O'Fallon Progress

What crossing guards should teach us: stop and value children

O’Fallon Ward 4 Alderman Herb Roach
O’Fallon Ward 4 Alderman Herb Roach

Dear Editor,

In reading the Mayor’s recent press release, I was interested that he said “I will not let the safety of our children be used for political purposes”. I may disagree with the Mayor on various items, but I would hope we can agree that you shouldnever play politics with our children’s safety, or do anything that may cause harm to our children.

Let’s just go over the facts of what has been done and is available on public record for anyone to see. The Administration’s letter to District 90 last week informed them that the city was “returning crossing guard scheduling and staffing to the district” by eliminating any crossing guards from the city budget for the next school year. There was no mention of any type of funding (like is now being offered). This new offer seems to have been developed only after concerns have been expressed concerning the elimination of the crossing guards by me, other council members and citizens.

I don’t understand why the administration wants to blame the elimination of crossing guards on the city council because we voted for the budget. If I remember correctly, the mayor was not present at the first vote on the budget.

The press release mentioned a study from a year ago but NO ONE told the city council that the administration was going to do anything different with the crossing guards as a result of this study or anything else. Throughout the years other studies have been done that never resulted in a final action being taken.

What the press release failed to mention was:

▪ At no time did the council members receive a document during the budget studies indicating that the administration was going to cut the crossing guards.

▪ The Agenda for the Budget meeting when the Police department budget was discussed at the March 14 th Public Works Committee meeting is on the City web site and mentions nothing about Crossing Guards. There is also no mention in the agenda or minutes of the Finance Committee, which have been approved, during this FY Budget discussions. If they wanted council approval on something so important wouldn’t it be there for discussion and a vote by the council?

▪ The minutes for the budget meeting with the Public Safety Department for the March 14 th meeting is also on the web site. It has been approved by the Public Safety Committee, and again you will find nothing about the crossing guards.

I have spoken with other members of the Public Safety Committee and they,like me, don’t remember receiving any information about the elimination of crossing guards or any discussion concerning that during the budget meetings.

Crossing guards are not a separate line item in the budget. Their pay is lumped in with others. There is no way for council members to know that this item was cut. The Police budget, in total, was up over $400,000.

Even a letter dated June 9 from the Police Department stated under “CONCLUSION” that there were three options. One of those was “remain status quo.” This is two months after the aldermen voted on the budget.

At a city council meeting about a year ago, when the city was developing the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, representatives of the District 90 School Board expressed their concerns about the TIF and the negative financial impact it would have on them. They were told by the mayor that the city provides services such as school crossing guards for the schools. It was not mentioned that this program was being considered for elimination.

The city just recently spent thousands of dollars from the Safe Routes to School grant program for new sidewalks to schools. I’m sure this was not done to discourage children from riding bicycles and/or walking to school.

Some cities that have used these same grants to improve sidewalks to schools have seen a considerable increase in walkers and bicyclists.

According to this latest press release, the administration still wants the school district to take over a program that the city has run for over 25 years. Now the city has changed its original comment of eliminating the crossing guards from the city budget to offering to pay “part” of the cost for the next school year. This is while the school is looking at possible large cuts in State Funding.

Shouldn’t the city administration be able to tell the whole story and not try to spin it? If the city made a mistake, why blame the men and woman of the city council? It is plain to see that they didn’t make this decision. What is wrong with admitting that it was the idea of city administration to eliminate crossing guards from the budget, that it may not have been the best idea at this time and accepting the responsibility of correcting it?

I hope that we within the city will reconsider this decision as I asked for several days ago, find a way to make this program work for the children’s safety and not make it a political item.

Then we can all take credit for doing the right thing.

Ward 4 Alderman

Herb Roach