Sunday, July 15, 2012

Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Update

I just attended the 2012 Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence Cities Initiative annual conference where I represented our Honorable Mayor Nancy Rotering as I had represented our two previous Mayors since 2003.

The United States and Canadian representatives have joined on a mission to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence waterways. Some of the big issues discussed were invasive species, Asian Carp barriers, shale gas, runoff, and water diversion.

Asian Carp is considered a major threat to the Great Lakes and movement has grown from temporary electric barriers to permanent land barriers of the water ways. Several options have been floated and discussions are occurring.

Water diversion was discussed as a request of the City of Waukesha of Wisconsin is ripening and the GLSLCI will have to weigh in on the facts of the case producing more concrete standards for this and future judgements. The Compact, passed by the US Congress and signed on by all Great Lake States prohibits New water diversions outside of the watershed. There are exceptions like the US Supreme Court ruling that allows 2.1 Billion gallons per day for Illinois. Recently allotted Lake County water diversions, I assume, fall within this Supreme Court Case allocation.  Questions arose like do we allow diversions to increase sprawl or just in the case of health concerns of existing inland water supplies? Much more to come.......

Many people look out over Lake Michigan and just don't understand the need for a comprehensive and restrictive plan for the future. With Billions of folks on our planet and over 40 million currently depending on this water supply (Great Lakes= 21% of fresh water), we better look hard at the water quality and existence. Bottom line is that preserving our waters, restoring our waters, and ensuring those efforts in a sustainable fashion forever is the mission here and we need to keep our eyes wide open to continue to develop an action plan to fit the mission and support human life.



Sunday, July 01, 2012

July 2nd Roundup

Highland Park Historical Society will host the Auto Historica XII on July 21st... Cool Cars!

Electric Aggregation in Highland Park offers a Green Power choice for residents.

July 4th festivities start at 9:30 with Children's Bike and Pet parade followed with the Independence Day Parade at 10am. Sunset Park will host Fourth Fest from 11am-2pm. Battle of the Bands concert will start at 6pm at Wolters Field to be followed by fire works at dusk.

2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) is available for inspection and talks about all the finances of the City of Highland Park.

Council approved an ordinance to make it illegal to drop off people on Lambert Tree, St. Johns and adjoining neighborhood streets adjacent to Ravinia Festival during concert hours. Cars will be ticketed.

Battle of the Bands Rockin.....Port Clinton

Had a great time with Bitter Jester's Nicolas D. at Port Clinton this past Friday being one of the judges for Battle of the Bands. We had a incredible turnout with the entire square packed to the edges. Mayor Rotering and Terri Olian were in attendance along with my fellow judges Lori Flores Weisskopf and Steve Ragsdale. We had a great time and the musicians were really kicking out those notes.. . Nicolas hosts a great event and hats off to you buddy!!!

On a side note. . . . . . we need to move on the reconstruction of the fountain area. I liked the idea that we replace the fountain with an open 360 stage. We were presented a wonderful concept last year by the Port Clinton bunch I thought refurbished Port Clinton nicely. These enhancements would provide excellent marketing value to our core business district. 

Update on Park District / City of HP Meeting

Just wanted to report in. . . . . that the Mayor, Scott Meyer, Cal Bernstein, myself, and staff had a great joint City / Park meeting. We talked about the Highland Park Country Club ownership getting resolved by end of summer and a host of issues that deal with acquisition, stairway at Park Ave. beach rebuild, and ordinance conflicts with maintenance of trails. One of the main issues was working together on sustainable approaches to government and how we could reduce costs by merging some facilities and operations. Big plus if we can get this stuff done!!

Next step was for staff to work together and come up with ideas from our visioning session and share it with our respective boards.... Very pleased at the attitude and vision of all my fellow elected's on this front.

Is the Library under the authority of the City Council?

For many years on the City Council our relationship with the library was smooth and predictable. When the library had a need they would approach the City Council and we would direct staff to work out solutions that fit within the City Council's budget guidelines for the City of Highland Park. Several years ago when we were falling into a recession the City Council was approached by the library board with a 10+ million dollar addition. The City Council did not approve of the plan asking that the library board look at phasing or to simply focus on rehabilitation of existing structure.

In a total surprise to me the library staff and board took offense to our directive reaching out to a attorney to discuss autonomy and legal recourse against the City Council because they thought we were interfering with their mission and authority. After some heated back door discussions they took our direction and have put forward a plan that is phased and focuses on rehabilitation, core infrastructure, and realignment of services aligned with the new electronic media. Bravo!

While City Council refused to levy more taxes on our citizens as the library board requested, we moved to spend down our 50% cash reserves instead. They were again offended that we would not drastically increase the library levy. They did not seemingly understand the economic burden our citizens and business were under and why should they? They are not elected or in any way accountable for their actions to the citizens of this community since they are appointed by the Mayor and ratified by the City Council. Yes, they are accountable just to the City Council and that is why we need to clarify their roles in respect to the City Council.

While I was Quebec City representing the Mayor at the Great Lakes conference I had heard this issue was discussed. Our library needs to work with our staff as does our other departments to flush out every and any efficiency within our municipal government. When the City Council approved spending of the rehabilitation and renovation funding I recall a condition being moved by the entire City Council to stipulate that our City Manager would flush out all efficiencies.

This idea and drum beating of independence and autonomy by the library is ludicrous and needs to come to an end. The Library Board does work under the City Council at our pleasure and authority. If the City Council can't put an end to this controversy it should be presented to the citizenry for a vote on determination as it should not be fuzzy or ambiguous anymore about roles, responsibility, and authority. We need to define our relationship in specific terms so future discussions have a reliable framework.