Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Tree Ordinance and Ban on Phosphorus

Great Progress from our Environmental Commission with the leadership of Bert Frey, past chair and just announced Environmental KING of the year, on providing more protection to our community forest. This ordinance further protects trees larger than 20 inches, better construction planning on effects of trees on and off construction property, and larger fines for non-compliance.

Also, after I sent the issue of a Phosphorus ban to the Environmental Commission, they held a public hearing, did the research, and brought us a great ordinance that further protects our waterways and environment from this harmful soil additive. Since there is naturally so much phosphorus in our soils this ban was a no brainer and had no opposition.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Get up and Stand up For Open Space and our Environment

Reflecting on the past several votes of the City Council where I was voted down by a very large majority concerning moving forward the Open Space District and a Lot Coverage Ordinance, we must now organize and activate the majority of citizens that want Highland Park to become a more sustainable community.

If this City Council was around in the 90's we would have not bought the Highland Park Country Club, saved the 38 acre wetland preserve, created Founders Park, or reduced the density on several zoning districts cutting future development in half.

While I have been trying to work with this City Council and the Mayor on continuing the quest towards a sustainable city, we continue to revert back to old slogans and practices that will continue to raise our carbon footprint, increase runoff and pollution, and occupy more of our natural environment with structures and cement.

It is time for all of us tree huggers to unite and say we are not going to take it anymore and want to see this government start sustainable planning and practices for the future. We need to organize a group and start a political action committee to promote the environment and sustainability in Highland Park so we can get some movement on these issues. WHO'S IN?

I will continue to push for an open space district along the Skokie river basin and work with our Mayor to re-focus the Council to achieve some positive results.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Yes, to a Great Holiday!

While we are struggling to realign government and still provide services needed for the community, I give thanks for the great town we live in and all the people that are willing to help others.

It is nice to step back from the grind of business and just enjoy this time of peace. Please enjoy yourselves and remember to shop and dine in Highland Park to help our local economy. See you in 2010......Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!!!

No to Proposed 2010 Budget !

UPDATE - Budget passed 5-2 12-14-09. Even though staff has cut the budget in a very significant manner, there is still much more to do. I will not support the proposed budget for 2010 because I still do not see a near term commitment from staff or the majority of the City Council to balance revenues and expenditures. I will also not support a tax levy that exceeds the property tax cap of .1% and increases the sewer fees attached to our water bill. I am not supporting any further burdens on our citizens that are struggling in this economy. Bottom Line----Less government, more money in citizens pockets.....

In 2010 staff is proposing that about 3/4 of a million be taken out of reserves to balance the budget. . This deficit spending must stop. Along with this budget gap we will be reducing infrastructure work 700k. We have to convince staff and the City Council that a smaller government can survive the current economic environment and will still serve our citizens just fine.

Last night at the 11th hour our City Manager came forward with approximately 800 k of additional proposed cuts in our expenditures. I felt it was along time coming but an extremely welcome surprise. Still, we could not get a majority of the Council to pursue even a portion of the cuts at this time. The good news however is that most of the Council was willing to look at these cuts during the 2010 fiscal year.

While we hope for the best in the coming months, we must plan for flat revenues and reconstruct our government services accordingly. This will take hard decision making and a real commitment from the City Council to keep our City Manager on this task. Since this is a very complex set of decisions it will be easy to cloud the issues at hand. We must stand strong and do what is right for our citizens that are struggling to make ends meet.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is the City Council Serious about being Green?

In 2001 we passed a master plan for Highland Park that had many sustainable and environmentally friendly visions that were suppose to be implemented by changing our city code. Through the following year in 2002 we changed our land use ordinances to reduce our built structure density throughout the city by increasing open space requirements and reducing the amount of units that could be built.

In the master plan we also said we were going to change zoning on government owned property so that it could only be used for open space and government uses. By changing this law we would provide a public process to allow much more dialog if the school district would decide to sell property for home or commercial development when they need cash. Most if not all of these properties were dedicated just for open space and school use.

Also in the 2001 master plan we envisioned an open space district to preserve the 1000's of acres currently used by private clubs along the Skokie River Corridor. We need to push Councilman Levenfeld who is the Plan Commission liaison and Mayor Michael Belsky our leader, to get these proposals out of the holding pattern and implemented soon. Plenty of talk about being green....... BUT every time I get these discussions back on the table a majority of the City Council and Staff find reasons to send it back to the shelf. This will continue until the City Council really wants to move these basic green elements forward.

We currently have talked about lot coverage regulations that would limit the amount of land that could be covered by cement and structures thus reducing flooding potential..... NO! NO!, we must wait and study some more said a majority of the City Council. This after 2 years of public meetings initiated by the City Council and unanimous approval of the Plan Commission, Environmental Commission, and the Lakefront Commission. I have seen so much smoke and mirrors it is amazing. Council People just say how you feel!!! BUILD BUILD BUILD BUILD!!!!

My Friends, don't be fooled by green wash. Water Conservation, Sustainable stormwater ordinances and practices, open space designation, Solar designs and energy conservation, geothermal promotions for HVAC, and strategies for green grants at state and federal levels just never seem to get off the ground with this government.

I have been trying to work with this Council for many years now to continue our leadership on "being green" in this community... BUT continue to meet brick walls and derailment. I really think we need to all get ready for a new wave of overdevelopment in the name of sustainability and economics.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

No Free Health Insurance for future Councils.

Currently the City Council and Treasurer get free cost health insurance when we are in office. We also get a year of additional health insurance for every year we serve. So like in the case of myself, I have 20 additional years of medical insurance due me from the Council Benefit package after after I finish my current term. This policy was instituted many years prior to me being elected in 1993. For myself and others that have accrued future years of coverage under the current policy, the liability for the city will exist until those accrued years expire. These are benefits already earned and due for past and current service.

What the Mayor and the City Council can legally change is the future Council benefit policy for those elected in 2011 and beyond. I am advocating that we change the benefit policy for future City Council and Treasurer starting on May 2011 and not offer FREE medical coverage anymore. The savings over the next 10 years would be about 3.5 million dollars for our future budgets starting in 2011.

I floated this idea at our budget meeting November 2nd and was immediately challenged by a Councilman in an attempt to intimidate me from moving forward on this issue. But Councilman, our job is to promote best practices on this City Council for the best interest of the Community and I will not be deterred from doing what is right. During the past election this issue was brought up at the coffees I attended. At those meetings I had committed to vote to rescind this benefit package for future City Councils. I think the current costs of medical coverage far exceeds the original intent of this benefit for the City Council.

Councilwoman Olian further suggested we could individually refuse coverage that is due to us currently and in the future. I think this is also a great idea for those who want to personally make an immediate impact and I applaud her for giving up her insurance, but only legislative action can stop future Councils from receiving this benefit....... I myself had other primary medical insurance for the first 12 years I served on the City Council. I challenge Councilwoman Olian to match my practice and follow through on her initiative. We will be discussing the issue of benefits to the City Council in the 1st quarter of 2010. Get ready for a fight on this one from a City Council that wont give up future benefit packages easily. I will support eliminating free medical insurance for Councilman elected in 2011 and beyond.

During these tough economic times we need to initiate change now and change the government structure for the future. I asked in November that this be brought forward in 2010 for discussion and implementation in 2011.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No to Video Gaming in HP

The City Council voted to prohibit video gambling in Highland Park. I thought this vote was a no brainer since I have not spoken to anyone that would want to see any gambling in our restaurants. If people want to gamble they have many opportunities on the boats or across the border at casinos.

New Dog Ordinance passes at Council

We have travelled from a very unpopular "Pit Bull" breed ban proposal to a very well vetted updating of our dog ordinance. This ordinance was discussed at several public hearings and took in comments from animal experts, state lawmakers, citizens, and dog owners from all over the country.

I think our staff did a great job taking a non-starting point of a breed specific ban and turning their efforts to a fair ordinance that does protect not only the citizens from vicious and dangerous dogs but also protects dogs from bad owners and other dogs that are aggressive .

In dealing with dogs we still must use reason on how we approach and communicate with them. We can't expect dogs to be smarter and more understanding than PEOPLE.... or can we? RUFF!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hotel proposal gets financial look from Council

The Park Central project would be located on McGovern where the Clark gas station currently exists. This hotel mixed use project would extend South to Laurel Ave around the church. The proposal includes a 135 room hotel, 500 seat banquet hall, restaurant for 150, 78 residences, 10,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on Central, and 32,000 sq. ft. of office space. Parking would accommodate some 380 spaces and would offer public parking for the uses within the development. The proposals height peaks out at between 6 stories and 8 stories (99 feet) which is well over the 4 story 45 foot height staff says is currently allowed.

On the Financial side the developers are asking for 18.5 million dollars of financial assistance from the city.

WHERE DO I START ?? Ya think TOO BIG? Ya think TOO MUCH $'s ? Well, as I expressed at the Council meeting, I think there is way too much here and am not interested in financing the project. While I won't mention names, one Councilman said we should not worry about the development aspects now, we should just run the numbers with staff and see if this project makes sense to us. Run the numbers on WHAT ?

I suggested that we thank them for the presentation and move on.... BUT 6 others on the City Council suggested that the staff look into this matter and report back to the City Council. The good news is the City Council did seem split on the development size. What valid numbers are there to look at when the project has over double the density and height than we currently allow. I don't want a hotel this bad! As a matter of fact, I don't want a hotel at all if it means changing our zoning laws and historic vision of our city.

Read more about this project by downloading September 30th City Council Packet . It is under the 4:30 meeting item V (scheduled business 1.). Please give me some feedback on this proposal. These downloads are about 10mb so it can take a while to get... So be patient.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Ugly Brick Cement Mail Box Structures on our Public Streets

Several weeks ago I received a call from my friend Louis who told me someone had constructed a Brick Cement Mail Structure one foot away from the pavement on Spruce Street. Louis wanted to know if they had received a permit and followed proper procedures.

We found out that no permit had been issued for this stucture and it was illegally placed on the public right of way. Staff's response was to ask the builder and/or owners to submit the proper documents for approval. They seemed to convey to us that this was just business as usual. I asked staff not to approve this structure until the City Council had a chance to weigh in on this matter. I have made it clear to all that I am not in favor of allowing any private structures on our public ways other than approved standard mail boxes on 4x4 posts. Current law allows someone to get a revocable license from the City to put a structure on the right of way. What is wrong with just natural green elements on our parkways? I will say that Councilman Rotering, Levenfeld, and myself represented that these structures should not be placed on the right of way.

Many years ago another structure was placed on Spruce and the City Council immediately asked it be taken down.....Staff has said they thought these structures were proper, not a safety hazard (This one is hard to believe), and informed us that dozens more of these have been put up without a permit throughout the city (even harder to believe). Tell me how we have let these things go up throughout the city without a permit on city right of way and have not objected? This has taken place mostly in front of new construction where staff has to give occupancy permits.

At the last meeting I suggested that I build a Brick Cement Structure one foot away from St. Johns Avenue where I live at 2157 and see how it is received. I am assuming that staff would not object since they have not on all the others. What do you think?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ethel Untermyer had Wisdom and Courage

Growing up in the sixties I was exposed to some mind bending events and people. Our struggle to be closer to and respect our natural environment is something we now term as "Going Green". Ethel Untermyer was one of those mind bending folks that served us a strong dose of reality that focused us on the importance of natural open space in our lives and how we could promote preservation.

In 1958, Ethel Untermyer led the movement to start our Lake County Forest Preserve District which has now gathered 27,000 acres of land for preservation and enjoyment of our citizens. She was a true compassionate warrior that had endurance to create change in our world.

Ethel recently passed away at home in the Riverwoods but will always be with us in spirit, providing us an example that we can make good things happen too if we are willing to provide the commitment, strength, and endurance.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Promoting More Development by City

I was surprised to recently hear several Councilman speaking of changing our land use ordinances to promote more development. In the past, I had thought these promotions of more development were generated largely by our City Manager but it seems he does have Council votes to at least discuss these ideas.

Many months ago I had talked about how the downtown re-visioning was initiated by staff wanting to see changes in our land use ordinances that would promote more development. Well during our discussions of revenue shortfalls the "D" word came forward several times to help save us from having to cut back on our costs of government.

Hey, but what about more traffic, congestion, and the quality of life for our residents? For those of you that are not familiar with our land use ordinances, there is still quite a bit of development that can take place without us changing the laws. Highland Park is not fully built out under current land use laws. Many properties within our borders are only one or two story structures. The current law in our downtown allows 3 or 4 story structures and 40ft of height. There are also many sites for redevelopment on Highway 41 and other pockets within our city.

Before we give away the store on zoning to promote more development in a panic, let's focus on redevelopment and filling the empty buildings that have sprouted throughout town. Again, lets also reduce the size of government so we do not need to support a government that is crying out for more money from our citizens and property owners.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Where does freedom and the right of free speech serve us best?

One thing that is so wonderful about our democracy and country is our ability to speak to all issues and not be put in jail, fined, or harassed by government. Freedoms and the right of free speech is not something that should ever be taken for granted.

We must realize that the power of free speech does not come without risk and costs. There are plenty of arguments made and blogs written that turn my stomach and provide a great deal of angst to a majority of citizens. While I am sure the writers and professors of these (Steve don't like) announcements believe they are true and just.

Now, when the Iranian government shuts down protests and the Chinese limit access and prevent demonstrations, many folks including myself object to these intolerance's and inability to speak, gather,or even write publications. We pretty much all agree that these governments should let them speak and express their opinions as we can do here in our great country.

What happens in our Country, State, or even within our local community when we disagree with the government. Are we imprisoned, shackled, burnt at the stake? No, we have a right to protest, go to meetings and express our opinions. I find it very fortunate that all members of the City Council are good listeners and care deeply about the expressions of our citizens.

During the last election we reached out to 100's and 1000's of folks and invited comments and discussions and talked about the budget, seniors, streets, schools, the lakefront, businesses, and open government. Many good interactions took place and suggestions were made for the betterment of our community.

These interactions should not stop immediately after elections are over. We should use our right of free speech openly and often to express our thoughts, gather information on others thoughts, and cultivate a constant and open dialog that is forever evolving. We should not be afraid of the evolution of dialog. The right of free speech is not only required in communist and fascist regimes, it should also be actively exercised in our home town debates and dialog every day of the week.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Council members don't appreciate our newsletters

Nancy Rotering and I took a pretty large amount of abuse tonight at the pre-session Council meeting when the discussion of commission and council ethics turned into a roast of the newsletter publishers!

While I have seen some wild times around the big table, this was a whopper of an awakening for Councilman Rotering....I'M Sure! I have seen books thrown, people shoved, and several screaming episodes over my 17 years of service, BUT the verbal onslaught by three of five Council members remaining was the worse I have ever seen in a continuous premeditated assault against Nancy and I.

I know that issues that I bring out concerning the budget, seniors, open government, and several others irritate the Mayor and Council to no end. I do not send this information out to hurt or irritate my colleagues. I believe I am informing our citizens, giving my perspective, and asking for feedback.

Civil order must be maintained at these meetings no matter how each individual feels about the direction of the city and their advocacy's. This group seems to really not like any diversity within its ranks. Left, Right Left, Right Left Right.

Come on Council folks, can't we just all get along.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sewer Program Update

We will be hearing from staff on the sewer program updates and how they wish proceed. This program involves citizens that have sewer connections that have leaks in thier pipes that come from their home to our street mains. The program requires these homeowners to partner with the city and spend 5k and up for sewer lining.

Having heard from the residents during the last election and seen costs to residents skyrocket over the past several years, asking citizens to come up with 5000.00 plus dollars each should not continue.

We had asked staff to answer the questions the residents brought before us at large public meetings that took place earlier this year. They had asked us to look at new methodologies of dealing with sewer surcharges, compare our program of private funding to other communities, and finding ways to provide direct remedies for the small amount of homeowners that have the sewage back up.

Remedies could include overhead sewers, disconnections to city systems in basements, etc. This is not my field of expertise, but if we could spend the same money as the city is spending with our cost share on private laterals to remediate individual problems we might be able to be more effective.

That being said, the biggest bang for our buck is our continued committment to our public infrastructure programs that will solve most of the issues. I do think however we should not put any more economic burden on individual private homeowners. We should only use public funds for solving the sewage problems unless we do find illegal connections.

Protocols, Rules, and MORE PROCESS

I was listening to the Bears game last night and hearing about the new line coach talking about what it takes be a great line man. One must keep the eye on the ball and get it done..... don't get side tracked. The reason they are playing for the team is that the coaches believe that they are good line man, can accomplish the team goals, and have great instincts to achieve success.

How I relate this to being a Councilman is that the citizens have elected me to be one of those to help direct policy for the City of Highland Park because they think I am good at what I do. As Councilman, we need direct contact with the issue at hand and be able to motivate, be creative, give suggestions, and in general be involved with the process of government to get complex issues moved forward. A maze of staff rules and protocols that restricts our public servants can cause disengagement and failure on promoting positive outcomes. All of our best minds and strongest spirits within community government can achieve cutting edge results for our community. As long as we all operate together and promote outcomes that are in compliance to the City Councils consensus, all is good.

Since 2004 our City Manager has been laying down many processes, protocols, rules, controls on the Council and Commissions, and a tight bandwidth of staff to get the results that he approves. This micro management has limited the effectiveness of the Mayor and City Council, our Commissions, and the over all creativity of the staff.

The opinion of staff in our Council Managerial government is that once the Council develops policy and give direction, get out of the process until staff is ready to ask us for our judgement on the final result. If we are lucky we might get an status update. Now to be fair, I know that Councilwoman Olian and myself have pushed ourselves into several situations where we have been allowed to be operatives on a Council policy and I am eternally grateful to our City Manager. But this should not be the exception to how things work at city hall.

I believe the City Manager has done an excellent job on segregating the "Policy Team of Council and Commissions" and the "Action Team of the staff". All I am saying is this needs to stop and be reversed! We must all be in the same locker room, same team, and get the job done together.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Laurel Ave Senior Center Discussed

At our budget meetings the City Manager asked and received a City Council majority to spend $30,000 on yet another study connected to clearing some legal hurdles in a possible sale of our Senior Center building at the end of Laurel on the lake.

I strongly support not selling this public access point and gem that overlooks our magnificent Lake Michigan lakefront. We also have public ownership of 100's of feet of beachfront that is open and accessible to the public along this public parcel.

There are only three properties to the north that separate this property from the Central Avenue Beach. I would furthermore like to see a long range plan that those private beaches be acquired or controlled to connect the public laurel ave property so that a contiguous public beach can be created. This would provide the much needed space for a great swimming, sailing, and recreational harbor area for our citizens.

I think staff and some Council people look at this property as easy and quick money to cover the overspending of our government. Currently this property provides a great place for our seniors to meet and participate together in events. I also think that as we look into the future of how we fine tune our senior program, we look at the long game of how we could improve our community by providing better access for the general public to the lakefront. Current deficits can be remedied by just reducing spending instead of coming up with the quick cash.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Public hearing on Plastic Bags and Styrofoam

The Environmental Commission and the BEDC held a joint public hearing at City Hall to take testimony on how and if we should regulate plastic shopping bags and Styrofoam.

We had a great turnout at the public hearing and heard from many local merchants, several people from the plastics industry, and fellow citizens.

The Environmental Commission is on a fact finding mission that will help them come up with findings to use for a recommendation to the City Council. The Environmental Commission will be taking testimony until August 31st. Written testimony can be sent to or delivered to 1707 St. Johns at City Hall. More information can be found at the city website at .

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Plastic Bag Recycling Program Announced

A new plastic bag and film (wraps, etc.) recycling program is being launched. For more information, visit the SWALCO site at

Plastic Bag and Film Recycling GuidelinesResidents are encouraged to recycle both plastic bags and film. The bag-in-bag system, where plastic bags and film are collected in a larger plastic bag before bringing to a local retailer is recommended. Click here for the Plastic Bag Recycling Flyer with pictures and descriptions of items that should be recycled.

Items that can be recycled should be empty, clean and dry. They include:
Grocery Bags
Newspaper Bags
Bread Bags
Produce Bags
Plastic Retail Bags (hard plastic and string handles removed)
Zip-Lock Bags (remove hard components)
Other Storage Bags
Cereal Box Liners
Toilet Paper, Napkin and Paper Towel Wraps
Tyvek (no glue, labels or other material)
Diaper Wrap (packaging)
Plastic Shipping Envelopes (no labels)
Case Wrap (e.g. snacks, water bottles)
Furniture Wrap
Electronic Wrap
All empty, clean and dry bags labeled #2 or #4

Retailers and stores in Lake County participating in the plastic bag recycling program include:
Butera Market
JC Penney
Piggly Wiggly
Sunset Foods

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Participate in Environmental Public Hearing Aug 5th at City Hall at 7 PM

Please come and participate in a discussion on a proposal to ban the use of disposable Styrofoam food ware for prepared or packaged food and also restrictions on the use of single-use plastic shopping bags. The public hearing will be held on August 5th, at 7 p.m., at CityHall, 1707 St. John’s Avenue.

Regulation of Styrofoam is important for our environment, and has been proven to work in other cities. Styrofoam, a petroleum product, is designed for a useful life of minutes, but continues to exist in our environment for hundreds or thousands of years. In addition, there reportedly are potential health impacts from Styrofoam. Recyclable and biodegradable food service ware is an affordable, safe, and ecologically sound alternative to Styrofoam and other non-recyclable single-use food ware.

Single-use plastic shopping bags are made from natural gas or petroleum and do not biodegrade. According to the Worldwatch Institute, less than 1% of the 100 billion free single-use plastic bags thrown away in the United States each year are recycled. Learn about ways to minimize the use of plastic bags and how to promote an environmental approach.

Please come to the public hearing to express your views on whether Highland Park should adopt these environmental proposals.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Time to dissolve the Finance Committee and bring back to Entire Council

The time has come to dissolve the finance committee and bring the discussion back to the Whole Council. Before 2003 when Mike Belsky became mayor and created this Committee and Chairmanship for his up and coming political star Councilman Kirsch, the entire City Council had discussed finances at our Committee of the Whole meetings.

While I am not on the committee, I probably have one of the best attendance records. I have always felt we need to be present to hear staff's presentation and weigh in on the decisions. Current Finance Committee Council members are Jim Kirsch, Mike Belsky, and Larry Silberman. I am usually joined by non-finance committee member Councilwoman Olian that also feels a strong need to be present. Now with Councilman Rotering elected and committed as well to attend the meetings, six will regularly be attending the current finance committee meeting.

What really troubled me a few weeks ago was when Mike Belsky asked Councilwoman Olian and myself not to speak at the meetings since we were not on the committee. The Mayor was totally out of line on this one and I DO OBJECT.

Now is the time to add cast members to this Belsky/Kirsch production and bring the finance discussion back to the Committee of the Whole where the entire City Council has a voice in the discussion of the issues. The City Council needs to be more directly engaged on this important issue.

When is the City going to CUT spending

Over 18 months ago I asked the City Manager to come up with a balanced budget to show the City Council. I still have not seen anything that comes within 1.5 million of bridging the gap of the shortfall of revenues to expenditures.

While things with our economy are still going down, we have not met the challenge of cutting government down to meet our revenue streams. While we are lucky to have great reserves to cover the shortfalls over the past several years, we need to address this matter soon.

Councilman Kirsch who heads the Finance Committee has done nothing to ask staff for a balanced budget or even close to one. While Councilman Kirsch seems pleased with his role as chair of this committee, I don't call a budget being balanced by taking the saved money out of the bank to fill the gap.

We need to act now and get a budget that bridges the gap between revenues and expenditures with real cuts in government.

Some folks on the Council and Staff need to realize that our community is not required to meet the needs of government but rather government must live within the means of the community.
Currently that is not the case.

Old Briar and Valley Residents Held UP!!!

Last night by a 4-3 vote the city council passed a resolution supporting a recapture agreement that will transfer the cost from Newly built Mega Mansions to the adjoining neighbors on the street for the storm water sewer construction. While both New Constructed properties built from lot line to lot line at costs of millions, now the neighborhood must foot the bill for public improvements associated with this new construction.

Councilman Levenfeld, Kirsch, Silberman, and Councilwoman Olian (whom supported the recapture) all said it was fair to share the cost of the public improvement with all the residents. I say HOGWASH! Stop putting these economic burdens on the citizens of which many are struggling with this economy to stay in their homes. Let Development Pay its Own Way!!

The cost of the encumberment on each one of these unsuspecting citizens range from $7,000.00 to $22,000.00 each. Can you imagine? Maybe that is small change to Councilman Kirsch but I find it appalling that our City Council would be so bold and harsh on our residents.

Time for thinking about running for 2011 Election

In 2011 there will be at least one seat open on the City Council and probably the Mayors seat as well. Anyone interested in this public service should drop me a line to talk about my experiences with participating in 9 elections. I look forward to helping candidates step up to seats available in 2011.

We need to move forward on cutting edge environmental initiatives and promote better limits to mega mansions. While the Mayor speaks well on these issues, very little substances is generated by our government to promote a better policy. MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE ! ! !

Email me or call me at home at 847-831-0373 or on my cell at 847-456-6933 with your thoughts.

What do you think about government cutting services

One of the discussions we have on the City Council is keeping a high level of services. This however runs opposite to the idea of a balanced budget where we have to cut millions of dollars of expenses.

I am of the belief that under these times we need to have drastic cuts in the budget and therefore services. We might not be able to do as much for Seniors and Youth as we have done in the past. We might need to cut our Community Development and Building staff to levels that match the amount of revenues that support those departments. While police, fire, and public works are the backbone of our mission, we will also have to cut personnel in these areas too to be able to live within our means. Managers might have to be reduced as well. I would rather see more boots on the ground than more managers in the office. We need to cut both!

Please email me at to share your thoughts on this question. When you cut the costs of government they will not be able to do as much... What do you think?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Hope Everybody had a great 4th of July

While my wife convinced me to go up to the cottage in Wisconsin and miss the HP parade, I still reflected on how I could be a better citizen and public official. I have never really enjoyed being the object of attention at these big public events. I would much rather be out there with you in the crowd cheering and enjoying the sights and sounds.

What always amazes me is the willingness of citizens to give of themselves to our country in the armed services, helping the less fortunate, and just helping others in general through many worthwhile charities and not for profits. Appreciation for those folks that constantly give should always be promoted and recognized.

This is the best county in the world and all of us can take an important role in working to make it better. That spirit of Independence and the sacrifice of our founders should never be taken for granted and always calls on us to push our generation to take another step forward to promote the welfare of our nation.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer in the City of Highland Park

Please check out all the wonderful things we have going on in our City.
Enjoy Highland Park..... Check out all the things to do page here

What can we Recycle?

Staff at SWALCO (solid watse agency of lake county) has put together a guide to show what you can put into your recycle bin in Highland Park. Remember, recycling pick up is free once a week for all residential and free for commercial (including multifamily units) for up to 2-96gal pickups/week.

Recycling keeps these items out of the landfill and allows industry to reuse these products. While Highland Park is a Lake County leader in recycling there is still room for improvement.

Check out this link for our recycling guide to help you know what you can recycle.

Some have asked me why we don't recycle plastics #6 when other communities say that they do? Well, at this time there is no market for #6 and those communities that accept it just throw it into the landfill. We are always looking for new markets for recyclables and whenever they emerge we will increase our collectibles accordingly.

Remember to be sustainable we must first use less, then reuse when we can. Buy products that can be recycled or are easily compostible so we can regenerate waste into soil. By being responsible in this way we can be more harmonious with nature.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Do Residents want more development Downtown?

I was surprised to see the latest addition of the Highlander and our website with the launching of a public process on the new master planning effort for our downtown Central Business District. When I called staff to find out where this initiative came from I was told it was a line item in the budget. Honestly, I don't remember ever talking about this in any depth at a Council meeting.

My concern here is that we still have not completed the implementation of the 2001 Master Plan work that called out for retention of open space and more citizen input for any public use of government lands including school property. This initiative will divert staff resources needed to finish implementation of our 2001 master plan. Master Planning rewrites usually occurs about ever 15 or 20 years. What is the rush here and the motivation? Big development proposal?

My belief is that our staff wants to see more development in our downtown and believes that the recent changes we made to lower height and density to keep the character of our community was wrong. I totally disagree with staff on this one! Furthermore, I thought it was the City Council that created policy direction, not staff! I am hoping the City Council reaffirms our vision of the CBD as the 2001 master plan articulates. Not a new vision that would be a more urbanized plan that might be more reflective of Waukegan or Evanston. Here is were the rubber meets the road on political promises made on controlled development and community character protection. Keep your ears open!

What we have in our Central Business District works well for everybody. How will more development affect traffic, existing business, and property owners? How will it affect our residents quality of life in Highland Park? From studies in 2001 and before, we know we are transportationally challenged and will not handle more development well. As we look at all the empty spaces and unsold residential units around our downtown why would we consider more?

While the economy is causing us all concerns on the revenue growth front there is no reason to panic. We just need to cut costs of government instead of trying to expand revenue to meet the obligations government has set for itself. What I was elected to represent was not the need of government but the needs and visions of our citizens.

I believe with this latest launching of this new downtown visioning process we might put ourselves in jeopardy if you do not come out and express your opinion on retaining the character of our community. Don't allow the voices of a few to overwhelm the process. Residents need to get involved and voice their concern of over development in Highland Park.

Check the Central Business District Re-visioning Website at .

More than 100 people have submitted their email addresses so they can continue to get information about the planning process. Email the Department of Community Development at and ask to be put on the contact list.

Encourage your friends and neighbors to get involved and be part of this process so your voice can be heard.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Neighborhood Schools for All

During our last election, I had the pleasure of attending about 20 coffees in the various neighborhoods in Highland Park. Myself and other candidates were approached by several citizens from the Red Oak School area about how their school was treated very differently than other elementary schools in our community.

Unlike all other schools, Red Oak Elementary is 50% neighborhood kids and 50% bused in kids from other parts of the city. What the residents of this area are asking for is to have true neighborhood schools like the rest of Highland Park and I agree.

I believe we should offer neighborhood schools to all the neighborhoods in the city as a first priority. Why this situation exists is the fact that we are living with out-dated boundaries that were created during the 1993 consolidation process. There are not enough kids living in the Red Oak boundaries to fill this school. That has prompted the dual language programs and Fort Sheridan children to be bused to Red Oak.

I am urging the new superintendent and school board for District 112 to look into ways of bringing Red Oak back to the status of a neighborhood elementary school as others are within our community. We need to set a schedule of redrawing new school boundaries every so many years to keep neighborhood schools a reality in the future. I also believe the Fort Sheridan kids deserve a neighborhood school and should not be dispersed throughout our community.

As just another citizen and tax payer, I would suggest the new board and superintendent look at this matter over the summer and create a plan to discuss with our community for a 2010-2011 school year implementation. I think the sooner we start discussing this as a community, the sooner we can come together and provide the same educational community experience to all.

Dogs Can Bite!

Recently, a Pit Bull bit a teenage girl pretty severely from what seemed to be an innocent encounter with a friend of hers that recently got this new 9 month old dog. From this incident and past experiences several folks called out to ban the breed of Pit Bulls from Highland Park. First upon hearing this dialog and violence that occurred I struggled with immediate ways we could protect our citizens from this kind of violence and fear.

Banning any specific breed is NOT THE ANSWER. We need to hold the owners responsible as well as educate citizens how to approach strange dogs. Pit Bulls are not wild animals and I have witnessed many of these dogs to be kind and great family pets. I have also witnessed dogs of this breed and dozens of others to be very aggressive and not approachable by humans and/or other animals. I have been bit on more than one occasion and in all instances I could have avoided that confrontation if I had been smarter. Most all dogs I have ever witnessed want to please humans and provide unconditional love to their owners and friends. Also, most dogs, like humans don't like to be touched by strangers until they have a chance to evaluate the individual and be sure they are friend and not foe. I have two Portie's, love my dogs, and fully understand why they call these critters mans best friend.

People should not buy animals to use as weapons against others. If they are bent in that way, they better be sure that they don't cause injury or fear to others in our community. We should deal with this matter of intimidation and violence in any form in a proactive manner. We need to take a strong stance to prevent any offensive behavior in our community.

We are looking at our dangerous animal ordinance and seeing ways we can prevent owners from exposing our citizens to intimidation and violence by using their pets as symbols or soldiers of violence. We need to be sure that consequences of this neglect and misuse of animals is severe and direct. Educating our citizens on how not to approach a strange animal is also important to keep our children and ourselves safe when dealing with pets....

While this discussion is not on our current meeting agenda, staff has been instructed to look for best practices on this matter for presentation to the City Council........Stay Tuned!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leadership meeting brings together elected officials

Mayor Mike Belsky called a leadership meeting that brought together many newly elected officials along with incumbents and several administrators of our local governments. We talked about the need to work together as a community and region to get the best results for our citizens in Highland Park.

While we have collaborated on many fronts in the past, we need to reduce and combine in an aggressive fashion to meet this new economic challenge that currently faces us.

The group was committed to working together and to reach out to the community to listen to concerns and suggestions of the citizens. It has been several years since the we have had a town hall meeting and we will be looking to formulate this reach-out plan to our individual neighborhoods and community at large.

It has been too long since we have held neighborhood meetings. During the past election and the many coffees that I had attended, it was obvious that citizens had many issues to talk about and were reaching out to their elected officials to be heard.

Moraine Neighborhood requests ACTION!

Moraine North Neighbors are asking for city action on infrastructure improvements. This discussion erupted when a public hearing took place several weeks ago about a housing project on Bloom and Waukegan that provides attainable rental units to residents.

Infrastructure requests from the neighbors include paving a commercially used alley, curbs and storm water street improvements, and snow plowing community street sidewalk routes that lead to the high school and downtown. Other issues brought up were changes in traffic patterns from increased development at Fort Sheridan and congestion on Green Bay Road that could require other regulatory measures.

The staff held a meeting that lasted for 2 1/2 hours Tuesday night and received the requests and concerns from the neighbors. Within 60 days city staff will gather information and present possible solutions.

Stay Tuned!!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Recycling or Composting

In hearing what is going on in our school lunch rooms and talking about how the kids are served lunches, it seems like a tall mountain to climb to get any real movement on recycling in this setting. Understanding the tons of non-recyclable packaging that goes into the lunch programs that makes its way to the landfill is depressing. Even if we can get recyclable packaging that is recyclable, who is going to clean it?

I think there are two obvious answers here. One is going back to cafeteria style that reuses the plates, cups, and utensils like we did when I was in grammar school or going to compostible packaging along with a legal methodology of dealing with the compost.

If you go to Canada, you see three bins, not two (Garbage, recycle, and compost). When it comes to carry out foods we need to switch gears to composting and leave the recycling to paper, bottles, and plastics that are used in other consumptions.

In conversations with our Environmental Commission members they were asking why are there not more recycling containers in our downtown area? Well, lets examine what is thrown out at Port Clinton for example. If it is mostly food or food contaminated plastics and paper. What would go into a recycling bin ? The bought water bottles that we are asking folks not to buy? What we really need is to get our merchants to use compostible products and get compost bins to toss this stuff in... Right?

We are making headway in increased ways for businesses and multifamily units to recycle. We still use tons of paper, plastic bottles, and cartons that we need to recycle, but when it comes to food waste, composting seems to be the answer.

Tell me your thoughts!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Four More Years.....

I want to thank all my supporters and citizens of Highland Park that believed in me and my ability to represent this community as a Councilman. While we will miss my friend Councilman Michael Brenner and his availability and representation of the common citizen, we gain a strong environmental advocate and friend of mine, Councilman-Elect Nancy Rotering.

This election was a close race where the incumbents were only separated by about 100 votes out of totals of approximately 3100 votes. While everybody talks about who came in first, second, third, and fourth, the bottom line is this community had great support for all of the four candidates. No one was blown out here and no mandates by anyone candidate were received, especially if you analyze the votes closely city wide.

Now that the election is over, we need to all come together and work to support each others potential on representation of our citizens. With the very bright and accomplished Council folks that surround me, I am sure we will be able to make the best decisions possible for our community.

The new Council is seated on May 11, 2009 and no matter who you supported for Council, we need to again unify for the common good of Highland Park.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Environmental Commission Proposes New Green Initiatives

Our Environmental Commission has some new ideas for our community to continue down the green trail. This grEen Commission is proposing to reduce the proliferation of single-use plastic shopping bags, reducing the use of lawn fertilizers containing inorganic phosphorus by prohibiting the use of inorganic phosphorus fertilizers, promoting the City’s drinking water as a replacement for purchasing bottled water, and regulating polystyrene foam disposable food service waste by requiring all food vendors and City facilities to provide compostable or recyclable disposable food service ware (take-out clam shell containers, cups, forks, etc.).

The next step in this process is to bring in all the stake holders like landscapers, restaurant owners, and other merchants to discuss the impacts of these proposals. We want to work with business to promote Highland Parks "Green" character and increase business to our community. As we worked with the Chamber of Commerce and property owners on the new commercial waste hauler contract that brought us free recycling and lower prices, I am hopeful another partnership with our business owners will again produce more green results.

When I hear of meeting dates I will update the blog....... Stay Tuned!!

Focus on the Arts at HPHS

In 1964, Highland Park High School developed the concept of a unique arts outreach program that would expose students and the community to the world of visual and performing arts. The mission of FOCUS has always been to increase appreciation and understanding of the arts and of the professionals engaged in them. Highland Park is a community rich in tradition, ethnic diversity and heritage.

We are recognizing the festival at City Council and asking the community to attend this great event. Information on Focus on the Arts can be found at the website.

The Mayor will proclaim April 27th - April 30th Focus on the Arts week. Remember that not only do arts and entertainment enrich our souls, it also is an effective draw to our community for our businesses and overall prosperity.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Getting Money to resurface Sheridan Road

Sen. Susan Garrett has reported that they passed a mini stimulus bill, allocating funds to cover local resurfacing road projects. I am happy to let you know what Highland Park will be receiving: 1. Lake Cook Rd/Sheridan Rd (Greenbay to Sheridan) .78 miles ($325,000). 2. Sheridan Rd./Walker Avenue to Lake Cook Road, 4.61 miles ($1,800.000) Thank You Senator Garrett!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Elm Place School's "Project Citizen" Rocks!

Spent a day at Elm Place School with the 7th grade class talking about the Greening of Elm Place School. Big suggestions from these students on a no idling policy for cars and especially the buses during drop off and pick up of students.

Other suggestions included more electronic formats instead of using paper for assignments and education in general. They would also like to plant a green roof to cool the building and opening up the school to more natural sunlight. Students also promoted turning off lights, computers, and any electric device that is not in use.

Over all, these young citizens were very impressive and had much more to say than I capsulized in this memo... We will be seeing them at City Council in a few weeks and you can watch them yourself at our city website at or on cable channel 10 when they make their presentations.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Vote Today at NS Health Center (behind Sunset Foods)

Today, Monday March 16th will be the first day you can vote in the City Elections!!!!!!

Please Vote Early and ask others to do the same since it is convenient and allows us the greatest chances to get out more than the 20% of voters that usually vote in this election. More Highland Park Citizens should have a say in who represents them at City Hall, the schools, and Township government.

Early Voting Location and Hours: From March 16 to April 2.
Early voting is available to all eligible, registered voters who need not give a reason to vote prior to Election Day. A valid government-issued ID containing the voter’s photograph, name, and address is required.

WHERE: North Shore Health Center, 1840 Green Bay Road

WHEN: Monday - Friday, 9:00-4:30, Saturday, 9:00-2:00 through April 2.

Election Day at your neighborhood polling place April 7th. For more information Call the Lake County Clerk at 847-377-2410

Green Alliance getting traction!

Mayor Belsky's Green Alliance Initiative is moving right along with a recommendation coming to the Green Alliance to pick a firm to help us achieve sustainability. Terri Olian, Rebecca Grill, and myself just finished 6 interviews for the writing of a sustainability plan and will be reporting to our Alliance Tuesday on our chosen firm recommendation! Let's Go!!!

Protecting Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes

Those of us along the Great Lakes have the responsibility to protect this most valued asset. We can't take for granted the water that gives us and our environment life.

While most people do not believe we can ever lose Lake Michigan, think again...........! Look at what happened to the Aral Sea, the 4th largest fresh water body in the world. Check out this website at and this website at .

We must be strong stewards of our lake and stand back with a macro view of this situation. Lake County Water Resource Planning is in full swing designed to take additional water out of Lake Michigan and pipe it to western communities, way out of the natural watershed. Where does it stop? Is this a watershed possession, a County possession, a State possession, a National possession, or a World possession. A sustainable water method that has been discussed is to bring back all the water taken out of the watershed........ but this is very very expensive.

All of the Great Lake States have just signed a regional compact that has virtually limited the use of Great Lakes water to within the natural watershed. The natural watershed for Lake Michigan in Illinois is approximately the 294 tollway if you count in the Chicago River area as the historic watershed (this has been changed since river flow was reversed toward the Mississippi). Illinois was exempt from this provision and limited to a court decision that was restricted by a court ordered quantity rather than a watershed boundary in the recently signed compact.

We must all take a hard look at this situation and follow the spirit of the compact in limiting the use of the Great Lakes water. We must have a methodology that is fair and accepted as a sustainable practice for us to be secure about the future of our water and lives.

Fort Sheridan Cemetery Help Requested

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4741 (Highwood) is asking for financial help to raise funds for the much needed repair of a monument to Chaplain J. Vattman at the Ft. Sheridan Military Cemetery. The private monument is at the entrance to the Ft. Sheridan Cemetery. A combination of age and weather has caused deterioration, and the Highwood VFW Post has undertaken the challenge to raise funds to repair the monument to honor a Chaplain who served his country and fellow citizens.
Please remit contributions to:
Vattman Memorial Fund
c/o Highwood VFW Post 4741
Post Office Box 474
Highwood, Illinois 60040

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Community Reaches out to Writers Theater

Many of our fine community organizations reached out to writers theater to join the great cultural arts environment that is within Highland Park. I too agree, we can attain the best for the Writers community as well as the Highland Park community if we join forces and promote our successes together.

A letter was sent to Writers Theater by Port Clinton Art Festival, HP Strings, Yea HP, Arts Center of HP, NS School of Dance, Midwest Young Artists, Music Inst.of Chicago/HP, HPHS, Pilgrim Chamber Players, and East on Central.

All these organizations along with our Mayor and City Council are available to help writers in anyway to facilitate and promote their transition into Highland Park's downtown and community. We have the finest supporting people and organizations to support a great leading organization like Writers and create even a finer cultural environment for all of us in Highland Park.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Spring Cleanup right around the corner

Veolia will be collecting our spring clean up stuff on four consecutive Saturdays in late April and May, assigning a particular Saturday to each of the four residential routes.

The first pick up date is Saturday April 25th for the folks that have normal Monday(SE) garbage dates. 2nd pick up date will be Saturday May 2nd for those folks that have Tuesday(SW) garbage pick up. Next will be Saturday May 9th for those that have Thursday(NE) and the final pick up date is Saturday May 16th for those that have Friday(NW) pick up dates.

So, get ready and have a plan in place so you are ready to get that junk out up to a week before your pick up date. We have changed this ordinance from the night before to allow folks more time to get ready for this free pick up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NO SIGNS-YES TREES - Looking for Last Big Push From YOU -

First, don't be surprised not to see my signs on the streets since I have made a pledge to plant trees instead. I made this pledge because it is time for political campaigns to join the sustainability movement and take some steps to reduce waste. While this is a small environmental step, it does demonstrate an alternative approach to politics. Also, by planting trees we are affirmatively reducing carbons and increasing oxygen in our environment. Signs also create an ugly landscape and keep our police and staff busy with hundreds of complaints... In our small town we simply don't need signs if our voters are willing to learn who the best candidates are for the job. Everything you need to know about the candidates can be done by reading our material, watching us on TV or the Internet, and learning about us at our websites and other media venues. I believe an educated voter can make a better choice than just counting signs.

Well, what this means is that I am counting on our citizens being educated voters. You can help me get the message out by sending out friend to friend cards and by displaying a bumper sticker or wearing a button. Not only show your support but please speak about our campaign and share your expirience with me as your City Councilman. You can also send a letter to the editor at Pioneer Press (HP News) expressing your support for my re-election. Please also sign up to simply endorse my candidacy .

Monday, February 09, 2009

$380,000 Wetland Restoration Grant Awarded to HP

The Stormwater Management Commission (SMC) awarded a $380,000 grant from the Wetland Restoration Fund to the Park District of Highland Park for its project at the Skokie River Woods site on the southeast corner of Routs 22 and 41. This will fund wetland restoration and wetland/stream enhancement, with significant wetland buffer/upland restoration to improve the overall ecological value of the site, which is on the historic floodplain. This is an exciting project that will provide multiple benefits of flood damage reduction, water quality improvement, and natural resource protection.

I provided the leadership to save the Skokie River Woods (38acres) several years ago when I put together a partnership that was made up of the City of Highland Park, the Park District of Highland Park, The Lake County Forest Preserve District, and the Illinois Dept of Natural Resources that came up with the 4 million dollars for purchase of this property. Joyce O'keefe was instrumental along with open lands for helping us forge the deal.

After years of planning and waiting, it is wonderful to see our Lake County Commissioner Anne F. Bassi get funding to initiate this restoration. I am grateful to her for the hard work on this project and other stormwater issues that will greatly benefit residents of our community for years to come. Good 9 minute video put out by the US EPA is worth watching demonstrating alternative stormwater solutions.

Restoring the wetlands at the Skokie River Woods site will provide a great example of how nature does a better job at dealing with stormwater issues. If we can provide natural "green" solutions to these flooding issues instead of the "Deep Pit Solutions of the past", future generations will be much better served and educated. I am hoping that these restorations will continue along the Skokie River within the Highland Park County Club site over the next several years.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Commitments Should not be Broken

I spent the better part of a day at a Lake County Forest Preserve District (LCFPD) meeting listening to testimony concerning rebuilding the golf course at Fort Sheridan. While most of the discussion centered around the economics concerning a marketing study on the viability of another golf course in Lake County, several of the Commissioners did grasp the real issue at hand.

While the President of the LCFPD stated that her preference would be to see 100,000 visitors a year at the Fort Sheridan property instead of the 20,000 a year that would be generated by redevelopment of the golf course, a majority (about 75%) of the Commissioners that spoke realized that the core issue in the discussion was," is the LCFPD going to HONOR the commitment made to Highland Park, Highwood, Lake Forest, and the Army to build and maintain a golf course as the master plan described and is required in the deed". This obligation was in consideration for the purchase/transfer of the 250+ acres of this lakefront land to the LCFPD. While a prior offer of 10 million was rejected by the Army, the revised offer presented by the LCFPD and promoted by the partnership of adjoining communities was accepted because it was part of a package of Historic Preservation, Environmental Remediation, and additional clustered density on the remaining portions of the disposition property. Our own Highland Park/Deerfield representative Michelle Feldman hit the nail on the head when she stated that the forest preserve should honor the agreement or give the land back.

Historic Preservation and Environmental Remediation was costly and also a big part of the consideration of the transfer of open space at no cost. Environmental analysis identified landfills, pesticide storage areas, asbestos-containing material, PCB-containing transformers, unexploded ordnance, and a variety of petroleum products and metals in the soil and groundwater. Entire ravines that were filled with contaminants were fully remediated into the natural gems that currently exist. Environmental cleanup began in 1993. Ninety-four buildings, including 64 designed by Holabird & Roche, are situated on the 110-acre Historic District, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1984. If I am not mistaken the project costs to produce this cutting edge project was about 300 million in 1990 dollars.

Monies for the consideration of this purchase from the Army should come from acquisition and development funds since that was also promised to our residents as we supported several referendums in the 90's. When the first and second LCFPD referendums were promoted several county representatives specifically stated that those monies would cover the complete development of the Fort Sheridan obligation to the Army and our citizens.

Why are some folks trying to revise history? If you ask anyone that was around and involved in the deal, the facts are clear. If anyone out there doubts me (and I was very involved in this process) please call others like Ray Geraci, Pete Koukos, Dan Pierce, Joyce O'keefe, Lisa Cervac, Paul Diambri, or many others you can find.

We now need to move forward and reconvene the Joint Planning Committee of our three communities and the LCFPD to develop a plan that meets commitments acceptable to the partners including resident representatives. Concerning golf demand, we should look at all our surrounding properties in HP and Lake Forest to determine if we can transition some of these into other use to best serve our regional needs. I have always been a proponent of re-using the Highland Park Country Club for passive and natural stormwater management along with much needed play fields for our children and active adults.

It is the time for constructive dialog and putting the issues and commitments of Fort Sheridan into action so we can put this issue to rest. The LCFPD with the leadership of Anne F. Bassi has done a wonderful job with the development of public access and remediation of the beaches, bluffs, and ravines at the Fort. We need to come back together and move forward on projects like Open Lands is developing. They are implementing a wonderful plan of trails and remediation all along the Southern portion of Fort Sheridan. Highland Park and Highwood will continue to negotiate with the Navy and Forest City on a redevelopment plan South of Bartlett Ravine that is a real "Green Development" and is a partner in the community approach to the bluffs and shoreline.

Dialog and partnerships make us stronger and will continue to provide great solutions to our community and county if we all just continue work together and honor our past commitments.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Big Welcome to Gov. Quinn

I am very excited to see Gov. Quinn take office after years of our environmental state infrastructure being dismantled by Blago.

Whether it is supporting our efforts for the Great Lakes, dealing with progressive solid waste and recycling issues, or the many other clean air and sustainability initiatives, Pat Quinn has shown great leadership.

All that being said we need a strong dialog with our new Governor to make it through these very difficult economic times. State government must deal with several issues that has and will effect our lives.

This is a man that cares deeply about open government, transparency, and our environment. Someone that has always been a political outsider and reformer now gets a chance to be the agenda setter for the State... I am hopeful that Governor Quinn will do a fine job and reach out to all of us to find good solutions to the many problems that face us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Stevemandel.Com designed for Re-Election

A new STEVEMANDEL.COM is online for my re-election. Election is April 7th, 2009. Early Voting starts March 16th and goes through April 2nd at the Health Center 1840 Green Bay Road.

I have raised a little over half the money needed to fund this campaign. I am asking my supporters to contribute what they can so I have included a paypal "DONATE BUTTON" for online contributions. If you would rather send donations directly to my home address at 2157 St. Johns, make checks out to the Steve Mandel Committee.

Also, available on are places to sign up for my newsletters, writing friend to friend cards, letters to the editor, getting bumper stickers and buttons, and/or doing anything else to promote my election.

Remember friends, I was the lowest vote survivor of the last election so do not take for granted that I am a sure thing to win the race...... I need your help to win this one!!!!

Please forward our newsletter and election website to your Highland Park friends and family.... Winning this election is all about networking and passing the word to get out the vote. If you would like me to send you a bumper sticker, a Re-Elect Steve Mandel button, or are willing to do Friend to Friend cards please call, email me, or go to Volunteer and Contribute at my website to sign up.

As always, I am available at home at 847-831-0373 and on my cell at 847-456-6933.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HP agrees with Ravinia on new fee

The City Council has negotiated an agreement with Ravinia Festival that should provide over 600k of much needed revenue to our community. Some of the funding will replace Ravinia's past contribution to the YEA event but will still host the event where donors and patrons can celebrate that special day.

These efforts were originally initiated by the entire City Council when we proposed a fee for bus rides from our downtown to and from the festival events. Ravinia, concerned about ridership revolt asked us to sit down to negotiate another type of revenue source. We voted Monday on this agreement that has been discussed over the past year.

Bottom line here is that we will be importing tax dollars from mostly out of town patrons to again reduce our dependence on our property taxes. As a not for profit Ravinia Festival does not pay property taxes but produces additional revenue to the city through sales and the food and beverage tax.

We are real lucky to have great partners like Ravinia Festival who are helping our community provide services to our citizens, schools, and other not for profits through this additional revenue. Being one of finest arts organizations in our nation, I thank them for their true commitment to the citizens of Highland Park.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Meeting with May and Garrett shows team work

Myself and members of the City Council met with Senator Susan Garrett and Representative Karen May to discuss ways of dealing with the huge increasing costs of pension plans. Projections have shown that mandated benefits and contributions to pensions from governments could skyrocket taxes up 10% for residents of our community in 2010. Local governments have absolutely NO CONTROL of these costs paid for our employees.

Staff will be working with our municipal associations to promote legislation downstate that would extend the date to be fully funded on these pensions. This extension would at least smooth the large increase currently needed in contributions and spread it over a longer period. Also, we need to review the benefit packages and start to become REAL.... Government employees must live within realistic budgets during these rough economic times just like the rest of private business. Governments can't ignore the economic situation of our times without crushing our residents.

Our legislators are committed to work with us on reducing these liabilities to our community and residents. As they are aware, it is up to the State lawmakers to change the laws concerning these pension mandates so we are able to manage the costs passed onto residents. We have promised to work out and present legislation to them to get the job done. Stay Tuned!!!!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Grange Ave Development Proposal now has less homes

The "Green Springs" development on Grange and Park has lost 2 units of the 8 homes it had proposed. This brings the density of housing down to a reasonable level that can meld into the existing neighborhood. The City Council was asked to expedite the process and not send it back to the Plan commission. The Council voted 5-2 to have a public hearing in front of the Council. Myself and Councilwoman Olian were in the minority stating the petition should return to the Plan Commission.

I have no problem with the 6 unit density which includes a historic incentive. I had asked that the past proposal of 8 units be shrunken down to 6 units and that was done.

The concern I have is what happened to the "GREEN" in "Green Springs" The open space has shrunk from 58% to 21% and pad sizes have grown from 4000 Sq.Ft. to 8162 Sq. Ft. I had also asked where all the pervious pavers and other green elements went? Gone?

The sixth (historic) unit is a bonus unit and by discretion of the City Council. Our PUD development ordinance also give us the right to ask for a more community friendly elements within the development. This property boarders the Hybernia Preserve and it was represented that stormwater could travel that way without harm. I suggested that these properties should unify in the spirit of the environmental approach used at Hybernia and add to the green buffer instead of justifying over building because of the adjacent proximity of Hybernia.

I am hopeful that the developer got the word and will bring us back a great plan with a green design and elements.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Karger Center to be used to help our children and residents

We will be leasing the THE KARGER RECREATIONAL CENTER at 1850 Green Bay Road to the Community Family Center Folks. Partners of the CFC are the Family Network, Family Service, HP Community Nursery School & Day Care, HP/HWD Home Child Care, and Tri Con Child Care.

They will be kicking off their fundraising efforts soon. Early Childhood support is essential in promoting a productive future for our children. Also, with the stress of today's social and work environment many families can use support. This facility and partnership can provide a real foundation to allow these organizations to help our citizens for foreseeable future.

With our support we can make this dream a reality.... Check out their website at . Keep watch for new information on the Karger project.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Stop Blocking Sunlight to our homes

We need to start changing our laws to allow sustainable solutions to work. One idea that we had enacted many years ago was the daylight plane ordinance. This ordinance which was first enacted by Glencoe, prevented home builders from blocking the sunlight to adjacent homes. I believe all citizens that currently have direct sunlight shedding on their properties have the right to maintain this natural benefit. We can currently design homes that only use sunlight to provide all energy needs as they have done in Europe. By using the sun for direct heat and for producing electricity we can achieve sustainability and cut off our dependence on foreign oil and much pollution in our environment.

This law was taken out of our ordinance because some members on our City Council and Plan Commission several years ago thought it restricted homeowners rights to build out their property. Many thought since we had tweaked our ordinances to reduce bulk, daylight plane was not needed. Might this law promote smaller homes that might not dominate the environment and rise 30 some feet up from the property line? YES......What is wrong with that? If we continue to allow one property owner to stop the sunlight to another, we rob the citizens of really being able to live in Highland Park with a sustainable home.

I will be asking the Council to look into putting the Daylight Plane Ordinance back into our zoning laws ASAP. We need to tailor our laws so they support a sustainable program for our community. I we want our children to survive in this world we need to think GREEN.