Friday, December 16, 2011

December 2011 Round Up

Happy Holidays and New Year to all my family, friends, and fellow citizens.....
We continue to review Theater Proposals and are very excited about possible opportunities ahead. Discussions are just in exploring stage so nothing to report yet! ..Stay Tuned!
63 applications for our City Manager position... Should have someone in the seat late 1st quarter.
Ridge and Lake Cook - No Right Turn law was affirmed by the City Council after a recommendation from our Traffic Commission to allow those movements. This is the 6th time I have participated in these debates and it does not get any easier.... I wish there was a better way!
The City of Highland Park will put a question on March 20th ballot asking voters to give us the power to get the best electricity rates for our power (with resident opt out provision). Municipal Aggregation will be carried a step further with us working in a North Shore Consortium to get even better electric rates.
On the Environmental front we passed a Construction Debris Recycling Ordinance and a Plastic Bag/Film Ordinance that will help collect and recycle these materials.
Park District/City Council meeting was a great success... Mayor Rotering and myself are part of a subcommittee that will meet as a subcommittee with the Park District to discuss major capitol projects, shared services and opportunities, and the disposition of the Highland Park Country Club. Lot of stuff on these items and need to get moving.... Yep. This could be a Big One....
Please look at the final report of the Lake County's 60% Recycling Task Force Report We just passed approval of report at our Directors meeting and will be asking all of our 42 member communities to vote on this report. SWALCO will be making the rounds presenting the findings to members upon request.
Ice Skating Rink at Port Clinton is worth checking out in our downtown. The Alliance and property owners have done a excellent job promoting our CBD with ice sculptures, reindeer, and the great decorations that frame our primary shopping district.
Our Sustainability Consultants Delta are on track in working on three short term action items that include Zero Waste in our Schools, Electric Vehicle demonstration and programing, and Enhanced Recycling. We will also be calling stakeholders to the table for a global discussion in early February (TBA).

Looking forward to continued Public Service On Lake County Board

Last night at a SWALCO meeting in Hainesville with colleagues from over 25 of Lake County's communities I felt excitement about the vast opportunities to create positive change. There is strength in numbers and broader consensus building. Local government, including the County, is a place where we can make a difference in peoples lives. The gridlock of Federal and to the lesser extent State government is something I have not seen in most local government.

Highland Park and Lake County are AAA financially rated and have worked together on a broad spectrum of issues. Looking forward to participate in this much broader forum in representing residents in Highland Park, Highwood, and Deerfield.

The primary election date is March 20th with early voting starting February 27th in Lake County. While I am unopposed in the Primary I will be putting together a campaign as the November general election could produce an opponent. I released a Press Release to announce my election for Lake County Board District 11. I want to thank Sen. Garrett, Rep. May, Mayor Rotering, Mayor Pierce, Mayor Geraci, and the entire City Council of Highland Park for their support.

Joyce O’Keefe receives Environment Award from City

Joyce O’Keefe received the Highland Park Natural Resources Commission’s Award for Meritorious Service to the Highland Park Environment.

In large part because of Joyce O'Keefe we have the Lakeshore Preserve at Fort Sheridan. This spectacular public accessible strip of Lake Michigan shoreline is held by Open Lands and has raised millions for its restoration and development. Enjoy the trails along the shoreline and ravine where you can experience the beauty of nature right here in our front yard at Fort Sheridan.

Joyce, has been a strong advocate for Open Lands and Historic Preservation during her public service career. I had the pleasure of sliding into her seat on the City Council when she stepped down in 1993. She will always be one of my Highland Park hero's and was so happy to see her receive this well deserved award. BRAVO JOYCE!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Volunteer Snow Shoveling Program to Commence this Winter Season

Alex Gordon, a student at Highland Park High School, has founded a snow-shoveling program in which volunteers can assist Highland Park residents who cannot clear their own sidewalks. Working in conjunction with the City of Highland Park, the program will match volunteers who are able to shovel snow and clear sidewalks with residents who need assistance.  Residents interested in volunteering should contact Highland Park resident Alex Gordon at (847) 224-8458 or at Residents who are interested in determining if they qualify for assistance with snow removal should contact Don Miner, Manager of Youth and Senior Services, at (847) 926-1861 or at Both the volunteers and the recipients will be required to complete liability waivers. Training will be provided for volunteers.

Each property owner will be responsible for providing shovels and ice melting materials as required. Snow Blowers will not be permitted due to safety issues.  The program will only include sidewalks, not driveways.
Efforts will be made to geographically match volunteers with recipients.

Park and 41 Revisited

In October I blogged about the new development proposal across from the Dunkin Doughnuts and received very little feedback. Following, a few dozen neighbors showed up at the City Council meeting in November concerned about how this development would add additional cars on McCraren, contribute to the worsening of the 41 and Park intersection, and create undue pedestrian conflicts on and around the new proposed development.

The developer first came to the Community several years ago with this proposal at the request of myself and others that want to see the old cement site cleaned up and revitalized. A strong and desirable commercial base is important to promote property tax stabilization and property values. This proposal has seen many public hearings and changes at the Plan Commission and Council that has improved the plan. That being said, the best result of this process would be if the Doughnut business could be incorporated within this new development to alleviate the conflicts that it brings to this intersection.

While this development on its own is a plus for our community, we can't ignore the problems with this intersection and need to proactively cultivate solutions like the one I propose.


The 2nd Annual Post Holiday Highland Park Recycling Extravaganza will be held On SATURDAY JANUARY 7th 8am to 12pm at 1180 Half Day Road (Public Service Campus).... ALL electronics will be BANNED from Landfill January 1st.... Along with Electronics, Styrofoam and Fluorescents Bulbs will be collected. This is open to all Lake County Residents... Pass the word!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ravinia Festival gives Highland Park $781,000

A big Thank You to Ravinia Festival for sharing revenues to the tune of $781,000. This money is generated from a voluntary agreement with Highland Park that shares a percentage of revenues coming from ticket sales. $234,200 of this money goes to YEA HP, which provides funding for our Youth, Education, and Arts.

This is the third year of shared revenues that has now totalled $2.25 million for the City of Highland Park. This agreement came out of our recent discussions of a funding mechanism for the purchase of the Highland Park Theater, maintenance of infrastructure, and the guaranteed support of our schools and Arts. We could not be more grateful to the Festival for their commitment to our community, our schools, and bringing the worlds best in performance arts to The City of Highland Park.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Steve Mandel for Lake County Board

UPDATE..I filed on the 28th of November and learned yesterday that no others filed at the closing of yesterday. What this means is that I am unopposed in the March 20th, 2012 Primary election and we move onto the November election. Yippeee!
Since this is a partisan election there can be someone slated to run against me in November but as yet all is clear. Lake County Board District 11 contains almost all of Highland Park, all of Highwood, and a tiny piece of Deerfield. The New Lake County Board will be seated on the 1st meeting in December of 2012.

Recently the Lake County Board has created a new district that includes most of Highland Park, all of Highwood, and a small part of Deerfield. I am currently passing petitions to run for this newly formed district and am excited about extending my political career at the County.

As many of you might know, I originally started my public service working on County issues and have continued that work through today serving as an Executive Board Member, Chair of the Finance Committee, and Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County. SWALCO is an agency that represents about 41 communities in Lake County. Outside of SWALCO, I have been involved in County open space preservation, discussions on health services, housing, watershed conservation, and land use.

Michelle Feldman and Anne Bassi currently represent areas covered by the newly drawn district. I would be proud to continue the good efforts of both these fine ladies while bringing a renewed enthusiasm in representation of this new district and all of Lake County.

Please give me feedback on this new opportunity as I collect my petitions and prepare to file within this next month.  Thank you for all your support..... past and present!

Library Infrastructure Impovements first use of reserves

While I stand by my position that I would not use reserves for normal yearly funding of operations and scheduled yearly allocations of capital improvements, we should use the reserves for a one time capital improvement. Infrastructure, streets, and facilities could be improved with reserves as allowed within our financial policy.

As our reserves have approached the 50% mark and our financial policy only suggests a 25-33% reserve, consensus of the City Council has determined a spend down of reserves on one time capital expenditures.

Over the past several years the Library board has asked for improvements and additions that have topped the 10 million dollar mark. Under direction of the past City Council the library board was directed to target infrastructure improvements and limited updating instead of a large addition project.

The City Council has agreed on about .8mil of improvements in 2012 that would start repairing basic facility repairs and update the Library to more fit the needs of data and computer driven services. We have also received assurance from board members to work with us on our government sustainability project to create efficiencies and eliminate redundancies. Stay Tuned!!!

Councilman Frank pushes Stimulus for HP Business

How do we get business to invest in Highland Park to generate additional sales and property taxes....?

Well, Councilman Frank has worked with our staff and the Business and Economic Development Commission to create a new Sales Tax Rebate program that could allow rebates for as little as a 75,000 dollar improvement by business owners. Since the economic down turn we have had a moratorium on tax rebates, but with the new norm of slow growth this moratorium will be ending and a more aggressive stimulus will be forthcoming.

This item should be coming up soon for continued public discussion, is very wide reaching, and could also attract new business to join us in Highland Park.

Park and 41 development

A proposed Park Ave. development has received a preliminary thumbs up from the City Council. The only real concern shared by the Council and myself was the vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow around the site. With Dunkin Doughnuts across the street, the intersection of 41 and Park is very challenging at times and can be dangerous. Staff will be looking at ways to promote the best safety methodology. We also need to get IDOT to give us more time in crossing and turning onto 41 from Park.

I am excited to know with passage of the development the old ugly cement mixing remnants will be gone.....The new development will be anchored by a CVS, Starbucks, and a Bank. These additions to the NW neighborhood should create a more accessible spot for essentials and create another sales tax generator along our Skokie Corridor.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Budget Reality is based on outdated government structure

It is just not good enough to just keep cutting within our current government structure. If we do not change the structure of government we will fail in providing services our citizens need.  We must start combining departments, functions, governments, and even multi-community services to get to where we must go. This is not a black and white issue, but rather should be a thoughtful deliberative process that looks at all the possibilities to provide services to citizens in our region.

I kind of look at our current government as an old 1950's auto that gets 10 miles to the gallon, weighs a few tons or more, and is almost as wide as it is long. Now this vehicle has the ability of taking six folks across the country and floats down the road nice and smooth but the problem is that gasoline costs a bundle, were running out of fossil fuels, it is unsafe to drive, and we have no space to park it.

Economics will drive us to the real reality in government. Those that say we can't cut anymore are correct within the four walls that we currently operate. Now is the time to bust down those walls and look at our region, government, and community to eliminate redundancy and promote shared services, shared employees, and shared governance. Roll in the blackboard and invite all governments to start a dialog for successful and sustainable delivery of services to our citizens.......NOW!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

HP Historical Society House Tour

The Highland Park  Historical Society's house tour is Sunday, September 25th from 1-5 in the afternoon. We have five spectacular homes. If you have friends visiting this tour would be a great way to show them the essence of what makes Highland Park a special place.  It's got, ravines, Lake Michigan, the Highland Park Building Company, Jens Jensen, German Jews, summer homes, famous-architects-you've-never-heard-of.  The oldest was built in the 1870's, the newest in 1951.  This house tour is going to be knock your socks off remarkable.
 Tickets are $35.00, or $30.00 in advance.  Call 847-432-7090, email, and visit

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Household Chemical Waste (HCW) Collections
Public Drop off dates at SWALCO
Saturday, September 10,  Monday, September 26 
The Gurnee facility is located at 1311 N. Estes Street. Please use Route 41 to Delany Road (north) to Grove (east) to Estes.(Map to Facility)

Schedule your online appointment below. Limited appointments are available so sign up early!! (appointments are needed). Please click on the link below to go to our scheduling page.

Schedule an appointment now.
Click here to schedule your appointment.

(No Appointment Necessary)

Saturday, September 17, 2011    8:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Lake Forest Municipal Services Center 

800 N. Field Drive
Lake Forest, IL 60045

All HCW collection events, sponsored by SWALCO, are FREE and for Illinois residents ONLY. You do not need to be a resident of the community where the collection takes place in order to participate. Please scroll down the page for a general list of items accepted and not accepted at all HCW events.

If you have questions regarding items that are accepted, please check the list below, or contact SWALCO at 847-336-9340. If you need to dispose of something before you can get to one of our events, please consult SWALCO's "Where Should My Stuff Go?" tab on our main page.
Please check back at this site routinely for an updated schedule of year-round collection events and Mobile Collections.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Budget Meetings Kick Off - Get Budget Smart!

Citizens need to get Budget Smart so they know what is happening with their tax dollars. If you are willing to dive in......... go to our City's Website and click on Know your City's Finances. Tons of information here that will provide a wide range of answers.
Please Join us at City Hall August 29th 6pm-8pm as we continue to discuss the formation of our 2012 City of Highland Park Budget. You can download the agenda packet for this meeting like all others by going to our City Council agenda and packet page.

Check out our city meeting calendar for future budget meetings and keep informed on the developments of our budget process. From the beginning discussions we have had, I promise you this budget process will not be without game changers.
See you there!

082811 Roundup

The Cary Avenue Bridge designated a local landmark. Built in 1928 at a cost of $8,500. The bridge spans 136 feet over a ravine and connects two sides Cary Avenue. The bridge has a three-foot decorative steel handrail. There is a bronze plaque commemorating the Mayor in 1928 (Benjamin Lewis), the Corporation Counsel, City Clerk, and the four City Commissioners.

New Senior Living Community approved on old phone company site between toys R us and our police station at 1651 Richfield. It will accomidate 88 residents and focus on memory and Alzheimer's care.

Thorntons gas station and medical building approval was given on the old Lincoln Mercury site adjacent to Crossroads shopping center and the Marriott Courtyard off Lake Cook Road. Construction of the gas station will begin immediately and offer Biodiesel and E85. The new medical building will be constructed in the spring. All demolition and construction will recycle the waste produced during development of this site and Senior living Community.

I asked staff to put it in gear to get plug-in stations for the new electric cars. We have been talking about it way too long and now it is time to get these stations at our train stations, public facilities, and work with business owners to make electrical hookups a reality. I hear that Walgreens has one coming soon. We also need to provide incentives to promote electric autos in Highland Park since mass use of these vehicles will reduce our addiction and dependence on foreign oil.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Tollway board members either are experiencing no pain in this recession or never drive on the tollways. How a governing body can exact an 87% increase in a rate is well beyond my comprehension in these times. Our elected members must be held accountable for these actions and this decision should be reversed. When are these folks going to realize that we have no more money to spend on non-discretionary costs. I personally can make a choice of driving on the tollway because there are plenty of alternatives, but for those folks that need to use the tollways to get to work, shop, or to go anywhere this will be huge.

Has anybody figured out how much more traffic will now come over on route 41 to bypass the tolls? What will be the additional cost for Highland Parker's in dollars and time because of this action? How many minutes will the state have us sit at these intersections waiting for regional traffic that is bypassing the tollway? We currently have to wait way too long to enter or cross route 41. How many more fatalities will occur on route 41 with increased congestion and anxiety of drivers?

Call and write Karen May and Susan Garrett to voice your concern.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

How much more can citizens pay?

We are heading into our new budget cycle and are just talking about finance policy before we get into the presentation of the hard numbers for 2012. Our City Manager David Limardi will be leading us in the discussion for the final time since he will be moving on January 1, 2012. One of David's finest talents was to manage our budget policy and action agenda's. Last year when asked to have revenues meet expenditures, he met the task and then some. The Council was the one in the final analysis that backed off his balanced budget proposal and spent more than he had suggested.

That being said, I have been asking that we understand the financial stress that residents are under in this economic crunch. As our homes and property have lost significant value over the past several years, proposed real estate taxes, sewer, and water fees continue to rise. While social security checks have stayed flat and investments are shrinking, we are presented charts that show the average municipality rates to justify raising fees and taxes. If Northbrook, Willmette, Evanston, and Lake Forest can raise these fees we seemingly are enabled to do the same ourselves. NOT!

I am told well over 30% of mortgages are underwater which means those people owe more money than their home is worth. Since our homes are most of our savings, the dream has taken a quite a hit even if the stock market comes back again.

 At least for now we have not been charged in feeding the hungry, providing medical treatment to those without medical insurance, or providing housing to the homeless. For now, this job has fallen on our federal and state governments as well as those whose charity continues to flow though our wonderful not for profits. Our responsibility centers around public safety, roads, sewers, water, land use, and promotion of a vibrant economy and culture.

If staff asks us to increase fees and property taxes we need to know how many people can afford these increases before we raise anything. I have been hearing my colleagues state that we are bare bones, cut too much, and need to better fund city departments and programs. Along with looking for more efficient structures of governmental administrations, we need identify and understand the pain of our residents to see who can afford more money leaving their pockets for government. I'm ready to work and drill down as far as it takes to perform in with the best representation of our citizens. That means asking lots of questions, taking nothing for granted, and looking for brand new solutions and partnerships that might have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Let's Go!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Green Items Moving Forward

Discussions will be unveiled in the next few weeks to hire a Green Czar Consulting Firm. The firm will examine our staff , our community, and look at the structure and education to implement our plan. Along with that task I will be asking for help real time in moving forward on issues we can currently achieve.

We have put together a work group on construction demolition recycling that will include the help of SWALCO's Walter Willis. Walter has been promoting strategies on reducing landfill waste through reuse and recycling. He has been working with several industries to promote best management strategies statewide and we are privileged to have him on our team.

The final touches are being made on our continued assault on water runoff (storm water) though controlling the amount of land you can seal off to absorption. Otherwise known as the lot coverage ordinance, this legislation will charge fees for overbuilding and credits for green technologies of best storm water practices.
We are also looking to have receptacles for electric (plug in) vehicles in our community and am told we are negotiating a package to implement soon.

Along with these issues many others are on the burner and will be rolling them out soon. Keep Tuned.....

August Roundup

Com Ed..... needs to do a better job providing our electric service. We have asked them to come back in 60 days with a detailed remediation plan for all the troubled areas. We have also requested a detailed sheet of their power structure including Main feeders down to the secondary and home lines that go to our homes. They heard us loud and clear that we need more reliable service. Will give full update in two months.
Waste Management presented the City of Highland Park an environmental award for our promotion of the Compressed Natural Gas refuse trucks on our streets. Because of our efforts they have built a multi million dollar CNG facility that will serve their entire future fleet.
Highland Park Theater discussion continues to move forward with the development of a RFQ/RFP. We should get this outreach rolling in August for proposals for private operations or development.
Port Clinton has come up with a sensational plan for a new stage and upgrades to the plaza that will continue to bring vibrancy and beauty to our downtown. I am hopeful we can continue discussions soon. They have also done a sensational job with plantings and seating areas that have enhanced the existing space... Check it out on the Highland Park News website.
Fence over 41 pedestrian overpass was put on hold for a year to see what funding is available. I was very disappointed the Council did not move forward immediately on a fix for what I see is a bad situation.
Dan Kaufman is an official Councilman and the guy is pretty smart and cool. Really glad to see him share a seat with us.
The Council Rejected a $377,265 bid to rebuild the parking lot to the South of City Hall. Councilman Frank brought this item to our attention and got consensus that it was not an immediate priority. Looking for other programs to use this budgeted money that make more sense now.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Access to our Central Lakefront is Important

A few weeks ago it came to my attention that during our 31 million dollar upgrade of our water plant that the staff of the city and park district had decided to close down our Park Ave. beach for the 2012 season to all boaters and most pedestrian access. Along the same time Councilman Kirsch brought forward the issue of the Central Park stairway being in disrepair.

As the Park District Liaison, I was asked to engage the Park District in discussions to facilitate repair or reconstruction of an access point down from Central Park to the beachfront. To basically repair or rebuild the stairs where they currently exist or find another approach to get transverse down the bluff. I also received a consensus from the City Council to investigate ways to provide the most access possible to the beach as we upgrade the water plant.

After encountering a staff solid brick wall over the past week from both the city and park staff, Councilman Kirsch and I spoke at the new park board meeting last night to ask for cooperation and facilitation of these two very important issues. The Park District board was very gracious and welcomed a partnership with the City Council to facilitate a discussion with staff on behalf of our community. We will work toward repair or replacement of the stairs as well as investigating the most safe access on our Park Ave. beaches during the upgrade of the water plant.

Along with our residents enjoying just walking along the lake front at Park Avenue, we have a great sailing facility, a boat launch, sand beaches, fishing, parking, great views of our bluffs,  shoreline, and the many miles of open lake waters to enjoy. Lake Michigan is the number one asset we have in Highland Park after our citizens. The interaction between these 2 top assets is something I continue to work on to enhance..... Wish me luck!

Highland Park Local Legends Program

The Highland Park Historical Society has requested that we establish a a Local Legends program in recognition of individuals that have had a positive impact on the City of Highland Park. Private entities will fund the installation of a plaque on our sidewalks dedicated to these honorees.

While it is not Grauman's Theater, we expect these plaques will be of interest and conversation within and outside our community, and will give a positive buzz for our downtown. I look forward to the installation and ask people to think of some future honorees. The Highland Park Historical Society will administer the project.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Happy Fourth of July Everybody!

Special Events Calendar
Children's Bike and Pet Parade
July 4, 9:30 AM @ Downtown Highland Park

City of Highland Park Fourth of July Parade
July 4, 10:00 AM @ Downtown Highland Park

Fourth Fest
July 4, 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM @ Sunset Woods Park

Bitter Jester Battle of the Bands Concert - Final
July 4, 6:00 PM @ Wolters Field

Fourth of July Fireworks (Event Begins at Dusk)
July 4, 9:00 PM

July 2011 Roundup

Com Ed and Power Outages... the City Council will be discussing strategies to repair and replace our infrastructure that has failed us. Redundancy and upgrades will go a long way on solving problems we faced during our last storm and power failures. One subject that keeps coming up is can Com Ed bury our lines? Yes, if you pay for them to be buried. The cost to bury lines is about one million per mile. Under current law, the standard residential configuration is overhead lines but there seems to be state discussion on this point. As we must all realize that any improvements Com Ed makes will be put on our utility bills.
Water Plant renovations prepayment for diesel generators and electrical equipment of 2.1 million.
Historical Society Special Event permit for Historical Auto Show on July 23, 2011.
CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) was approved and can be seen at our City Website under Know your city finances..... This report shows everything you ever wanted to know about city's finances.
Spending $34,839 for a Tech Master Plan. Client First Consulting group will be getting money to review our technologies for the future. I was not convinced this was well spent money since I want to partner with several other governments and plan our future together. City Manager said this will not be waisted money to go in that direction and refused to wait until we made a deal with other governments, City Council concurred.
Voted again on Western Ave to create an escrow account for Highwoods construction to continue... Looks like it will happen in 2012.
Got an 8k grant from Hospital foundation for technologies to help locate individuals with Alzheimer's, autism or other disabilities..... Thank you!
City Treasurer is finally our wonderful finance director. I have been pushing for this for several years. Elizabeth Holleb has been doing the work for many years and now she wears the statutory title. Congrats!
Park Avenue detours are due to water main replacement that we approved at a tune of $574,218.00.

SWALCO Household Chemical Waste Event

Deerfield High School, 1959 North Waukegan Road will host our area's Household Chemical Waste drop off again this year on JULY 16th at 8am until 2:30pm.   Please check website for additional information on collection items as well as learn about our year around drop off facility in Gurnee.


The Highland Park Theater is open for business........ Please come and spend money in our downtown and our theater. Bring your friends and family and enjoy a great movie in this historic theater. While it needs work, the enjoyment is there for your taking.

Thanks to our Mayor Nancy R. Rotering we have begun to move forward on improvement of this entertainment site. We had a very good exchange of ideas at our last City Council Pre-Session meeting where I was comforted from our current City Council vision of entertainment, historic recognition, and MOVEMENT forward on preservation and adaptation. Bottom line was everybody was willing to listen to all ideas and decide on the future of this site within a short term timeline.
If someone wanted to restore the old Highland Park Theater into a digital cinema and restore the inside, I would not be happier. That being said, there are several entertainment options that excite me.  In addition to movies in the existing configuration we could add some live entertainment component to the mix. This would probably be the least expensive option and provide a 200-300 seat capacity venue for live theater and movies . One of the major problem with this theater is that as you approach the rear of the theater it dramatically narrows. At the halfway point, where the front theater ends, it could provide sufficient space for live theater if the stage was moved forward a bit. When you add a mix of food and drinks to the venue, you could have a successful operation. It could be set up as in a club style...... I hope we get lots of proposals and am excited about this future.

Other options include using the parking lot to the East and redeveloping the theater and parking lot together. Ideas of a small hotel/theater/event facility have emerged from discussion and are out there. Bottom line on the parking lot is that we need all those spaces and maybe more. Anyone willing to develop that site must realize they would have to make us whole on the public spaces and provide parking for whatever more space they build out.

Anyway, just wanted to give and update on the Theater and seemingly fast track is it on to a hopeful redevelopment proposal. The Council has asked staff to discuss RFP and RFQ alternatives at our next meeting to send out in the near future.


Lake Michigan is the Prime Natural Asset that Highland Park has within its boundaries. There is no doubt of the importance it has to us as well as life itself. Most of us take the fresh body of water for granted.... but we should not. Remember, this lake water compromises 70% of our bodies. Yes, 70% of US is Lake Michigan.

We need to protect the lake and understand the fundamental requirements to do so. The Great Lakes ecosystem has limits of tolerance that can't be ignored. Proactive decisions and policies need to be thought out and enacted to assure its survival and ours. Short sided public policy and industrial decisions must not be allowed to continue for our children, and children's children to be able to survive on this earth.

The Great Lakes Compact, passed into federal law in 2008 and signed onto by the State of Illinois, prohibits water diversions outside of the watershed and ensures that the waters are used sustainably within the watershed. Actions by our Lake County leaders and affirmed by the state do not seem to follow this commitment since they have suggested we pump new Lake Michigan water outside the watershed. Along with breaking the rule on this compact, there is no plans to bring the water back into the watershed to replace its diversion. This proposal by Lake County is morally vacant of any reasonable stewardship of our Great Lakes resource and possibly violates the Compact that we did sign.

On another front we are spending over 30 million dollars at our Highland Park water plant to increase capacity from about 21 MGD (million gal. per day) to 30 MGD. To be fair to my colleague Jim Kirsch, a major promoter of this expansion, this new micro filtration process does remove smaller elements in the process making it marginally safer. The micro filtration process also significantly increases the amount of energy to operate the plant over our current sand filtration system. The plans also make it possible to produce 40 MGD with future modifications. Currently, Highland Park and the western communities we serve use about 11 MGD with peaks in the summer over the 21 MGD. So there are two major reasons proponents have pushed this project forward over the past 5 years. One is increased capacity and the other is cleaner water. My concern and objection to moving forward over the past several years is that we do not need increased capacity (we could enact a conservation policy and reduce consumption significantly, thus fall well within the current operation capacity during peaks) and currently we exceed all the federal and state requirements for clean drinkable water.

At our last City Council meeting Councilman David Naftzger made a motion to postpone two items on our agenda to immediately spend over a million more on this project until we had time to dig into the policy changes this Council has embraced, and its effects on this expansion plan. Only Councilman Naftzger and myself supported that postponement. After urging an pleading from our city manager, the Mayor and 3 others voted to spend the million plus and push forward on the 30+ million spending plan without additional investigation or discussion. 

Councilman Naftzger and myself will push forward on clarifying the facts on NEED and the resulting economic impact these decisions will have on our water rates as we borrow the 30+ million dollars future residents will have to pay back. While most might say this horse is way out of the barn, I believe we can reduce the scope of this project and save many millions, move forward with a cutting edge conservation plan, and reduce the economic burden that these costs will impact residents for the next 25 years. My hope is to turn this LEMON into lemonade we can all support.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Hands-Free Cell Phone Driving Only - June 1st, 2011

The City Council now requires all motorists driving in Highland Park utilize their cellular devices in a hands-free mode only while operating a vehicle.

Please look at the City website to learn more.

Folks that are caught not using a cell phone Hands-Free..... will be ticketed.
I suggest not using your cell phone while driving at all. Wait until you pull over and park before using the phone. Studies have shown that any cell phone use while driving is dangerous.
Be safe......

A Call for Alternative Energy

Our Wind Energy ordinance passed allowing residents to install turbines on their homes and on large land parcels. While these are mostly untested winds of governmental regulation, we have to start somewhere. I have discussed running beta scenarios with our city manager to be sure we don't over regulate this promising technology.

If any of you are interested in installing wind turbines please shop for installers and contact our community development office at 847.432.0867 for details.
The City of Highland Park and other governments must lead by example. We have been collecting sustainability funds from our waste contracts to provide examples. I hope to have a wind turbine on a government facility by 2012 if not sooner..... Stay tuned!

June 2011 Roundup

Property Owners from our downtown came before the City Council to ask us to help facilitate code changes and administration procedures to help facilitate a more prosperous district. The Council responded that we should put this on a front burner and in short work get to decisions points. Staff had proposed a more process laden approach in which I heard the City Council reject.

Fencing on route 41 pedestrian overpass was again postponed because of lack of time. I am hoping that we can get this moving soon to install fencing to protect our bike riders and vehicles on 41.

We extended Karger lease agreement with Community Family Center for another year..... This gives them time to continue to raise money. Also, The Music Theater Company will be continuing their great performances at Karger during this transition. Please check out both these websites to support these great organizations.

Old Council rejected my request to use additional funding to repair more streets in town. I am hopeful the new City Council will authorize a one time use of funds for enhancement of our aging infrastructure. Our reserves are now over 40% and our fiscal policy requires 25%-33%. We will begin the budget process in July.

The threat of the State stealing our Local Government Distributive money is over for this year and I personally would like to thank Senator Garrett and Representative May for supporting our position.

Interviews for our seventh Council seat have gone well. We had 27 interested citizens of which one will be brought forward by our Mayor for final approval by the City Council. The vote and seating of our newest Councilman will be on June 27th.

Reflection on Memorial Day

I want to personally thank all those that have served us in our armed forces. For those brave citizens that have done so in support of our country and values, I have no greater respect. To sacrifice your life and future on this earth is a leap of faith in man and the ultimate commitment to our nation and people. G_d bless those soldiers that served us, made the ultimate sacrifice, and their families that will live with the loss.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

To Begin at the Beginning again.

Okay, New Mayor, Whole new Council, and Jimbo and I.  Well, I am very hopeful that we can get something stirring soon and have good outcomes for us to make you proud. In a managerial form of government the operations is run by our City Manager and it is up to the Seven of us to form a policy direction that must be obeyed.

As ONE of the SEVEN that serve you, I am going to share some of the specifics that I hope I can get consensus on during the next two years.

Budget - Increase in capitol spending and a decrease in personnel. I am hopeful though shared services with other governments in and around Highland Park we can gain a much greater efficiency. We also need to understand the realities of what we need to provide to residents.
Environmental Initiatives - The best way to approach energy conservation is through incentives and providing best practice examples. Just like the Prius cars I convinced staff to buy many years ago, we need to now demonstrate that electric vehicles can now make a difference. We must show geothermal applications for heating and cooling at city hall and the Library. How do we integrate wind turbines and solar panels onto our existing buildings? When you talk about planning and zoning, establish laws that prevent neighboring properties from blocking sunlight to peoples homes.  Stormwater discussions have gone on for many years but it is time we enacted laws on incentifying sustainable methodologies to collect stormwater for reuse instead of flushing it down to the Gulf of Mexico. And let's not forget the street-ends.... need to raise private money to work with our governmental sustainability fund to improve the street-end overlooks as the picture windows onto our Great Lake Michigan.
Governance -  I am hopeful that the staff will be much more aligned to the values of consensus of the City Council than I have seen in the past. We should not be pitched curves and sinkers that result in fouls and ground outs. The pitches should be slow, straight down over the plate, and easy to hit home runs. Maybe not every time, but I am looking for high scoring events!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sustainable Taxism

Over the past several years we have shown how government can serve our community with less. We continue to examine the efficiencies of the private sector and realities of our economy to share services and reduce cost. Yet, the staff continues to promote an increase in taxation.

Staff suggested and the Council passed an ordinance to establish a 4.5 cent / therm tax on out-of-state Natural Gas for customers in Highland Park. This additional tax of 4.5 cent/therm for out of state gas was presented to us to equalize the the 5% charged to HPkers buying in-state gas. This new tax will increase taxes to a tune of about $360,000 per year.

When I asked for this issue to be tabled a month ago or so, I was promised a pre-session discussion and presentation by staff. WELL, we ran out of time to discuss this in detail and I got no support April 25th from all 6 other members on the City Council to spend more time on the subject. This tax increase passed 6-1 with your buddy Steve being the only "NO" vote! Surprise Surprise!!

$360,000.00 of new taxes out of citizens pockets that are already strained!! I agree that all customers using natural gas should all pay the same tax rate. We could have reduced the tax rate for existing in-state paying customers to a point where we brought in the same total taxes that we bring in today? Why not also charge everyone a set price at X amount / therm instead of some by the therm and others by a percentage of cost of therms.....and INCREASE TAXES!!!

We are elected to watch over these actions and I believe this decision to raise $360,000.00 more tax dollars was unwarranted.  I again propose we fairly distribute all taxation of Natural Gas among all users not raise taxes. This way we can be fair and reduce taxes for a significant part of of public. What is wrong with that? Comments?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Congratulations and Thank You!

Elections over, Life goes on! I want to give a heart felt congratulations to Mayor-elect Nancy Rotering, Councilman-elect Tony Blumberg, David Naftzger, and Paul Frank. Also, all those that will be serving our community on the park and school boards.Those of us on the City Council look forward to working with our sister governments on shared services and a new level of cooperation.
I also wish to thank Councilman Scott Levenfeld, Councilwoman Terri Olian, Councilman Larry Silberman, and Mayor Michael Belsky for their combined decades of service to this community.While the political road seems to get bumpy at times (OMG), we must elevate ourselves above our differences and renew relationships within government for the benefit of our community and citizens.

On a final note, I would like to wish everybody a great Easter and Passover holiday. I so enjoy the reflection and observance of my heritage as well as the joyful experience of the diversity of cultures in our community..... Health and Happiness to all!

Who should fill Councilman Roterings Seat?

Now that Nancy will be our new mayor on May 9th, it is time to focus on who will replace her as our new City Councilman. As usual, I have some thoughts on direction my ONE vote will go and am currently reaching out for candidates to fill certain obvious vacuums.

WEST SIDE!!! As many of you know I grew up in the Red Oak / West Ridge neighborhood and will always consider myself a Highland Park Westsider...... That being said, no one currently serves on the City Council that lives West of route 41 and I believe that is a BIG problem. We need eyes and ears in our west side neighborhoods to better network with that part of our community 24/7.

WOMAN!!! With Nancy being the only woman still on our council, this is an obvious consideration in picking her replacement.

Availability and time spent in Highland Park is important since four of our current Councilmen work mostly outside of our community. It does make sense that a few us that serve on the Highland Park City Council be in Highland Park on a "Daily Basis".

Qualified Candidates is the first consideration in this process. While one might think that being a University of Chicago, Northwestern, Harvard, or Yale graduate seals the deal...... think not!  I am looking for candidates that have heart, intelligence, passion, and a like vision and set of values that are shared with the everyday people of our community. Even a Stagehand like me can produce great results and not be an Ivy League Peep.

PLEASE consider this position for yourself and/or ask others. Nancy, as our soon to be Mayor, is taking requests for this open seat to be filled by the end of June. Read the city posting for this position. According to the State of Illinois law, the Mayor will appoint with advice of City Council. Then, that Mayoral appointment will be placed in front of the City Council and will become a Councilman if the majority of the City Council agree and give consent.

April 2011 Roundup

The NO-Bank type (POSO) zoning placed to keep our pedestrian downtown viable is being examined. Can we increase foot traffic in our downtown by easing restrictions on use of main street storefronts? Should we allow athletic clubs, convenient stores or simply shrink the overall size of the overlay restrictive ordinance?

More 1st run movies at the Highland Park Movie Theater. Please check out movies and visit our downtown. While you are there, have lunch, dinner, or shop and visit our great stores.

Awarded $1,136,790 bid for Asphalt work that includes work on segments of Barberry, Clavey, Egandale, Grange, Highland, Lewis, Lilac, Old Briar, Pleasant, Second, Sherwood, St. Johns, Washington, Windsor, and Vine.

Western Ave. project is moving along with us approving our 110k share of engineering consultant on the project. Highwood is taking the lead on this project that will include sewer and water upgrades.

Project on 2132-38 Green Bay will be getting a upgrade with us passing a special license to improve that commercial property without changing the zoning to a RO 50 unit/acre density as was proposed by staff. Myself and Councilman Levenfeld pushed hard for this significant amendment to staff's recommendations to leave the underlining lower density residential in place as our Master Plan envisions. This one caught my attention and our City Council did respond positively!

What do you people want?

In the 80's, one of many admirable actions of Councilman Al MacLeod was when he won office, he thanked the citizens for their support, published his phone number, and asked people to call him at home if they needed any assistance. Simple, Direct, and Sincere!

I had this short thank-you note taped to my book shelf at my home on County Line Road and did call Al for help on several issues over the years. He was a great asset to this community and I do miss him and Martha. Accessibility, transparency, and the heart to serve our residents is why someone should serve on the City Council. Making connections to our residents is a great way to open dialog and enhance communications.

Over the past eight years, as a City Council, we have not been reaching out to neighborhoods on an annual basis like we had in prior years. It is time to continue on with the annual reach-out neighborhood meetings we had in the 90's. This is a forum we can give a short update on our actions and provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions and discuss issues with their public servants.

The City Council should make this a priority and make it part of our yearly boilerplate of operations. Until those opportunities emerge, as always, I am available to help and can be reached at my home at 847.831.0373 or on my cell at 847.456.6933.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

GO, Get Ready, Set

We are off and running with our new City Council that will be seated on May 9th. Your wishes have been received, the votes have been counted, and I am looking forward to working with our new Councilmen Tony, David, and Paul.  All are well accomplished gentlemen that have governmental experience and achievements.

Promises have been made and now it is time to walk the walk and deliver for the citizens of Highland Park. While I did not run for office this past year, I did express a strong view point for Mayor and Councilman. I am hopeful that our entire City Council being seated on May 9th will meet the expectations that were promised during the campaign season.
Over the next several meetings the dynamics and cohesiveness of this Council will begin to emerge.  Up to now our Mayor-Elect Rotering seems to have been planning with staff our first moves including the process in which the Mayor will pick her replacement. I am hopeful our government process will reform and the entire City Council will be more involved in leadership roles. Keep your fingers crossed and think positive!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Create Change-- VOTE ! !

As your Highland Park Councilman for about 18 years I believe the City Council has done a great job providing all of us a vibrant community that is a great place to live, work, raise a family, and retire. The economic reality of the past several years has put stress on our community. That being said, we do have the resources and heart to keep Highland Park moving forward to provide services and the excellence we all expect.

I am supporting candidates that have strong positions in looking at every possible way to consolidate governments, create efficiencies, and reducing property taxes and fee's. Candidates and positions that propose that the same old governance practices are good enough and the big bucks will be rolling our way soon, should not be supported. Along with providing consolidations and efficiencies, we should re-examine old ways of capital improvements and develop a more sustainable practice.

In this election, I have noticed a wide bandwidth of candidates that provide us with both the "business as usual" approach and others like myself that want to reduce the size and costs of government. Please read about the candidates for the Park District and School Districts and only support those candidates that are willing to make the hard choices to help our residents afford to live in our community. Candidates that don't have a problem raising our taxes and increasing fees should be retired and not hired.

Early Voting
March 14 through March 31

Remember to bring a government-issued photo ID such as a passport, driver’s license, or military ID.

Early voting location:

Lake County North Shore Health Center
1840 Green Bay Rd., Highland Park
Election Day is Tuesday, April 5, 2011.

Councilman Mandel's "On The Table" Blog: Steve Mandel's Political Endorsements: "Steve Mandel's Political Endorsements"

Friday, March 18, 2011

Economic Development . . Economic Development . . Economic Development

Candidates promise Economic Development as a super pill for all our worries.... Get Real. Over the past four decades our city government has taken advantage of economic booms that have nourished a wonderful and successful economic culture in Highland Park. We have imported tax dollars from pockets "out of town" by attracting regional market needs to Highland Park. We have grown our sales taxes significantly over property taxes over the last 20 years.

Concerning the status of our downtown and other business areas, all of us on the City Council have encouraged and grown our resources with the Chamber, the new downtown Alliance, and groups like the Ravinia Neighbors Association. Through our Business and Economic Development Commission, we have reached out to property owners and business owners to find ways to partner and help them succeed.

What is troubling to me is to hear those say we need to physically grow Highland Park to feed the government beast. We need to reduce the size of government to live within our means. We are almost a fully developed community that is land locked by the lake and what growth we should desire is mostly infill development, not an Evanston plan.

Be careful what you embrace as you cheer for your candidate screaming "Economic Development...Economic Development.... Development...Development" What do they mean?? I have heard this before. What they mean is 7 story hotels, 50+ foot buildings, and traffic tied streets. Ask them what specific new reality they will create? What will it look like? How will it affect us in our daily lives? We had this debate 10 years ago and went all over this community and got a consensus of supporting a less dense more cozy community.

Looking throughout our bustling downtown last night our entertainment and dining district has started its spring and summer boom. There is no need to cry wolf since Highland Park is a great thriving community and will continue to be so with a little nourishing... NO Reason to use Steroids!!!

Now, we do need and are currently working with property owners to help fill vacant business spaces in many ways. We are fully engaged in helping business market themselves and our community. Also, what is also important is that property owners help merchants that are leasing their shops be successful. This means flexibility in rents, partnerships with marketing, and an overall sharing in the pain. Good news is things have been getting better and look forward to some upside to revenues over the coming years with our existing business framework.
Keep Cool.... Stay Tuned!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

We should speak out against intimidation

Good people sometimes "Lose it" because they are frustrated, not feeling good, or simply just having a bad day. It has happened to me and almost everyone I know . . . and when it does, most of us immediately regain control, apologize, and move on in our lives doing the best job we can being respectful and kind. Stuff Happens!

Some people, when they don't get what they want feel they can intimidate and threaten harm to individuals to get their perceived obstruction to disengage. When a group of individuals that are party to these kind of behaviors do not intercede and demand an end to this behavior, the aggressive intimidating individual feels a license to continue a bad disruptive approach to achieve their way.

It is not an acceptable approach to sit back and watch someone bully or intimidate individuals at anytime. We must always stand up and reject this behavior in a loud and clear manner. If an individual can't help themselves, refuses to get help from at a professional level, then we must separate ourselves from this assault. If the group in which bullying occurs demonstrate strongly that this behavior will only produce negative response from the group, then the bully will most likely withdraw.

There are times to sit back and wait things out to not cause a scene. It is my opinion that we should stand up to aggressive intimidation immediately and never allow these events to occur in any group where we are participants.

Friday, March 04, 2011

March Roundup

Designated a home at 1923 Lake Ave. as a Highland Park Local Landmark. Home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1905 and is known as the Mary Adams House. Cool!

Complete Streets Plan will be overseen by our newly named Transportation Commission. They will look at merging bike lanes, off road paths and trails (Greenways), better use of public transportation, etc. The commission will be creating a subcommittee to include our commissions and citizens to get a broad perspective on this issue. Great Project!

I asked staff to schedule a discussion concerning replacing the pedestrian overpass fencing that was taken down during a rehab project. We will discuss the cost and timing of installation

We were asked to deal with signs on fences and will discuss that matter after this current election. Our ordinance might need some tweaking on this issue. NO Biggie...

I also asked that on the next agenda we have a presentation about the water bills and the fees that have been charged for Storm water and our Sanitary sewers. I was opposed to these charges since I suggested it come out of our property tax money..... Watch for the upcoming presentation.

Steve Mandel's Political Endorsements

I publish who I support for Mayor and Councilmen because the composition of the City Council determines how I (We) can promote the best representation for the citizens of Highland Park. For the citizens of Highland Park to be served best there should be seven strong independent folks working collaboratively to discuss vision for our community as well as how the performance of those goals are achieved. After listening and understanding the values of each of the 7 candidates I have endorsed the following.............. Please join me.

City Council of Highland Park
Nancy Rodkin Rotering is an outstanding choice for Mayor. Smart, independent, and will move things along for us to achieve many creative and positive outcomes.
Councilman- vote for three...
Tony Blumberg- I served with Tony on the Plan Commission for several years and he is a superb and thoughtful individual that is passionate and independent.
David Naftzger- Is the Vice Chairman of the Natural Resource Commission. He works with the Governors of the seven Great Lake States promoting economic growth and constructive environmental policy.
Paul Frank- I have had a sit down with Paul, listen to him and was very impressed. His is a very mild mannered intelligent person that has experience and an education in this public stuff!

I strongly recommend these four individuals to help the entire City Council of Highland Park move our community forward during the next four years. Please join me in voting for these candidates on April 5th or at early voting starting on March 14th.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Here We Go... Talkin bout raising taxes again!

Amaudit presented findings to the City Council on March 28th showing us ways to raise revenues by adjusting our utility taxes. The first suggestion they made was to change the rate tier structure to increase the electric utility tax on most of our residents and business in our community. I spoke out in opposition to raising these taxes on our residents and was joined on Voting "NO" by Nancy Rotering and Scott Levenfeld. Those that wanted to get more information and would possible support this tax increase were Terri Olian, Larry Silberman, Jim Kirsch, and Mike Belsky.
The other Utility discussion centered around residents and commercial establishments that have not paid any Gas Utility Taxes since deregulation and ability to sign on with out-of-state providers. We all agreed that this loophole should be fixed and all Highland Park natural gas users should pay the tax. Our ordinance concerning this loophole will be adjusted and brought back to the City Council.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Study up - 133 million School Dist.113 Referendum

On April 5th and early voting starting March 14th, we will be voting on School District 113 referendum for spending 133 million dollars of our money. The 133 million referendum question will be on the ballot with Mayor, City Councilman, and Board Members for School Districts and the Park District of Highland Park.

My first reaction is to think that the School District 113 staff backed into a 133 million dollar figure since they do not want to lose the bonding authority that this government enjoys. The question I have is simple . . . . .Do We Need the 133 million dollars of improvements? I have been asking my City government staff to decrease spending and taxation for over three years and have only received solid support from Nancy Rotering to vote against our budget that proposed another tax increase this year.

Focusing on our High School 113 issue of 133 million of NEW BORROWING, I am going to spend the next several weeks studying the proposals and then taking a strong position on this subject. However, at first glance it seems excessive and continue to ask government to reduce its costs. I wholeheartedly support infrastructure replacement and maintenance of HVAC, electrical, and other skeletal obligations that are needed. Talking about sustainable practices of geothermal advances (which will pay back as energy costs skyrocket) is also a smart investment we should all embrace. I will not however support wish list items since many homeowners are being stressed by high property taxes that are undermining our property values.

Along with the monetary questions, looking at the plans has also sparked some land use questions like shuffling tennis courts and parking lots in ways that will also continue to undermine property values and neighborhood appeal. I suggest immediate neighborhood meetings with our city land planners and public to understand impacts and realities of consultants recommendations. Too many times consultants create bigger projects that feed bigger profits for themselves.

Please study up and provide me with your input on this matter since this will be the most impacting issue on the ballot.. Call me! Email me! Let me hear your thoughts!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Here Come the Signs

Ahhhhh! . . . . . . you can tell Local Elections are close when you see the winter snow and soil gripping the steel, paper, and plastic of "Vote For Me Signs" popping up like the dandelions that will be following in the spring. Now, in our Great and Free nation we are proud to show support for our candidates by placing signs on our properties.

Just to remind all of you.........myself, Mayor Pro Tem Michael Brenner, and Councilman Jim Kirsch did not buy and distribute hundreds signs to our supporters in the 2009 election for City Council. We donated $3000.00 to the Park District to plant trees instead of spending the money to plant signs.

While you might never see that again in Highland Park politics, I am proud of the fact that I did not use signs and wish we had created a following with this practice. One Sign, Four Signs, No Signs, we should all sign that dotted line at this election and go vote for the best candidates to represent us in government. That is what is really important!

Where do we Plug our Electric Cars?

IGO, Zip car, and just providing electric receptacles for us to plug in the upcoming electric cars need to be installed soon. I brought this subject up several times over the past year in public and to staff to get something going that promoted sustainable vehicles in our parking lots.

We need to move forward on places for hourly rental cars and electric cars. While I don't believe we have put one step in front of the other on this front, we need to reach out to Metra, GE, and other stakeholders and partners in this arena to get this ball rolling.

Over a year ago we were approached by local business folks to partner on this idea. I think frustration and lack of response from the city had sent them back into the shadows. Time is ticking, sun is shining, and they now need to step up with us in demanding action. Come May, we will have a whole new City Council and Mayor . . . . . and am hopeful this agenda will be getting a big boost!!

February 2011 Roundup

Hats off to our City Staff that did a tremendous job with the snow storm of 2011.... Thank you!
City Council Reaffirmed support for a 9 hole compromise golf plan and are requesting the Lake County Forest Preserve District follow through on their commitment to maintain a golf course on the property they received at no cost from the federal government. This maintenance of the golf course was the consideration for purchase articulated in the deed the County currently holds on the property.
Intergovernmental agreement to lower costs for our pavement overlay program that will save us $$'s on our streets. Lake Forest will lead this endeavour this year! Way to go .. staff!
Tabled building code changes for a couple of weeks to look at changing our Mandatory Demolition and Construction Recycling codes changes to include smaller jobs. Currently the remodeling threshold is proposed at 2500 sq ft.
City of Highland Park is no longer are refunding $1000.00 of real estate transfer tax to residents who sell one home and buy another within our community. This action was taken because of the large drop in revenues and simply could not afford this anymore.
Passed a law to require graffiti gets taken down by owners of property or the city will have ability to clean it and charge back to owners.
A new long term residential care facility has received preliminary approval at the old Illinois Bell property, next to Toys R Us on Richfield and Deerfield Road. This facility will provide care for elderly and Alzheimer residents.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mayor is the First of Councilman

We operate our government under the Council -Managerial form of government. The Council - Managerial form of government was passed by referendum in the early 1950's. Unlike the Strong Mayor form of government that Chicago operates under, we have seven elected officials (Mayor and six Councilman) that all have the same power and authority, one vote each. The Mayor's role in this government is not to lead us but rather to serve us as OUR voice.

In this election for Mayor and City Councilman, it is important to understand the equal role every member will have in setting policy and giving direction to our staff. The Mayor is just one of the City Council and should not be dictating how it operates, what it hears, and how it proceeds. It is the Consensus of the City Council that rules on all these issues.

Outside of being the presiding officer at the meetings, the Mayors role should be virtually the same as any other City Councilman. Cultivating creativity, support and representation of the City Council consensus, and advocating the City Council's objectives is the job of every Councilman and the Mayor.

I look forward to working with the new City Council to change the past practices and refine our ordinances to reflect proper governance as the law defines it so the power solely lies in the hands of the City Council of Highland Park and not the Mayor. Whom ever is Mayor will need to be a team player and not the boss. You can listen to all the rhetoric you want to about what the new Mayor will do but in May of 2011 this new City Council will finally again take control of the our agenda. We will move our city in a forward direction of continued cost control, environmental preservation, and a redesigned government we will be proud of owning.

Buckle UP!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cell Phone Hands Free Law is Coming!

Update- 1/24 Council passed handsfree only cell phone ordinance 4-3. It will go into effect on June 1, 2011. We voted 4 to 2 at the City Council to support a ban on using hand held cell phones while you drive in Highland Park. While the Mayor was not at the meeting, Councilman Levenfeld and myself did not support the motion because we have the position that people should not use cell phones at all while driving.

What was the determining factor to me was the fact that someone using a hands free cell phone was distracted more (according to a Utah study) then someone who had a blood alcohol level of .08, which is being drunk according to Illinois law. Also according to a survey we recently sent out about 80 % of Highland Park residents thought that using a cell phone while driving threatened the safety of residents.

One of my fundamental calls as your City Councilman is to be sure government is maintaining a safe place to live. While I am a strong advocate of personal freedom, I do draw the line at allowing individuals to take unnecessary actions that might imperil others. As when I supported our no smoking ordinance in public places, I feel that asking folks to not talk on the phone while driving is not an unreasonable request.

While it is obvious that enforcement is difficult at best under the consensus of a hands free ordinance, I do not believe our police would take on any additional burden with a total ban. After all if someone does not have a cell phone in their hand, the only other visual evidence would be a phone screen showing a call or if they could hear the conversation on a mild day while windows were open. Under any case I would not ask our police force to take any aggressive steps to enforce the ordinance other than their visual cues that are obvious and currently taken as they enforce our distracted driving ordinance and current Illinois laws.