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.