D.74 controversy tops news in 2012
Former superintendent Mark Klaisner addresses a small gathering of people during the meeting for Lincoln Hall School referendum. Not only did the referendum fail, but Klaisner resigned amid controversy over financial mismanagement of the district. | File
Top Web headlines
• “Lincolnwood man dies after car hits him jogging”
• “Medical examiner’s report pending in Lincolnwood jogger’s death”
• “District 74 board veep quits after top staff contracts approved”
• “Skokie grant helps Kaufman’s Deli reopen after fire”
• “Interim superintendent chosen for District 74”
- Residents confront officials on spending
- District 74 under crime investigation
- Plaintiffs drop Lincolnwood District 74 lawsuit
- Lincolnwood District 74 referendum loses in landslide
- Lincolnwood gun shop’s expansion bid draws fire
- Village of Lincolnwood holds its fire on shooting range decision
- Lincolnwood trustees set target date to resume gun shop discussion
- Lincolnwood trustees move to deny gun-shop proposal
- Proposal’s withdrawal would allow Lincolnwood gun shop issue to return
- Purple Hotel, adjacent land, to be auctioned May 11
- Purple Hotel site developer fails to show demo permit to Lincolnwood board
- Lincolnwood mayor puts retirement aside, plans to seek third term
Updated: February 25, 2013 2:21AM
LINCOLNWOOD — Lincolnwood’s year in news started with a bang when residents blasted the District 74 School Board for fiscal mismanagement. Voters rejected a referendum to rebuild Lincoln Hall. A longtime gun shop withdrew a petition to expand its business, threatening to leave town. The Purple Hotel was purchased and slated for demolition, and Mayor Jerry Turry announced the end of this 18-year run in village government. Here’s a look at the top stories of the year.
1. Controversy-laden School District 74 regroups
The storm began brewing in January at a standing-room only meeting. Dozens of residents accused District 74 School Board members and administrators of egregious spending and financial mismanagement of taxpayer dollars.
The next six months of 2012 would be nothing short of tumultuous for the embattled elementary school district. Lincolnwood Residents for Responsible Spending, a watchdog group, formed to hold elected officials accountable. Criticism over the administration’s conduct on the Lincoln Hall discussion and probes into board member expenses resulted in shouting matches.
The business office couldn’t keep up with hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by residents. The district’s administrative woes, at one point, prompted Mayor Jerry Turry to speak out publicly.
Ongoing controversies and confrontations led directly to the resignation of two board members, as well as two of the district’s three administrators, former superintendent Mark Klaisner and former assistant superintendent for curriculum Susan Brandt. Kevin Nohelty, the assistant superintendent for business, was later fired. Two lawsuits and a criminal investigation by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office didn’t make matters any better.
Yet, over time, the district began to regroup, reevaluate its policies and practices, and actively repair its relationship with the community. Long-time education administrator Ken Cull took over as interim superintendent in April and put into place a new administrative team. The school board, now led by President Scott Anderson and Vice President/Secretary Darlene Fourkas, worked to reengage community members by involving them in the superintendent search process and reinstating advisory committees. Board meetings today have returned to some level of normalcy but residents, they say, are still watching.
2. Lincoln Hall referendum rejected
Perhaps District 74’s bid to tear down and rebuild its 66-year-old middle school was doomed from the start. The proposal made its way onto the spring ballot after residents lodged a lawsuit against the district for approving an issuance of bonds without taxpayer consent. District administration attempted to make a case to the community for supporting the $25 million project, hosting town hall meetings and giving tours of Lincoln Hall two weeks before Election Day. It was perhaps too little, too late: residents concerned about spending had mobilized and red “vote no” signs had peppered the village since February. On March 20, with all 11 precincts counted, the District 74 referendum lost by a 10-1 margin.
3. Gun shop seeks expansion, withdraws
Renewed discussions over gun control the past few weeks was preceded locally this summer when a longtime family-run firearms business sought to expand its operations. Shore Galleries, Inc., a Lincolnwood staple since 1956, petitioned to relocate to a larger facility and add a 16-lane shooting range to its campus. Since village ordinance prohibits firearms dealers, the maneuver required a special-use permit. Despite a double endorsement from the Village Plan Commission and preliminary support from the Village Board, concerns by the community over safety, noise pollution and the appropriateness of a gun shop in the small suburb had adverse effects. After vetting the matter for several months trustees in September voted to instruct the preparation of a resolution denying the expansion proposal. A week later, Shore Galleries rescinded its request with the owner contemplating leaving Lincolnwood altogether.
4. Purple Hotel, empty since 2007, sold at auction
The dated hotel with a colorful past was on the village’s chopping block this time last year. Years of neglect by the owner coupled with a laundry list of code violations resulted in the village gaining authority to bulldoze the Purple Hotel. Yet, local developer Jake Weiss saw potential and lobbied to keep it standing. Weiss acquired the hotel site notes in December 2011 just as the hotel’s owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In May the hotel and its surrounding 8.5 acres were put to public auction. North Capital Group LLC purchased the property for $8.3 million – well below the $25.8-million price tag previously set by the former owner – and is now working with Weiss to use the old hotel as a centerpiece for commercial expansion.
5. Mayor Turry announces retirement ... then changes his mind
After 18 years with the village, including the past eight as mayor, Jerry Turry decided it was time to hang up his public service boots. In October the 68-year-old Turry announced he would not seek re-election to a third term next year. That changed last week when reversed his decision to run again this spring. The former village trustee experienced a change of heart during the two months since announcing his decision to retire, partly due to numerous requests he received from residents urging him to reconsider his decision.
“Every time I did something for what I thought would be the last time, I’d think about it and it would start to weigh on me,” Turry said. “I thought, ‘I’ll miss doing this.’”