Vote yes for an elected school board!

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On Tuesday, I put on my fedora and rode my bike to Logan Square—Hipsterville, U.S.A.—to participate in a panel discussion on an elected school board: pro or con?

Actually, I wasn't really wearing a fedora and there didn’t seem to be a con in sight.

If the 150 or so people who showed up at the Logan Square Auditorium had their way, they'd implement an elected school board immediately!

And I can understand why. . .

As it is, the mayor appoints the board's seven members and they're not afraid to let the world know it. In fact, it's hard to find a public body that shows so little interest in what the body public has to say.

The board members are like the two characters in Waiting for Godot. Only the Godot they're waiting for is Mayor Emanuel to tell them what to do on school closings, high-stakes testing, diverting millions to the well-clouted charters, and so on.

The idea is that with an elected school board we might have a few members who actually dare to defy our all-powerful mayor. You know, like in a real democracy.

It was a great panel: CTU president Karen Lewis, UIC professor Pauline Lipman, Ames local school council member Delia Bonilla, and political activist Will Guzzardi.

They had the crowd fired up—thought I was at a revival meeting. One guy in the back got so excited he started talking in tongues.

Then it was my turn to speak.

Man, I really wanted to be optimistic. But . . .

As I pointed out, we already have democracy in this town—at least on the books. And by and large, I've never been very happy with the electoral decisions we make.

In short, most of the independent types I vote for get trounced. And the ones who win so quickly sell out that I might as well not have voted for them in the first place.

After all these years, I've concluded that I am a political freak in this fair city. And that most of my fellow Chicagoans favor a form of tyranny in which the benevolent tyrant crushes the opposition. So long as the opposition being crushed is not them. At which point they call me: "Ben—you gotta write about this!"

In short, an elected school board would be a rubber stamp not unlike our City Council.

Well, as soon as those words came out of my mouth, I had what can only be described as euphoric moment of awakening.

Compared to the school board, the City Council's a bastion of independence!

There were even five aldermen who voted against the last mayor's bright idea to sell the $10 billion parking meter system for $1 billion.

True, 40 aldermen thought it was a good deal. But five's better than none, which most assuredly is what the vote would have been had the matter come before the school board.

In fact, Mayor Rahm doesn't want an elected school board precisely because there's a chance that at least one independent-minded person might get elected. Apparently, one independent mind's just too much for this boss to take.

That's why the mayor blocked the nonbinding referendum from appearing on a citywide ballot—read all about it. But thanks to a signature-gathering effort by a diligent bunch of activists, it's on the ballot in more than 300 precincts in 35 different wards.

And just like that—I talked myself into joining the cause on the grounds that one school board dissident—even a right-wing lunatic—is better than the empty-headed consensus we have now.

OK, maybe not a right-wing lunatic . . .

So, here's my advice, Chicago . . .

When you get your ballot, look at the bottom to see if you're one of the lucky few that gets to vote on this all-important issue.

Then vote yes.

If nothing else, it's good to let Mayor Rahm know that you're alive.

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