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!