.”

Coming from Carothers, once one of the most powerful political figures in Chicago, and Boykin, the establishment frontrunner, seemed rather odd, to Lawless. He humorously incorporated it into his closing comments.

“Last week, I was the only people’s candidate,” Lawless said. “Now we have three people’s candidates … Rahm has shifted everybody.” VFP

Full video and more in-depth coverage from this event will be available soon.

From the Review: District 209 Explores Cutting Ties With Township Treasurer

The Forest Park Review is Now Partnering with The Village Free Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 (Updated: Wednesday, February 26, 2014) || By Jean Lotus, Editor, Forest Park Review

The Proviso Township High School District 209 school board gave the nod to Finance Director Todd Drafall to explore ways to sever ties with the township taxing body that cuts checks and handles certain financial details for the district.

The Proviso Township Treasurer’s Office (PTTO) handles tax dollars for 14 different Proviso school districts but has been criticized for being technologically behind, unresponsive and lacking transparency. Drafall has complained that the PTTO does not allow the district to look at their investment account in real-time. The PTTO waits until the end of the month to provide account balances, causing the district to scramble to create accurate financial reports. The office provides documents that must be picked up in person, not sent as a PDF. Drafall has also complained that the PTTO lacks the ability to direct-deposit checks instead of mailing them, potentially saving thousands of dollars.

After the district’s new auditor found a $1.18 million error in the district’s books over two years, problems with the PTTO came to the forefront.

In February, Drafall told the board the PTTO finally agreed to credit the money, but it was credited to a revenue account instead of the account to which it was deposited, causing confusion in the district’s books.

“It was an irregular way of doing things,” Drafall said.

The district’s auditor, Mathieson, Moyski, Celer & Co. complained that PTTO pools funds from all 14 schools in a single ledger. School districts must take the treasurer’s word for how much money they have in each fund. The township treasurer refused to run a separate account ledger for the problematic account, the D209 auditor said.

Withdrawing from a township treasurer’s office has happened before. In 2007, districts 97 and 200 in Oak Park withdrew from the Cicero Township Treasurer’s Office. Berwyn and Cicero school districts then dissolved the office. The action required a voter referendum and help from Oak Park’s state Senator Don Harmon.

Former D209 board president Emmanuel “Chris” Welch, now 7th District state rep., introduced House Bill 4292 in the General Assembly to allow a school board to disconnect from the Trustees of Schools.

Welch said he introduced the legislation because he wanted “[school] boards to take responsibility of the district’s finances, giving them decision-making power to hire a treasurer, maintain up-to-date records, and ensure transparency.” VFP