Sunday, October 31, 2010

Clock Ticking on Budget Process again....

In November 2009, at the 11th hour, we were given staff recommendations to cut $750,000.00 of costs out of the 2010 budget to balance our revenues and expenditures. The majority of the Council decided to take money out of reserves instead of moving forward with those recommendations mostly because there was not enough time to deliberate on all the cuts properly.

Councilman Rotering, Levenfeld, and myself asked to continue the dialog on the budget cuts immediately in January so we would not run out of time in 2010 to balance revenues and expenditures in the 2011 budget. The majority, including the Mayor, Councilwoman Terri Olian, Councilman Jim Kirsch, and Councilman Larry Silbermen did not support to continue the budget discussion in January. Real detailed discussions did not commence until the Fall of this year for the 2011 budget. Too Little, Too Late, Too Much.

Here we go again...... I am feeling like we are in the same boat without enough information or time for the majority of the city council to balance the budget without increasing fees, taxes, and taking out of reserves again. The city manager is proposing cutting costs across the board in police, fire, (building and community development ), a redesign of youth and senior, and public works. All these cuts are proposed still with a 3% property tax increase, and increased fees in water rates and sewer fees. The Library has also given us a budget with an increase of 4.99% for their share of the levy.

While I will not support increases in taxes or fees, I am only one lonely vote.....and not sure we have enough time to get through a process and produce effective alternatives to get 3 more votes to agree with me. I'm not a tea party fella but believe we need to hold the line for our citizens.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Swalco "Recycling" Stuff.......

Check out >> Where Should My Stuff Go?: Recycle and Redirect Guide to find out what to do with much of your unwanted "stuff", including batteries, latex paint, documents, cell phones, and more.

Third Annual Recycle-O-Rama and Environmental Fair on Saturday, November 20 from 9:00 am until Noon at the Warren-Township O’Plaine Campus.....................For those who are unable to make the workshop, the toolkit is readily available and free online at The program is hosted by SWALCO and College of Lake County. The event will offer an opportunity for individuals and families to gather resources and information on recycling, composting, vermi-composting, and information on living a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle. Lake County residents will have an opportunity to recycle household items that can not be placed in curbside recycling like athletic shoes, eyeglasses and accessories, cell phones, smoke and C02 detectors, fire extinguishers, propane tanks, ink jet/printer cartridges, wine corks (no plastic), latex paint (for a minimal fee), household electronics, baby car seats, and more. Look for upcoming information on this website to confirm items you can bring to be recycled. Only items listed on the website will be accepted at the event. Additionally, a swap area will feature items including: fabric, yarn, DVDs, CDs, and books – bring your unwanted items and swap them for another. Games and activities are planned for kids - with prizes too! Loads of information, loads of items to be recycled and loads of fun are expected for the day! Continue to check back here or Contact Merleanne Rampale, 847-336-9340 x 4 for more information on the event.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Looking for Mr. or Ms. Sustainability

Update 110210- we are scheduling a meeting with Deerfield to talk about sharing sustainability resources.
We have a sustainability plan...... We have dedicated revenue sources to pay for a sustainability person or firm. We know how other communities have tackled the issue of implementing their sustainability goals........ SO WHATS NEXT?

We had a great meeting with Oak Park, their City Manager, and Sustainability Coordinator trying to figure out how we were going to proceed.

The question here is what we are expecting for outcomes from this new hire compared to what others have gotten as the business as usual approach to sustainability. While most current sustainability folks have been focused on carbon footprints and energy use, I am looking for a strong environmental mission incorporating government reorganization that would reduce cost substantially. Payback in cash money to the citizens would be expected for anyone taking this job in my opinion.

I am sure many in government elected and hired would say I must get real unless I want to reduce the services dramatically and "gut" government from being able to do their job. I disagree...... I see many opportunities to share services, consolidate, and create many efficiencies that will create better and broader services for our citizens.

One point of controversy on this issue is, should our Sustainability Czar be locally based or regionally based? The Mayor and I disagree on this issue since I think Sustainability can better be achieved by regionally working together in a multi-community format. Deerfield, Highwood, Lake Forest, Glencoe, Northbrook, Lake County, and Cook County all have areas of common services to our citizens that might be better unified to cut costs and provide better quality. Being able to create a sustainability network over multi-governmental jurisdictions is essential for real movement. If the Mayor gets his way to hire another city employee to implement our sustainability plan, I will work with him to achieve the best outcomes. I did however suggest he try to contract this person out to other governments in Highland Park and neighboring communities to network and provide us revenue. He has agreed.

I have suggested that SWALCO(Solid Waste Agency of Lake County) of which I am the appointed director from Highland Park, be a central point to coordinate Lake County sustainability. To these goals our SWALCO Executive Director Walter Willis is examining managing a network with our 41 communities in Lake County which would also connect to our Cook County neighbors to achieve the best outcomes in efficiency for all our residents.

If SWALCO can work out a business model that will benefit the 41 community members in Lake County and provide needed funds to SWALCO for operations it will be a go. But for now we are in the learning phase trying to piece together different models that could benefit our citizens.

Stay Tuned......

Free Prospect Street End Now!

UPDATE 102510- The Council formally approved the plan last night and was promised it would be completely implemented by Nov. 30th this year. Agenda item#8 to allow Richard Tucker to install four (4) Green Giant arborvitae on the public property was tabled for a possible future discussion at the request of Richard Tucker. To be Continued...........
Well, we had a discussion on Prospect Avenue Street end at our last City Council meeting and achieved consensus on taking down the old fence, creating a large VISTA overlooking Lake Michigan, and putting up a barricade at the curb and another keep out fence 30 ft back. My fellow Councilman Nancy Rotering and I suggested that a fence obstructing full pedestrian access was not appropriate, but the Mayor and 4 the other members of the Council disagreed and affirmed staffs suggestion that a split rail fence be installed some 30 feet from the curb.

The good news is that we all agreed on a open wide VISTA, unencumbered on our very own city property street end.

Well, so much for votes and consensus because just a few days later I met Nancy Rotering and a few members of the neighborhood on site. In the process, we CAUGHT the adjoining neighbor trying to install several 20+ foot conifer trees some 25 feet into the city property. These trees would have partially obstructed that beautiful VISTA we just got consensus on! Seemingly while staff did have a hand in condoning these actions, because of Councilman Roterings and my objections, all work was stopped, the planted trees were pulled out, and we were assured no further planting would be permitted on the public lands.

We were recently told this is now an agenda item on our October 25th regular Council Meeting Agenda starting at 7:30. Please check our city website at for specific information. Obviously the watchfulness of the citizens needs to prevail in this situation for it really.............., I mean really become a reality. BE THERE!

How much more will water cost us every month?

It has been many years of research and planning that has gone into the water plant renovations being contemplated to begin soon. Reasoning for renovation are increased capacity and new technologies that provide safer water. Micro filtration, I am told, is the state of the art system that allows us to keep a smaller footprint with higher output. The cost of this project is expected to come in at over 25 million dollars. These new costs will be shared among users in Highland Park as well as our customers in Deerfield, Bannockburn, and Lincolnshire.

Highland Park should be a leader in Water Conservation and demonstrate good stewardship of our natural waters. But just last week I commented with great concern on several statements our City Manager Limardi made talking about selling water to far western suburbs that currently don't have Lake Michigan water. How much water can we take out of the Lake until it starts to shrink? We are the only Great Lake State that can even legally take water out of this watershed whose Highland Park boundary is approximately Greenbay Road. We can't take this body of water for granted!

So, if we don't sell more water and further decrease our use by let say 25%, do we need this renovation and if so, can we afford it? To this last point, I have been asking for the last few years to create a spread sheet showing the anticipated rate increases while inserting the variables of both water consumption decreases, projected operating costs, and the debt service.

Waiting for an answer........ and until I am convinced this won't overburden our citizens I will not support rate increases based on the 2006 projections that don't include all the variables I described.

Friday, October 15, 2010

October 2010 Roundup

We are looking at the boundaries and possible revisions of our POSO District (created to stop banks and non-retail businesses from fracturing our core pedestrian areas) in our downtown. A subcommittee was formed to recommend changes back to the City Council in about 60 days.

Budget is in full gear with a large proposed cut in personnel for fiscal year 2011. Meetings are posted on our website at and the budget information as well. We need to reinvent our government and work with other governments to consolidate and create MORE efficiencies. Some want to brag about how great we are and not change..... but I feel we need to work harder and re-engineer a smaller economic impact on our citizens!

Public Access broadcast facility at the Police station will be shared with Deerfield and Winnetka... Good job staff getting others to pitch in!

We talked about the cost of Downtown sidewalk snow removal contracts and asked for ways to reduce costs.

Your "Main Man" Councilman Steve Mandel was appointed Mayor Pro Tem to the City Council by the Mayor and supported by my fellow Councilman.... While this should have happened immediately after the 2009 election, I am honored by the appointment and will serve in the position, in the Mayors absence, with respect of my fellow Council, facilitating discussion that will give us strong and solid consensus for staff to carry out. Thank you!

Eliminate Position of Treasurer

In early 2007 I expressed my opinion to eliminate of the Treasurers position. My feelings have not changed over the last 4 years since I tried to get a City Council consensus on changing the status of Treasurers position from a paid employee to a volunteer commissioner position. I am hoping my fellow Councilman will now embrace my idea to remove this political position of Treasurer from the payroll.

Currently the Treasurer gets paid 5000 dollars a year and gets free health insurance. Many other Volunteer Commissioners throughout the city that are professional lawyers, doctors, CPA's, and Mba's give their expertise without any compensation. While our Treasurer Ron Zweig is a asset to our non-elected recommending personnel, his position is no different from several other commission members. We have a wonderful professional Finance Director Elizabeth Holleb that fills the job of Treasurer.

For years this position has been a "Political Bone" for the Mayor to hand off to whom ever they wish. Mayor Mike Belsky handed this bone to his neighbor and good friend Ron Zwieg. Now, I again must say Ron Zwieg has been a great asset to the community and our finance committee, BUT no more than many of our City Commissioners that get NO Compensation.

It is time to eliminate the position of treasurer upon the next seating of the newly elected Mayor this year.