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.