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.