The letter to the editor published April 1 in the Daily Chronicle is here for the moment. What follows is the version I sent to the paper originally.
Cohen Barnes is a sharp cookie, a local success story and a civic Energizer Bunny. We need all three.
However, my aim with this letter is to counter the love fest that is the Cohen Barnes campaign for C.U.S.D. 428 School Board. He’s a bad fit. Here’s why.
–Barnes is more conflicted than any other candidate in this field. He not only has a spouse who works for District 428, but also ownership in companies that do a significant amount of business with District 428 and with the City of DeKalb. There are other highly qualified candidates in this race who do not possess such an array of potential conflicts. Why not elect people with cleaner, more distinct boundaries between their personal, professional and civic lives?
–Barnes was co-chair of the ReNew Our Schools political action committee, the PAC that worked to pass District 428’s construction referendum in 2008. ReNew Our Schools accepted donations from an architectural firm and an investment company that hoped to (and at least in one case, did) participate in the construction of the new elementary and high schools. Although not illegal in Illinois, this type of donation is considered ethically dubious in some circles, including my own. I appreciate that it probably made good business sense but I am looking for a different kind of judgment in government.
–Barnes belonged to District 428’s Facilities Planning Committee during the critical time when FPC was making recommendations on the Cortland Elementary and DeKalb High School construction post-referendum. Despite new evidence presented by the District’s own demographer that enrollments were going to fall as a result of the market crashes, FPC including Barnes voted to recommend that every square foot of the original, pre-referendum DHS plan be built. Subsequent foreclosure rates, plunging EAVs and population loss will ensure this school’s price tag as a millstone around our collective necks for years to come. I will not vote for anyone who thought super-size was still a good idea after the economy turned bad.
Four well-qualified candidates for school board will get my vote in this election. None of them is Cohen Barnes.
For related information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, check the “Dist 428” category at citybarbs.com.
Lynn A. Fazekas