Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Big Change in City Government

Well, I will be entering my 19th year on the City Council after this next April election and under any circumstances the scenery will be changing around me. Mike Belsky is out along with Councilman Silberman and Councilman Levenfeld retiring after 8 years of service. With Councilwoman Olian throwing her bonnet into the ring against Mayor hopeful Nancy Rotering, we could have 4 or 3 new Councilmen this year depending on the Mayoral race outcome.

Five are on the ballot for the three open City Councilmen seats. Please go online to read about these candidates to make the best choices for our city. There will not be a primary, so the City Council Election will be held in April 5, 2011. If you know folks or young adults that are not registered to vote..... please encurage them to participate.

This will be a whole new City Council with fresh ideas that will develop creative policy for our future, as these folks make their imprint on Highland Park politics and our quality of life. I am strongly encouraged that we will forge ahead on the sustainability front, making huge progress on government reorganization by strongly engaging neighboring communities and other local governments to provide shared services for our residents. We need to spend less money overall on administration and overhead costs. More dollars need to be freed from current budget to rebuild infrastructure and providing essential needs to our citizens.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Economic Tolerance of our Citizens

In Government, staff always shares with the City Council best municipal practices on wages for our employees. We want to provide fair compensation and offer enough to retain good employees. Staff also points out our share of property taxes (6.5%) and how our fees, water rates, sales tax, etc compares to many other communities of size and proximity to Highland Park.

All of this is fine, but in private business, the cost of delivering your service should not be more than the revenues you can retrieve from sales in the open market. How I relate this to government is that the economic tolerance and the services provided to citizens should be regulated by the elected officials with an observance of the service delievered kept within the costs of our citizens ability to pay.

At our last meeting, I suggested we show a spreadsheet on the economic tolerance of Highland Park's citizen in respect to the combined impact of all these taxes, fees, and rates. I am not asking just about the City of Highland Park's costs, but rather total community costs and how that economic burden compares to other communities of similar size and proximity. This will help us better understand how expensive it is to live in Highland Park.

As I have stated in past writings, I am concerned that we are asking for too much and continue to ask for a greater percentage of the resources from our citizens pockets. Again, we are asking for more money from citizens than the any index of inflation has shown. Social Security Checks have not increased in 2 years, housing and stock values have declined, yet we continue to ask for more.

Enough---- We should do what it takes to roll back costs and reduce the burden on our population before more people have to leave our great community because they can't afford to live here anymore.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

December 2010 Roundup

We have asked Counsel to draft and ordinance Creating the new Natural Resources Commission that will combine our existing Environmental and Lakefront Commissions. This is occurring in part to the continued efficiency efforts, less work load on the Lakefront Commission, and combining a united focus across the board on sustainability and our environment.

We continue to work with SWALCO, our Business Community, and Commissioners to Remove Styrofoam and Plastic Film (bags) from our waste stream.

Veolia apologized for sending our late billing that had an incorrect late notice. They explained the bill is not due until 12/25/10.

We made an amendment to our lease agreement with The Art Center to reduce their costs while they continue to restructure their operations and provide a great contribution to our Cultural Arts mission in Highland Park.

Made a deposit of $428,000 to Com Ed for a transformer for our water plant upgrade. I continue to oppose moving forward on a water plant increase until we can assure our water rates won't skyrocket.

Decided not to move ahead with mandatory residential sprinkler systems for new homes built in Highland Park because of increased costs in consideration of this stressed housing market.

After the City Council voted unanimously at our last meeting to take down the NO U-Turn sign by the theater on Central Avenue, I am still optimistic that our staff will obey our directive at some point. Who is in charge here? Staff, in their infinite wisdom, put the sign back up last year after our City Council led by Ray Geraci had it taken down many years ago.

We passed a Tree Trimming contract, not to exceed the 100,000 for 2011. This operates our eight cycle maintenance of our urban forest. The city is divided into 8 tree maintenance districts of which we focus on one every 8 years.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mike Belsky will not run for Mayor in 2011

I want to thank Mayor Mike Belsky for his service to our community over the past 16+ years as Councilman and Mayor. He has just told us he will not run for re-election as Mayor in 2011.

We have worked together on issues across the board and while sometimes disagreeing, much progress has been made on behalf of the citizens of Highland Park. Mike is a smart and heart felt individual that has given all he has to this community during his service. His support and encouragement of my efforts on the environmental, fiscal, and visionary fronts have always helped us achieve better outcomes for our community. I hope my support of his initiatives have given him the same confidence to push further than others have before.

While politically things have been bumpy at times, I look back at the achieved outcomes we have planted and taken root over the past 16 years, and I am proud to have worked with Mike on behalf of Highland Park.

November 2010 Roundup

The City Council formally approved the Prospect Street end plan on Oct. 25th 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.
At the recommendation of the Business and Economic Dev. Comm., the City Council approved amended Sales Tax Sharing agreements with HP Ford Lincoln-Mercury and North Shore Auto Grp. This sharing of NEW sales tax dollars offsets a share of the costs for improvements to the site.
We are looking at building code changes that include mandatory home sprinklers, demolition debris recycling, conservation energy code, additional licensing, and bird safety glass.
Water rates will increase about 3% and will cost the average homeowner $18/yr more. I did not support this! I continue to ask for information about this project and long term costs to taxpayers.
Passed $53,840 in service grants for the Arts and Human Service organizations. Many non-profits are struggling and if you can help in some way.... Please contribute. This is a good thing!