Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Fort Sheridan "Deal" included a Golf Course

When the City of Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Forest, the Lake County Forest Preserve, and the Army signed onto the plan for the redevelopment of Fort Sheridan one of the principle objectives was the continuation and maintenance of the 18 hole golf course. When residents bought their properties they were told that not only it would be a golf course community, but that the LCFPD would be upgrading the course in the near future. Residents were promised this improvement again during several development referendums where Fort Sheridan and nearby residents voted overwhelmingly in support of the LCFPD.

Over the past several years the LCFPD property has been torn up, in litigation over a huge dirt pile, and a subject of controversy among forest preserve commissioners about the disposition of the property..... Now the litigation is settled and the dirt pile is currently being remediated. It would be nice if the LCFPD would give a signal that they are willing to carry out their past promises and obligation to the Fort Sheridan residents and all the partners that signed onto the agreement including the Army that deeded this huge lakefront property at NO COST.

The Forest Preserve has done a great job in ravine remediation and beach access for the residents. Now is the time to get moving on the golf course reconstruction as promised. While some commissioners are concerned with the economics of the golf course and a possible loss of revenue, they need to understand that the consideration for the land is still due the Army and partners that made the deal at Fort Sheridan. That consideration is the continuation and maintenance of the golf course. Also, additional promises were made during the past referendums that development money would be used for improvements and upgrading of the old golf course.

A DEAL IS A DEAL and the LCFPD should initiate a process with the residents to rebuild the golf course that it promised to maintain and improve. It is simple and clear that the LCFPD has this obligation and should support us by providing this improvement as residents have supported the district over many years without a lot to show for it.

Retaining our Open Landscape is Sustainable

We must work with private and government interests to retain the undeveloped areas of our community. To further encumber our environment and natural ecosystems with additional sprawl development will further condemn us and our children's future. We must plan for our future and carry out sustainable discussions we had portrayed in the Master Plan of the late 1990's.

Recently, we heard the uprising of our citizens in the western neighborhoods complain about over development, traffic congestion, flooding issues, and overall concern of further deterioration of our environment. I fully agree that we need to move on this issue.

Preservation of our open spaces depend on legislation action by our City Council to enact what we have already articulated in our City Master Plan. A collaboration with the school districts, park district, and our private country clubs will move forward zoning changes that will give us more certainty of retaining a great majority of these open spaces.

It is also incumbent of our citizenry to fully participate in these hearings and discussion to cause the implementation of these zoning changes. We can't be satisfied with just complaining about new development proposals as they are put forward under existing laws using a NIMBY approach. We must have a holistic approach that is community wide and fair to all parties. We must also allow the time for all interests involved to testify on this matter so we can determine the best zoning amendments to facilitate open space retention. The public needs to get involved in this matter to communicate with the City Council how important these sustainable issue are to the future of this community.

Clean water, clean air, survival of native species, flooding issues, public safety, sustainable economics of our government operations are all tied into our future development planning of our community. These issues are important and deserve your voice. Please comment......

Friday, September 26, 2008

Web Access at City Hall

We have new technologies available to citizens on the web that I want to share with everyone.

First of all I am most excited of or Web Streaming of City Council and Plan Commission meetings. Not only can you see them live but you can also go back and check out past meetings that have been archived. You will also be able to jump to an agenda item rather than listening to the whole meeting if you click on that highlighted part of the agenda.

You can also use the online option on the Vehicle City Sticker page where you can order your sticker online using a credit card. You can also update and renew information.

We also have Online utility payment services where you can pay water bills.

If your interested in GIS look at our mapping services.

These are just a few of the technical innovations that we have accomplished over the past several years to make access to our government more available. Please browse through our city web site at to understand all the initiatives that have come online. Also, there is information that you might be interested in pertaining to community matters.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mayor Who??

Nothing was wrong with your television or computer screens on Monday..... I had the honor and privilege of sitting in for our Mayor Michael Belsky (who is also the Steve Mandel Committee Campaign Chairman) on September 22nd.

WOW! it was really neat and a great opportunity given to me by our Mayor Mike. If you want to see the once in 16 year event go to our City Web site at or specifically to and click on the video for the Sept. 22 council meeting.

It was great to be able to sit in the big seat and work with the fine Council folks to my left and right. Sure is a different prospective from the center isle. Proclamations, green initiative stuff, and those bill and payrolls were all taken care of with the support of my council colleagues and staff.

Mayor Belsky was attending the InternationalCityManagerAssoc. conference in Richmond Va. where our own City Manager David Limardi was being honored by accepting the position of president of that 9000 member international organization. A great honor for City Manager Limardi and our community.

Anyway..........I really enjoyed it Mayor.... Thank you.

Surviving Our Governments

While the City of Highland Park is fiscally sound and has a AAA bond rating we need to make some big decisions as to how we spend and gather money over the next several years. Since being elected in 1993 I have always taken a strong conservative position on government spending and taxation. While I have not prevailed over the past several years on particular points of our fiscal policy, this entire city council has not raised our property taxes over the CPI index for over 15 years. .

Currently we have seen a big reduction in revenues such as building permits, the real estate transfer tax, and sales tax. Unfortunately these revenue sources help support our operating costs like personnel and other basic functions. Fortunately, we do have significant reserves that should allow us to absorb a few economic bumps in our revenue assumptions. That supportive cushion however does not alleviate our responsibility to come up with a long term solution if things in fact do not turn around in the short term.

Our staff has told us that we have cut most of the cuttable spending on our core missions. Staff is pushing to increase revenues through additional taxes if we want to keep current service levels. We need to work harder on reducing costs through consolidation and efficiencies. We might also have to reduce services that don't jeopardise safety and basic services to our citizens until the economy heals.

I am not going to vote to increase property taxes or additional fees while our citizens are under the economic stress we are currently enduring. We need to support our citizens, especially the fixed income folks, that are struggling to live in our community. These are scary times and our city government might have to tighten up far past a point we are comfortable with doing.

Specifically, we need to develop several 3 year scenarios where revenue projections are better, flat, and worse than current conditions. While the "better" revenue projection would be a comparative walk in the park, the most likely and probable flat or worse projection will need creative solutions that we have not seen in our life time of public service.

We need to get moving on these plans and come up with solutions. We must continue to provide our citizens with the essential services while not increasing their costs of living in our community. Other pressures from increased food and fuel costs will continue to shrink our discretionary spending. At our local government level we must understand that we have to focus on essential services and reduce costs rather than raise taxes and fees until times get better.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

YEA! for YEA...

For those of you that joined us at the YEA benefit concert at Ravinia Festival know what a great time all of us had enjoying American English transform into the Beatles. When I closed my eyes there was no doubt the real Beatles were again on stage. Not only did the benefit dinner and entertainment provide a wonderful evening to all that attended but seems to have been a great economic success for our not-for-profits and school programs that YEA sponsors.

Hats off to Mayor Ray Geraci, Dr. Mark Hill, Ravinia, and the YEA Board for providing such a successful event for our community. I look forward to more community celebrations in the future that provide entertainment and economic support to our citizens and children.

In these tight economic times it is even more important for those who have wealth to give to programs that provide basic support to those that can't provide for themselves.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A "GREEN" Commercial Waste Hauler Contract

UPDATE!!! Last night (9/22) the City Council okayed a contract with Waste Management for the single commercial and multifamily hauler. Free recycling, natural gas trucks, and lower rates across the board... Not bad huh!

As a Director of The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, I have been working with our Exec. Director Walter Willis to promote a better way to deal with our commercial waste and recyclables. Our sister organization in cook county (SWANCC) has negotiated several commercial franchise agreements that have provided FREE recycling and reduced costs for their commercial customers. Other benefits have included greener trucks with less of them pounding the streets and rambling through our towns. This is a new era as "business as usual" must be contained in a sustainable format.

To this end the City of Highland Park put out a single hauler franchise request for proposal this summer and we are reviewing the responses. We hope to finalize negotiations and sign a contract with a single hauler by October 1st. We should be able to reduce costs for our businesses in Highland Park while providing an entire green approach for our community. This means free recycling along with a program that greatly increases our recyclable output.

I again take my hat off to our staff and city council for the great support and enthusiasm for this initiative. Stay tuned and I will give an update on the results of this effort. We have a City
Council vote coming up September 8th to negotiate with a single hauler and then a final contract vote on the 22nd of September.