Saturday, December 22, 2007

We Can't Have it All Right Now

During the past year we have discussed several projects that would be of benefit to the citizens of our community. They are a newly renovated library, retention of our Highland Park Theater, and new facilities for seniors.

Last year we completed the 10+ million dollar construction of a police station of which I still am having problems digesting since I was the only Councilman that had suggested we build or share building a facility at less then half the cost.

That being said, we now have city debt payments of 4 million per year and rising. For the first 10 years I was on the City Council we limited ourselves to a 3 million debt levy, but to reduce the yearly property tax levy while increasing spending on building, maintenance, and operations within the city budget, this City Council has raised the cap of debt service from 3 mil. to 4 mil + increases in inflation.

The current project pushed by staff and endorsed by the City Council is the renovation of the water plant at a cost of 26 million dollars. While this project debt is mostly offset by future increases in water rates to us and outside communities, our community debt levels continue to rise.

Now currently we are getting a push to move immediately on a library renovation at a cost that is projected to exceed 10 million dollars. The problem is that we are currently still paying for debt on past and currently approved projects. The next realistic window for a fiscally responsible debt plan might not be until 2010.

While I support looking into options for the library to move forward within our fiscally responsible debt plan, I will not increase taxes or fees over the inflation rate to accomplish this goal. I would actually like to search more options to reduce our costs and shrink government rather than continue to expand and increase costs. We must live within our means and not jeopardize any further the sustainability of the diverse economic income levels of families within our community. With the high levels of property taxes and fees we are on the brink of losing many citizens if we don't pay attention to their ability to deal with the cost of living in Highland Park. While we can't have everything we might all want, we currently live in a community that is rich in culture, compassion, and is responsive to the citizens needs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Historic Highland Park Theater Must Stay

As a community, we must do what ever it takes to keep the Highland Park Theater standing and operating as an entertainment facility. Originally named the Alcyon Theatre in 1924, the Highland Park Theater is one of noted local architect William D. Mann’s earliest commercial building designs. This facility is an entertainment anchor of our downtown and has possibilities of creating a larger attraction that will bring in customers to our Central Business District. Why is that important? Because the more outside sales tax we produce in our CBD, the less burden we have on our Real Estate Taxes to pay for essential services of our community.
Also, the cultural and historical implications of the loss of the theater would be enormous in my opinion.

I have been pushing the idea for several years to the City Council to save the Highland Park Theater. I had asked Ravinia Festival to step up to the plate and create a downtown presence and program at the Highland Park Theater. Up to now Ravinia Festival has declined. I am however thrilled to share that we now have the consensus from the City Council to move forward in the process of studying ideas and strategies for our cultural arts retention and expansion in our downtown at the Highland Park Theater.

At the owner Fred Allen's request, I met with him over a year ago to implement a strategy to keep the theater operating and open as an entertainment facility. Fred also worked with Apple Tree Theater to see if they could reuse the facility as their home. I applaud Fred for his outreach to the City and not for profit organizations to save this historic theater.

I know myself and the entire Highland Park City Council is encouraged by the possibilities of this Theater and have recently ordered a study of the feasibility of renovation. Please support this effort with your voice, pen, and any other means to make this a reality.

Call me 847-456-6933

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Twice a week Drop Off for Electronics and Fluorescents

Electronics Recycling Program
The City of Highland Park, in partnership with the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, is pleased to announce a new year-round drop-off program for outdated, broken, or unwanted household electronics. The new program will accept electronic equipment beginning on November 6th. The drop-off collection will be open each week on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Firearms Training Center, 1180 Half Day Road. The events are open to household electronics only; no commercial, governmental, or institutional materials will be accepted. Click Here for a list of items accepted at Electronics Recycling Collection Events. In addition, the City will accept fluorescent bulbs during these times as part of a pilot project. Fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes up to 48 inches in length will be accepted.
Visit for a list of additional collection events throughout Lake County. For more information, please contact Bob McCraren, Facilities Manager, at (847) 432-0807.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Library requests expansion

UPDATE>>>We continue having discussions with the library but have asked them to look at an improvement of 5 mil. instead of 10mil. This would basically cover updating aged infrastructure and staff space. The Library board has come to the City Council asking for funding to expand the facility 25,000 sq. ft. The board and a consultant told us we were far behind the times and much needed to be done to meet the proper requirments of a library in our community. We will be looking at our budget to come up with about $75,000 to study space and facility development costs of which a final cost could be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 million dollars.

I look forward to much public participation in this process as we move forward. I think out of all the projects I have been involved in over my past 15 years on the Council, this could be the most rewarding. We will not only be able to provide our residents and our children with a state of the art library facility, but will also be able to demonstrate green technology and planning in this effort.

Please write me with your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Meetings Should be Streamed on Internet

City Council meetings should be accessable on the internet LIVE and archived for anytime viewing. Current technology is being used by many municipalities across the nation that not only streams live meetings on the internet but also archives them in a way where you can choose which item on the agenda you wish to view on video.... Really neat and inclusive to many who can't get current City Council meetings.

Check out our neighboring communities like Glenview and Addison to get a first had glimse at what I am suggesting we offer our residents in Highland Park. Follow the Company link to Granicus to see all the communities that currently use this technology.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

BP should not be allowed to increase pollution

Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported that the State of Indiana has approved an expansion of the BP Whiting Refinery that will significantly increase the amount of pollution the company’s operations discharge into Lake Michigan. Without proper environmental controls, BP’s plan and the precedent it sets, jeopardizes all of the efforts of the last 30 years to protect the Great Lakes and keep our region an unparalleled place to live, work and raise a family.

As your Councilman, I understand that local leaders are on the front lines in addressing issues of concern. Each of us should be advocates for the long-term health of the Lake Michigan.

It is not in anyone’s interest to facilitate expansion at the expense of our region’s greatest natural resource and economic engine—the Great Lakes. We are fortunate to have one of the world’s largest sources of fresh water at our doorstep. Other communities in the United States, Canada and around the world are not so lucky.

We must work together to enhance the Great Lakes, protecting them so that future generations can use and enjoy their clean water. Our lakes are one of our most valuable resources, and we should all urge BP and the State of Indiana to take leadership in its protection, rather than its contamination.

SWALCO Household Chemical Waste Drop Off Program Announced

Just got out of our meeting at SWALCO and am excited to announce a perminent drop off site at the SWALCO headquarters for Household Chemical Waste. Until now these events have only been moble one day events. While we will continue to bring moble events(10) to each area of the County, this perminent site will allow more opportunities for our residents to drop off these dangerous chemicals several times a month in Gurnee. Along with providing more opportunites we will be providing this service at a lower price per event.

SWALCO has now expanded their Household Chemical Waste program to include public drop-off days at the Gurnee facility, 1311 N. Estes Street Gurnee, IL 60031.
Public drop-offs will be on an appointment basis only and take place only on the dates specified.

Hours will be from 8am until 12 noon on those dates.
Click the link below for scheduling an appointment online or Call the SWALCO office at 847-336-9340 for directions and any questions.

Schedule an appointment now

Materials ACCEPTED at HCW Collections:

  • Oil-based Paint

  • Solvents

  • Unwanted Prescriptions, Medicines & Supplements

  • Motor Oil

  • Household Cleaners

  • Household Batteries (alkaline and rechargeable)

  • Antifreeze

  • Garden / Lawn Chemicals

  • Pool Chemicals

  • Asbestos

  • Fluorescent Light Bulbs

  • Old Gasoline

  • Fungicides

  • Insecticides

  • Pesticides

  • Metal Polishes

  • Paint Remover

  • Driveway Sealer

  • Drain Cleaner

  • Aerosol Products

  • Hobby Chemicals

  • Mercury (including thermometers and thermostats)

The following materials are NOT ACCEPTED

at HCW Collections:

  • Business / Institutional Wastes

  • Explosives / Ammunition

  • Fire Extinguishers

  • Lead-acid Batteries

  • Tires

  • Latex Paint

  • Agricultural Chemicals

  • Fireworks

  • Propane Tanks

  • Smoke Detectors

  • Medical Wastes

  • Household Electronics

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Rolling Carts for Recyclables

UPDATE- Results of negotiations for recycling carts would have increased costs over double digits so we simply renewed our existing contract for 3 more years with simple increases for inflation. I will look for opportunities in future to still get the carts.... Stay tuned.

Several months ago when we gave our staff direction for waste hauling negotiation with Violia, we asked if we could get rolling recycling carts that have lids on them. After the first round of talks Violia was willing to give us free carts if we changed our pickup location to the street for recyclables only. Regular garbage would still be picked up behind the home.

At the last meeting the Council directed staff to look for a program from Violia that would furnished free 65 gal carts for recycling that could be rolled to the street for free or still could be picked up at the top of drive for a small monthly fee. We have had many recyclables blow all over town and the wheeled carts have lids that will prevent that from occurring. We have also been told by waste haulers and SWALCO that these bins will increase recyclables. By offering a larger more convenient container we think we can get our recycling citizens to put more recyclables in for pick up.

The funny thing is on my block of St. Johns everybody but me already puts their recycling on the street. You see people are so excited about their recyclables that they can’t wait to display them even though it is picked up for free at the top of their drive…….

We also are structuring the pricing to encourage citizens to buy stickers and pay as you go. Currently about half our citizens use the pure volume based sticker system. Sticker purchasing saves citizens money and gives an incentive to reduce waste because you only will pay for the garbage that gets picked up. So when you go on vacation or use two cans or less per week you save money by buying stickers. Once a week subscription costs more than 2 stickers per week. The fee for a twice a week subscription will cost double the price of once a week.

We will be following a strict VOLUME BASED system so less garbage will always means less costs and more garbage will always mean more costs.

Also please note we are in negotiations with the hauler which might turn into putting this whole thing out to bid. We are also having ongoing discussions within the City Council so we have not made any final decisions.

Call me with any thoughts.... 847-456-6933

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Policy Change on Storm water

We had our first meeting of the Rain Barrel committee last week and it was refreshing to see so many great ideas on how to achieve best practices on dealing with stormwater. Great minds from our environmental and lakefront commisions participated along with Councilman Levenfeld and myself.

Why do we want to just flush the water down the river or into the lake directly when we can hold it back and use it for gardens, lawns, and simply nourish the local ecosystems that serve as our neighborhoods?

I will keep you in touch on our discussions of Rain Gardens, proposed ordinance changes, rain barrels, etc as they occur......

How about a Rain Garden in between City Hall and our Library.


Sidewalk for Safety

While I think having sidewalks on neighborhood streets promote better safety for our residents and especially our young children, I did not side with the rest of my City Council members during a recent discussion on placing a sidewalk on Marion Ave. Now, you might be suprised since I have led many efforts on greenway/sidewalks/trails throughout the city but there was a big difference in this case.

Every member on the City Council besides myself has stated that they want to move forward with installation of a sidewalk on Marion Ave. even though we had surveyed the residents and a great majority are against its installation.

Now, the neighbors are outraged that the Council would move in this direction considering that they were surveyed three times and at all times they were not in favor of a sidewalk.

While I agree with my fellow members on the Council on a need for a sidewalk on Marion, I think we must show RESPECT to our citizens on their judgement. As long as a majority of owners in this neighborhood agree I see no need to go against their position on this issue.

I will not vote to force a sidewalk on Marion against the will of the people.

Monday, April 30, 2007

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, NO FISH!

Volume 11 Number 3 May 2007 Donald R. Dann CONSERVATION ALERT

With due apologies to Dr. Seuss, many species of the world’s fish are in serious decline. Nature magazine reports that populations of swordfish, tuna, sharks and similar large predators have dropped by as much as 90%. Reckless over-fishing and pollution have laid waste to large areas of the planet’s marine life. In the U. S. fifty-four species are classified as over-fished, 45 are experiencing over-fishing and just over half of the nation's stocks remain in an uncertain status. Unless current practices change, by mid-century the journal Science reports commercial harvests of many species could collapse to 10 % of their historical highs.

Grim as the picture is, it is not hopeless and our history of mismanagement can be reversed. Here are ways to remedy this tragic free-fall, both by our institutions and ourselves.

Actions by government and non government organizations:

  • Create marine reserves that are off limits to all forms of human activity other than passive observation or scientific study. These would be similar to land based wildlife refuges.
  • Support Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPS), whereby fishermen participate in a managed system where they each can catch an allotted amount of fish based on a scientifically-determined, fully enforced limit on the total number of fish caught and landed. Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have endorsed the idea and in the Gulf of Mexico’s Red Snapper fishery, fishermen voted in favor of the program by an overwhelming 87%.
  • Establish controls on by-catch — the unintentional killing of fish and other ocean life.
  • Prohibit fishing via huge ocean-floor dredges.
  • Encourage the National Marine Fisheries Service to require a moratorium on commercial take of threatened or endangered species where none exist.

Actions we can take as individuals:

  • Make your seafood choices fish that are abundant, come from well-managed fisheries, or are caught or farmed in environmentally sound ways. These include several species of farmed fish including Arctic Char, Catfish, Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Stone Crab, Striped Bass, and Tilapia to name a few. Wild caught Alaskan Halibut and Salmon are excellent, and line caught Albacore and Skipjack Tuna are also good. For a complete list see
  • Try to avoid trawler caught fish. These ships are so large they can take well over 200 tons of fish from the ocean floor in one sweep. Ask for the many species of fish that are still caught by small nets, line or pot. Seafood markets may soon begin to display signs like ‘line caught’, especially if consumers begin asking.
  • Many species of fish should be shunned, like Chilean Seabass, Atlantic Cod and Salmon, imported King Crab, Orange Roughy, Sharks and Bluefin Tuna. The above link lists these as well.
  • Eat fish lower on the marine food chain, including smaller species such as clams, oysters, mollusks, anchovies, and sardines. Smaller species are less endangered because they are more abundant, reproduce faster, and consume even tinier ocean life themselves.

Please do your part by being a wise fish consumer and advocate the restoration of ocean health a top priority for our political leaders.

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

Friday, April 13, 2007

Push State to Pass Smoking Ban

The State Senate has just passed a law to prohibit smoking in Illinois and now goes to the house for passage. Please call our representative Karen May and give her support in her efforts to pass this bill.
16 other states have passed a smoking ban and it is long past time for Illinois to pass this for the health and welfare of our citizens. This is a life or death situation for all of us that must still endure the second hand smoke at public and private institutions.
Smoking has been proven to be extremely harmful to anyone exposed to the smoke.
Stand up and demonstrate against this continued assault on the health of our communities and aggressively support this bill in Springfield.
Let us also look at our ordinances and see if we need to make them stronger to protect ourselves where loop holes might still exist.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Does this City Council have the will to Save our Trees?

A few weeks Councilman Kirsch suggested we double the price to take down trees in the City of Highland Park. Now some of you would probably think I would jump up and down with excitement on this proposal, but I didn't, and here is why.

First of all I miss David Weber working with me on the tree issue since he was the main force when we wrote the ordinance back in the early 90's. There was a man who not only talked the talk of saving trees but also DID. This administration has been compromising forest after forest of trees and allowing anybody to build over areas where 100 year old oaks once stood. This has not gone ahead without this City Council condoning those actions. Several years ago I tried to sit down with staff and members of the environmental commission to address this problem and was totally stonewalled by staff. At the City Managers prompting, the City Council reacted by making it harder for commissions to form subcommittes without direct council approvals.

What I have to say to my fellow Council folks and the Mayor is you first must be willing to tell people that they can't cut down these forests. We must take a stronger position in protecting these trees. That does not mean that you tell people they can't reasonably build on their lots but you just get tougher. There is not a tree in this city today that can't be negotiated away by our staff and that gets me sick. Councilman Levenfeld was right several years ago when he said, "we don't have a preservation ordinance, we have a replacement ordinance" Just raising the price of replacement trees from 200 to 400 for cutting down these trees will not do the job of saving these forests when your talking about multimillion dollar improvements.

We need to stop the talking about improving tree preservation and change our ordinance and our administrations enforcement of that ordinance. We need to walk the road to REAL tree preservation now.

Mandel Endorses Hirsh, Silberman, and Olian

I am asking you to vote for Steve Hirsh because he will bring a broad and exciting dialog to our City Council that will promote more efficient and open government, keep diversity a reality, and promote actions to help maintain the dominance of our natural landscape over the built environment in our city. Steve’s election is critical in getting us back on track as a cutting edge community promoting fine living in a friendly community to all generations.

I am also asking you to vote for fellow Councilman Larry Silberman and Councilwoman Terri Olian.

Larry Silberman is a wise and thoughtful Councilman that has a balanced approach to the decision making process. I grew up with Larry in Highland Park and worked with him on the Plan Commission where we hammered out our recent master plan.

Terri Olian is our newest Councilmember and shows great enthusiasm for making our community a better place. Her involvement with our youth is unmatched on the City Council and always comes well prepared for our deliberations.

As a four term City Councilman, I believe your vote for Steve Hirsh, Larry Silberman, and Terri Olian will make this City Council better than it is today. Please cast your three votes for Steve, Larry and Terri on April 17th or during early voting March 26 through April 12 at the North Shore Health Center, 1840 Green Bay Road.

Councilman Steve Mandel
2157 St. Johns Ave.
Highland Park, IL 60035

Monday, March 05, 2007

No Towers in Highwood

We need to voice our objection to the towers petition that is currently in front of Highwood. I have always taken the position if folks want to build and live in high rise buildings they should move to a more urban community like Evanston or Chicago. This proposal will further burden Highland Park and Highwood with traffic and congestion. Support our current zoning and residential neighbors. Please sign this petition.
Below is a online petition to object to the towers proposal............

"NO!!! to the Highwood Towers Proposal"hosted on the web at:

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Early voting will be offered to all registered voters in Moraine Township from Monday, March 26 through April 12, 2007 at the North Shore Health Center, 1840 Green Bay Road, Highland Park. Voters will have the opportunity to vote early without giving a reason (i.e. will be absent from Lake County), but are required to present a valid government-issued identification document containing their photograph, name, and address. Hours for early voting are weekdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturdays from 9:00 am to noon. Voters will receive a postcard from the Lake County Clerk listing their Early Voting location. For more information, voters may call the County Clerk’s office at (847) 377-2314 or logon to the Lake County website at

Sunday, February 11, 2007

My View on helping Seniors and the Arts

A few weeks ago there was an article in the HP news quoting me in opposition a brand new city owned senior center and performance arts facility. That is absolutely true because I do not believe it is a priority for our citizens. The best way we can help the seniors is not to raise their taxes by spending the millions of dollars it would cost for yet another city facility. That being said, I will continue to help the arts in Highland Park as I had voted in favor of the help we gave to the Womens club/Community House and the Suburban Arts Center to create the Cultural Arts campus on Sheridan Road.

I do believe the lions share of capital costs and all the operation costs must be the sole burden of the not for profit enities. If there is not private support of these operations to survive, I do not believe it is in the mission of our city government to handle that burden. There is a role for us to help facilitate the welfare of these organizations and am always ready to help in that regard.

Our current Senior Center is a great all year round lakefront place to gather. As our seniors demand more services and programing there is nothing wrong in using the library, Community house, recreations center/HP Country Club, and many other government facilities in our community. I do not want to abandon that great facility on the lakefront for a new costly facility that I do not believe we need.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Article / HP News - Eliminate treasurer position

Highland Park City Council member Steven Mandel is finding it hard to make a sunset work.
Other council members might support his efforts to eliminate the city treasurer position, he said, if taxpayers knew what he was trying to do.
Although he likes appointed City Treasurer Ronald Zweig personally and professionally, Mandel wants to eliminate the position to save the city at least $5,000 a year.
As part of a series of adjustments to the city's advisory commissions, council members are considering changes to the city codes to more accurately reflect the duties of the city treasurer. Always an appointed position filled by a mayor, Mandel believes the changes now being discussed should include elimination of the position with its $5,000 annual salary and medical benefits. Mandel said the existing city finance officer, Elizabeth A. Holub, and the council Finance Committee eliminate the need for a city treasurer.
Mandel's view is not supported by other council members, and as a result he wants city residents to make known their views. He has said he can not carry the issue any further to have the position eliminated without community support. He wants residents to contact council members or himself about their opinion of the need to retain the position as a paid appointed office.
Before the pre-session discussion, Mandel said the treasurer position could end May 1, would save the city $5,000 a year and would eliminate another position from eligibility for participation in city health plans.
He noted that Zweig is a good person.
"He is very competent," said Mandel. "Ron is an asset to our finance committee and the community and should be kept on as an uncompensated member of the Finance Committee like all the other commissioners in our city. I like him."
Mayor Michael D. Belsky said, "This position has existed (historically) and I'm putting it to the best use possible."
A city treasurer, Belsky said, brings financial and investment expertise to the city. It is another set of independent eyes on city finances and the treasurer actively advises the city. He serves as part of the Finance Committee with Belsky, Jim Kirsch, and Larry Silberman.
The city treasurer serves as a voting member of the Fire Department Pension Board and as an ex-officio member of the Police Pension Board, signs transfers authorizing money to be moved among accounts, and also signs bonds. Belsky said that to eliminate the position would be to work against participatory government.
Council members Scott Levenfeld, Terri Olian, Jim Kirsch, and Silberman also expressed support for the position during the pre-session discussions Monday night.
During the discussion, Belsky told Mandel, "I know you're trying to do what is best for the city. We just happen to disagree."

Electronics Collection Program

The City of Highland Park, in partnership with the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, is sponsoring a collection program for outdated, broken, or unwanted household electronics. The next collection event will be held on Saturday, January 20th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Firearms Training Center, 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 items that will be accepted at the event. For more information, contact Brandon Wright, Administrative Intern, at (847) 926-1030.