Wednesday, February 24, 2010

We need Change Now in HP Government

Mayor Belsky just announced his intention to run for a 3rd term. While I think his political rhetoric and values he speaks to is something I do strongly agree with, he needs to step aside and let another provide leadership for our community.

One of the major problems our mayor has had is his dependence on our City Manager David Limardi on dealing with issues and carrying out the policy and values of the City Council. It is up to the Mayor to be sure these values are carried out and there is full disclosure, cooperation, and subservience to the Council and the Community at large.

Unlike past Mayors Ray Geraci and Dan Pierce that I did also have the pleasure to serve with, this mayor does not seem to possess the management skills to control the City Managers conduct or passions on his personal preferences over those of the City Council. Thus we continue to get side tracked on issues important to many of us and head full steam ahead on issues important to the City Manager.

Mayor Belsky has given two full terms as Mayor and it is now time for new leadership. I am available to discuss this issue with anyone that is willing to talk about possible candidates for Mayor of Highland Park. My door is wide open and I ask for conversation on this subject as an election approaches us in 2011 for which the legal process will start in September of 2010. Three Council seats and the Mayors seat will be up for election a little over a year from now and look forward to a debate about the best possible future for our community.

Sustainability Recommendation from Environmental Commission

The Environmental Commission came in front of City Council and asked for staff to facilitate networking sessions with our business community to help promote elimination of Styrofoam and plastic bag use.

This proposal was enthusiastically endorsed by the City Council instead of the original bans proposed in the past. There was a concern that an outright ban would cause undue hardship on the business community at a time when current economic stress is very high.

I believe if we can achieve these sustainability goals through networking and education and will achieve the positive sustainable results we hope to accomplish. I thank the Environmental Commission for a fine job in progress on these issues.

Making it easier to Build More!

The City Staff is suggesting a streamline process to build structures that are not in compliance with our current city code. Instead of going to the ZBA for a variance and appearing at a public hearing to build into the home setbacks from the street, a SPECIAL ZONING PERMIT could be attained from our staff after meeting a reduced set of standards.

Again, staff is suggesting we make it easier to create more mass into the dedicated open spaces we visually share with everyone and nature on our private properties. The current community rights do not put an undue burden on our private property rights and should be upheld to the strong standards currently in place. These standards protect our community character and the natural buffers around our homes.

I suggested to the City Council that if they think current laws that govern land use and building are unreasonably burdensome they should change the laws to support more build out of our homes. I would however strongly oppose such legislation that would promote larger homes as I am opposing the Special Zoning Permits to make it easier to build out residential properties. Only Councilman Levenfeld and Myself voted against moving forward on this proposition.

While we on the City Council are still hearing from residents that they are upset about large structures next to their property, new homes and additions blocking the sun from their residences, and increased flooding from adjoining properties, the majority of the City Council still pushes for more development........ HELP!!!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Time to take Cell Phones out of Drivers Hands

When Aaron Wolff came in front of the City Council at the first Council meeting in February he requested for the seemingly 10th time that the City Council hold public hearings on banning cell phone use while driving. He has stated the obvious distraction and safety hazard that this has caused on our roads.

I responded that the time has come for us to take the step and move forward on this issue but was immediately and abruptly interrupted by Mayor Mike Belsky as he successfully cut me off from finishing my thoughts. Again the Mayor, showed disrespect and lack of courtesy toward City Council members and would not allow me to finish my thoughts on this issue.

While driving down Elm Street a few weeks ago a woman driving a huge SUV was chatting away on her phone while driving on the wrong side of the street. She headed straight at me and if I did not pull over into the parking spaces in front of Walgreen's we would have had a head on. Whatever the conversation she was having on that cell phone was too important for her to focus on driving properly.

I applaud our Representative Karen May on moving forward on a state wide ban of hand held cell phone use as Chicago and Winnetka have done. But just because Rep. May is proposing this law does not mean it will happen.

We have been leaders in the past on smoking, environmental, and land use laws prior to other municipalities or the state adopting those changes. The time has come to ban hand held cell phone use in Highland Park and look forward to a good discussion at the City Council.