Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Donnie Dann / Genetically Modified Food, Triumph or Disaster

Donnie R. Dann

Volume 11 Number 1 January 2007


Genetically Modified Food, Triumph or Disaster

For many centuries humans have tinkered with plants to improve taste, variety and productivity. Farmers and scientists have employed grafts, cross-bred species, encouraged drought tolerance, and altered a plant’s environment in a variety of ways. Now, technology has successfully modified a plant’s own DNA, with some remarkable outcomes. Is this good or bad? The reality is that 60 % of U.S. grocery food currently contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients and biotech plants are now grown on about 130 million acres in 13 countries. Examples include some sweet corn, long-lasting tomatoes, and golden rice. In 2001, 3.6 million acres were used for GM crops in the U.S. and more than 60% of all processed foods in the U.S. contain ingredients from GM soybeans, corn, or canola. Whether it’s a bonanza or a problem genetic modification is here to stay.

Advantages of genetically modified (GM) foods

Supplies essential food needs for the increasing world population
Improves the land’s efficiency and yields increase
Uses fewer herbicides and can be more disease, pest, and weed resistant
Provides longer shelf life and is easier to transport.
Some have better flavor, texture and nutritional value
Conventional breeding is slow and less predictable but GM plants can be bred in one generation

Problems with GM foods

Uncertain health risks to humans
Inadvertent harm to wildlife populations
Possible herbicide resistance passed on to weeds
Few long term studies of potential harm, and in some cases inadequate testing prior to their use
Potential for genes from GM plants moving to other organisms

Clearly GM foods and crops have potential for great good. If genes can be successfully manipulated to grow basic crops in marginal conditions in third world countries to effectively “feed the world” it will indeed be a triumph for humanity. However, there is at least a degree of uncertainty that these crops could be detrimental to human as well as environmental health. Living organisms are complex and tampering with their genes could have unintended impacts. We must demand that regulatory authorities require mandatory labeling of GM products, and continue to independently test for safety and environmental impact. Equally important is to require biotech firms to incur liability for any harm these products cause. Let’s reap the benefits but do so very, very carefully.

This Newsletter may be excerpted, reproduced or circulated without limitation.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Affordable townhomes on Hyacinth Lane

Several years ago concerned neighbors from this northerly HP neighborhood approached me and pleaded to get the Lake County Health Clinic out of this neighborhood as was being proposed. I agreed this might not be the right place and worked with Mike Belsky and others to move it downtown. Since this North side property is zoned commercial real estate and could allow many cars and employees I asked the neighbors if they would rather see residential. Most all agreed that would be a far better choice for this area. With that in mind the city entered into an agreement with the County to buy this property and to use funds from our housing fund to subsidize housing for middle class families that otherwise could not afford most of HP. While the normal market value of these homes would be 500+ thought this program we could offer them in the 200k range. This is a great change from the commercial with that could generate much more traffic. I attended meeting with the neighbors and they have raised some valid concerns about traffic and were immediately addressed. Some others talked about the value of their properties devalued and this discussion really rubbed me the wrong way since I do not believe this argument is factual. On the contrary I think these townhomes will support values very well and also support our many residents and working people that are having a hard time staying in our community.

More law revisions. . More teardowns

Again, we have before the City Council another modification that will help builders tear down more homes and replace them with megamansions. The most recent is the tempering of the average setback of homes and giving special bonus bulk for folks asking to encroach past a subdivision setback line. HELP.... please call the other Councilman and tell them that we are going in the wrong direction and need to get back to helping keep our neighborhood character intact. My of my fellow Council folks seem to talk the talk on preservation and retaining modestly priced homes but continue to vote in modifications to our zoning ordinance that does just the opposite...... HELP!!!

FEMA flood rate maps adopted

The Council past the new FEMA flood maps without my support because I have not yet been assured that our flood development restrictions will not be compromised from this action. I had asked for further clarification before passage but a vast majority of the Council did not seem swayed by my argument to wait. We will be talking about this at a future Council meeting but my opinion is that we should not build new developments in any part of the floodplains. We should not lessen our restrictions on floodplain development whether by shrinking the flood zones or by adopting less strict standards.
As we are trying to deal with stormwater management issues it is important to stop any situation that might disturb mother natures ability to naturally deal with flood waters. I look forward to this discussion and will again propose stricter regulations as I have in the past.

Vote Nov. 7th

We have a chance to make a difference in how our country and state proceeds in the future. We should not let this opportunity get past us. PLEASE vote on Nov 7th.

I will be supporting all the Democrats since I believe these individual candidates best represent my opinions on how we should govern.


Friday, July 21, 2006

Household Chemical Waste Collection

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) has scheduled a Household Chemical Waste collection event for Saturday, August 12th, which will allow residents to dispose of chemical wastes such as oil-based paints, used motor oil, paint remover, antifreeze and household batteries. The collection will be held at Wolters Field, 1080 Park Avenue West, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. For more information please call SWALCO at (847) 336-9340, or visit the agency's website.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Senator Garrett helps Citizens deal with Com Ed

State Senator Susan Garrett's office will serve as a liaison between Commonwealth Edison and local residents who have incurred losses because of lengthy power outages.
Anyone who experiences food spoilage because of loss of electricity is entitled to file a claim form with Commonwealth Edison, requesting reimbursement for the loss.
The claim form is available by calling ComEd at 1-800-334-7661 or online at their parent company Exelon’s web site. The easiest way to access the form online is to go to www.exeloncorp.com/ourcompanies/comed/, then enter the search term “claim form.” The first result will be a PDF file of the claim form. There is also a link to the form on Senator Garrett’s web site (www.garrett98.com).
Anyone who is unable to obtain the form online is welcome to contact Senator Garrett’s office at (847) 433-2002 to request a copy.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Electronics Collection Program

The City of Highland Park will hold a collection event for outdated, broken or unwanted household electronics on Saturday, August 19th from 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. at the Police Firearms Training Facility, 1180 Half Day Road. The event will be open to household electronics only; no commercial, governmental or institutional materials will be accepted. Click here for a list of accepted electronics. For more information, contact Brandon Wright at (847) 926-1030.

Apple Tree Moves to the Karger Center

Apple Tree Theater is moving to the Karger Center and has signed a two year lease with the City of Highland Park. While we had slated the Karger for demolition after the construction of the new recreation center and the county health clinic, Mayor Michael D. Belsky has led this effort to keep Apple Tree vital and in Highland Park.

I wish Apple Tree all the success and hope the Karger use will allow them time to make long range plans for their future.

Apple Tree was rented the space for basically the cost of maintenance and was given 25 employee permits for parking. Last night I did ask staff if there was adequate parking in the area and was told yes but first come, first served.

Highland Park High School LED Sign on Vine

HPHS PTO has proposed a Illuminated LED Sign on Vine Ave. The proposal is for the sign to be 7 feet off the ground so you can read the bright amber LED sign on Vine in both directions. Every Councilmember except yours truly supported this signs height and illumination.

While I am all about compromise and am willing to give a little to get some, I do not think this type of sign has any place in Highland Park and especially in a residential neighborhood. Now if the High School has one, will the elementary schools be next? Next will be our other governmental bodies and the religious institutions. Then we can start allowing them in our commerical districts.......... If these signs are good for our KIDS, it can be good for the Community, and might also generate more sales tax dollars. How much commercialization of our community and information jamming (good taste or not) can we endure?

I think these signs are ugly, non-compatible with the historic image we try to embrace, and an intrusion into the quiet lifestyle we try to promote especially in our residential neighborhoods.

All that being said this sign request was sent back to Design Review for another look at approval with a note that the Council did not object to height or the illuminated sign as proposed. The wisdom of our Design Review commission was to deny the request 4-2. Now if this will pass at the DRC or upon denial at the Council, I would hope it would be at least turned off shortly after dusk and when the schools are not in session.

While this individual sign does not show the worst case scenario, I hope this is not the spark that causes a city wide use of these signs.

Report on Lakefront Street Access

Several Council meetings ago I had asked staff to look into the paper streets we have that dead end at the Lakefront. The City Council concurred and staff has submitted a report showing the 27,800 sq. ft. of PUBLIC LAND that can be used for Lake Michigan viewing and access. A copy of the report is available at community development and is called "Lakefront Right of Way Inventory and Analysis". (847-432-0800)

The Prospect Ave. lakefront piece is currently encumbered by a possible lease agreement that in any case will last no longer than 2010. Corporation Council is looking at the lease document to see if access and public use can happen sooner. This encumbering on Prospect Ave. by a private property owner caused this larger discussion to occur. This event has opened the eyes of many to the possibilities of a much larger community sharing of these wonderful community assets.

Please keep informed on our ongoing lakefront planning discussions and view the ongoings on the Park District at : www.pdhp.org/index.cfm/fa/about.planning/planning_meeting_info.cfm .

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Council Sends Another Request for Larger Home to ZBA

On past City Council's I have sat on we had never sent variance requests for new homes to be built bigger than the law allows to the Zoning Board of Appeals. In the past several years this Council has sent many of these requests to the ZBA for determination. Most if not all the time the ZBA has voted these requests down. Unbelievably the Council on several occasion has reversed that ruling allowing builders to over build in our neighborhoods. This current request on 1301 Linden Ave. For a over build variance hearing was not supported by Larry Silberman, Terri Olian, and myself........... I know residents deeply care about these oversized homes going up and should voice their concern to the City Council.

City Takes over Legacy Club Sewers

Last year we took over the private streets of the Legacy Club. At the last meeting we voted 6 to 1 to take over the sewers. These two actions will save the owners of these past private streets the cost of maintenance of these assets. The burden is now added to our city budget along with the many miles of infrastructure we are trying to upgrade. I voted against this proposal because I thought it was wrong take over this infrastructure without a plan to present to the public on taking over all the private infrastructure in our community. If the Legacy Club owners now do not have to pay for maintenance should not the Hybernia residents get the same consideration? How about the Highland Park Club residents? I believe this had been a political bone for these residents without a universal policy on the matter of taking over private streets. Simply put the squeaky wheel got the grease one more time at the taxpayers expense.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Warning sirens activated in Highland Park

When will the system be tested?
Pursuant to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, the system will be tested on the first Tuesday of every month at 10:00 a.m. The test will be a full sounding of the sirens for a period of 1 to 1½ minutes.

How many different siren sounds might be heard, and what do they mean?
There are two siren sounds, as designated by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines:

Alert Warning – steady-pitch (once at full volume) for 3-5 minutes (tested in odd-numbered months) Activated in the event of a tornado, or funnel cloud.

Attack Warning – wavering high-low tone for 3-5 minutes (tested in even-numbered months)

The first recommended action is to take cover along with your emergency kit. You can tune to radio stations AM670, AM720, AM780, AM1220, or FM102.3 to obtain information on the emergency. You can also tune to Cable TV Channel 10. Also, if an activation is necessary and the reason is not clear (such as during nice weather) an emergency hotline will be set-up at 1-847-926-1033 with a message explaining the activation.

DO NOT CALL 9-1-1 when the sirens sound unless there is a true emergency. To obtain information, please use one of the other sources discussed.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lakefront Summit is a success

The Lakefront Summit was well worth the time. It was great to hear our residents voice support for this process promoted by our Park District. Many residents voiced their support for improvements and preservation of our shoreline. There were many great speakers that educated us on many activities, regulatory agencies, and visions of the future. If you missed it, look on the Park District website for information on the Summit and the continuing process.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"On The Table" is back online

I know it has been a while since I sent out a newsletter and had promised the big switch over to a blog. Well... here we are and I am ready to take the heat again. Hope you enjoy this reading and when I get more up to speed on the ways to connect to this blog for automatic sendings I will convey that information to you. For those of you that can connect this to your email I believe it does transmit in xml format.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Enjoy Lake Michigan

I have asked staff to inventory our city streets that dead end on the lake. We might be able to provide pedestrian views in several neighborhoods and maybe a park bench to enjoy this beautiful resource.

New Stormwater Fee on your water bill

We recently passed our 2006-7 budget that included a 0% increase in our real estate taxes. WOW!... How did they do that! This accomplishment was not done however without increasing non discretionary fees to replace a minimal tax increase. To pay for increased costs of payroll and benefits for employees we created a new fee for stormwater and increased a few other fees.

With the eggshell game in full swing all residents will see this new stormwater fee on their water bills but it won't be deductible on their income taxes and will not be based on value of your real estate. While I did vote for the balanced budget, I objected to this exchange as a regular practice and suggested we might have been better served with a minimal tax increase instead.