Thursday, December 18, 2008

Legislative Committee should pick our Senator

Update2... Congratulations Senator Burris!!!! May he serve us well.
Update... Can you believe Burris said " I DO"??. No more suggestions from me. I am just dismayed at the actions of our Governor and Roland Burris.
Just a suggestion...... I think we should have a legislative committee interview and pick our replacement for Obama as our Senator. We desperately need 2 Senators in Washington DC ASAP. Our current beleaguered Governor should sign off on a plan that allows this legislative committee to make a recommendation to him for appointment. Rod B. should be concerned about the fate of Illinois in the coming months without one Senator and should play ball. This would remove the appearance of hanky panky and provide an open and transparent process for selection. All the Governor(recently affirmed by the Supreme Court of Illinois) needs to do is Sign the Line.
The appointment process should not be side stepped and can give the residents of Illinois plenty of assurance that the best choice will be put forward through a transparent and open process.

Citizens should choose E- Newsletters

Many citizens have joined the electronic age and governments should offer a choice to residents of getting newsletters in the electronic form instead of being mailed. Many other businesses and organizations offer E-Newsletters instead of mailers. The City currently has its newsletters online in an electronic format.

Residents should be able to go online and put in their email address, receive the email electronic newsletter, and select an option to STOP the mailer. We currently have the Highlander and the Shorelines online and costs from printing and mailing could be reduced and eventually eliminated. We could help our city budget and save money to be used on more important things like our streets and sewers. The environmental impact from the reduction of paper would also serve our sustainable goals......... This option provides a transition to the citizens where they have a choice of delivery.

We should do this immediately ..............

Ravinia Sewer Program Goes Down The Drain

The City Council has worked tirelessly in trying to deal with flooding in basements from the public sanitary sewers lines. I believe we had successfully worked in a partnership with the residents in the Highlands in alleviating most of the problem areas. We continue to work on a regional basis with the County, State, and Federal officials in trying to place a storage facility to slow the flood waters down before they reach Highland Park.

Trying to work the Sewer Program in the Ravinia neighborhoods has not worked. Prices have skyrocketed(doubled) while our pocket books have been mugged by this crippling economy. We will not proceed at this time on this Sewer lining Program because the costs to residents is way too high and great questions by residents need to be answered before we proceed on anymore private funding on this project.

The idea behind this program was for the city to rebuild or line our public sewer systems in the right of way and seal the system from infiltration of water. This infiltration has caused capacity problems and back up of sewage in peoples homes. Along with the millions the City is spending on our infrastructure in the streets, we had asked residents to line their privately owned lateral sewer lines that connect their homes to the public sewer lines. The City also offered a 20% cost share, a low interest loan, and an option not to pay anything until the home was sold.

While this program was well intentioned and I believed did work in the highlands, times have changed and we need to rebuild this program to where the burden of this project does not cripple our residents......... To be continued..

Friday, December 12, 2008

Mayor Belsky's Endorsement Letter

Dear Fellow Highland Parker,

I have served with Steve Mandel as a Councilmember and as Mayor for many years. From this perspective I can tell you that Steve is an effective and passionate advocate for important issues including: fiscal responsibility; the preservation of open space; controlled and managed growth; historic preservation; and open and transparent government, to name a few. Along these lines Steve was instrumental in the city’s joint effort with the State and Lake County to preserve 38 acres of new open space. Steve also led the charge on making Council meetings available live on the web. Now residents can view both "live" meetings, as well as previous ones, no matter where they live.

Steve’s years of experience in government, along with his hard work and creative thinking makes these excellent programs happen for our residents. Having said all this, my biggest reason for supporting Steve in his re election to the City Council is his commitment to the environment and local sustainability efforts. Steve has been instrumental in sustainability efforts such as our residential volume based garbage collection with free recycling and the leasing of the city’s Prius hybrid vehicle fleet. Most recently, in his capacity as the City’s representative to the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, Steve has brought single hauler commercial refuse collection to Highland Park, which will result in less pollution and allow for businesses to recycle for free. Demonstrating sustainable storm water practices Steve also played the lead role in the new demonstration rain garden at City Hall. All of this reduces cost for the community

As a fiscal conservative, Steve is the first one to speak up on reducing government costs. He always reminds us of many citizens that are struggling to make ends meet in our community.

Councilman Steve Mandel’s re election to the City Council is a must. I hope you will join me through a contribution and your time so we can assure a successful campaign.

Purchase of Highland Park Theater

We voted to purchase the Highland Park Theater because it provides our downtown and community with a great opportunity for economic, cultural, and historical enhancement.

Economically, we bought this theater at a good price. It is a valuable asset that will hold its value to our community on several levels. First, as part of our plan, we have done the professional studies that shows it is structurally viable and can be marketed as a performance art facility and produce a profit for a theater company. Likewise it will also become a stronger economic engine for our downtown, producing additional sales tax, food and beverage tax, and causing less reliance on our property taxes which are mostly supported by our residents. This theater will import these tax revenues as a majority of patrons will come from outside Highland Park. Our studies have shown us that our downtown can be most successful if we focus on entertainment and restaurants. The Country Kitchen might have to open for dinner!

Culturally, we know this project makes our community a better place to live and raise our children. The Arts are core ingredient to our success. The Arts are important to us as we teach our children what is important to the growth of our lives. The quality of life in Highland Park only improves with the success of productions at the Highland Park Theater. Writers Theater, a successful theater company and first choice for negotiating a partnership with the city, provides us with a great possibility of success in our mission.

Historically, the Highland Park Theater is an anchor at the East end of town and should be retained for future generations. If this community did not step forward in this preservation it would certainly be lost.

Again, this is not an asset that will devalue and is worth most to our community not only as a theater but also because it is contiguous to current city owned lands.

The dollars for this purchase will be paid back from new imported tax dollars and an existing balance in our downtown development funds(specifics to be released soon). I had represented from the start of this project that we needed to find a new imported revenue source for this purchase and that will be the case.

During these economic times we should not retreat, but rather invest in success and future growth that will return imported tax revenues to help support services to our citizens.

No new taxes until cutbacks are fully examined

At the December 8th meeting I voted against a gas tax and sewer fee increase because it has not been demonstrated to me that we could not obtain the desired budget by reducing government first. Gas tax was increased to 2 cents a gallon and the sewer rate has been raised to 40 cents. The sewer rate is on your water bill and the cost is associated to water use.

In these times where residents are losing their jobs, a high percentage of their equity in funds and real estate, I do not think it is proper to put governments shortfalls on the backs of working Americans. We must explore all other solutions in dealing with falling municipal revenues that must focus around decreasing expenditures first.

Should municipal government cut costs even if we reduce services? I think so! My problem is that we have not yet been presented a service reduction solution by staff to evaluate instead of raising taxes. I had asked for this demonstration over 12 months ago and am hopeful the city council will drill into this matter in the first and second quarter of 2009.

While this economic crisis is still unfolding and future adjustments most certainly will be needed, we need to aggressively find innovative solutions to manage our governments. Cost reductions, adjoining government cooperation on services, and a basic reinvention of government should be fully explored.