Saturday, August 17, 2013

Representation as a Lake County Board Member and LCFPD Commish

My County Board and Forest Preserve District 11 is most of Highland Park, all of Highwood, and one neighborhood in Deerfield. While I do reach out to our municipal leaders and citizens in District 11 as my primary responsibility, representation does not end at the district border.

I am proud to represent everyone of our 704,000 folks in Lake County and am one of 21 on these boards that are responsible for their health, welfare, safety, and enjoyment of our County. While approximately 75,000 folks are not represented by a municipality live under our protection, land use, and authority, they are mostly part of a community ruled by one or several municipalities within proximity of their residence or business.

We need to be harmonious with those municipalities and encompassing communities that our unincorporated residents and business live and operate within. Sometimes ordinances and laws we might enact are not perfect for all our unincorporated residents since Lake County communities do not live under the same laws. At these times we must come up with a consensus that best serves all our residents even though it is not perfect.

A good example of this came at our August board meeting where I supported video gaming in Lake County (vote was 11-9 in favor). Unincorporated Lake County tavern business owners were unfairly prohibited from having video gaming while many of the North and Western municipalities had legalized video gaming within their boundaries. Competing taverns that could have these machines were as close as across the street. Revenues and demand put our unincorporated business owners in jeopardy since clients wanted an option to play these games.

The State of Illinois legalized video gaming several years ago unless a municipal authority objected within their borders. When the State passed this law the County enacted an ordinance to prohibit video gaming in Lake County hoping that municipalities would follow. Unfortunately, many have recently revoked prohibiting laws and are now allowing video gaming causing us to deal with the matter.

Highland Park, Highwood, and Deerfield are not directly impacted by this decision since video gaming is currently prohibited. 

However, I am also a County Board member for all the unincorporated business owners and was proud to help them stay in business, provide for their families, and keep their employees working.

Fairness For All Citizens of Lake County

I have been on the County Board and Forest Preserve District for about 8 months now and really appreciate my colleagues from all districts. Every one of them has shown me sincerity and the ability to bring positive voices to the table. The diversity of culture, age, history, and political views is much broader than my public service experience in Highland Park.

At the Forest Preserve we are entering a strategic planning process to identify our future direction and set priorities for development, land acquisition, and operations. At the County we are moving forward with our 2014 budget and awaiting the presentation from staff.

One thing that strikes you when you get involved in county government and forest preserves is the difference in needs and services throughout the county. Also, the county serves as a pass through for federal and state dollars focused on housing, health care, and job training to name a few.

We also have several special service districts where we take direct taxes and fees for services like sewers and water. We contract other services with municipalities as well to provide greater efficiency
and lower cost to taxpayers.

Now, over the next five years we have budgeted over 550 million dollars on roads and transportation for county roads. While this is funded from ALL residents throughout Lake County the money is spent mostly on county roads. As we move forward in our budget process we need to change our policy to allow a fair share of monies to construct and maintain transportation infrastructure in parts of the county that are currently serviced by municipalities. While I agree that county money should be spent on regional networks of roads, bridges, and pedestrian ways, they should not be required to be owned by the County to receive funding. Does it make sense that a large portion of citizens in the county should pay twice as much for transportation as others for the same service?

The forest preserve has over 50 million left in funding from the referendum money of land acquisition and development. This money has to be spent within the next several years to satisfy current laws governing these bonds. How can we integrate the mission of the forest preserve to help us fund open space, recreation, and natural preservation in areas that have again not received a fair share. Hopefully we can work to bring the mission of the forest preserve in name and substance to all of us throughout the county in a more equitable manner.

Money going out of districts throughout the county should in a large part have direct benefit to those in those districts. The Lake County Forest Preserve and Lake County get about 11 percent of your property taxes. That is the same amount as the City and Park District combined yet who is responsible for transportation, open space, land preservation, and recreation where you live. In several municipal areas throughout the county the imbalance is huge and we need to bring fairness to all citizens of the County so ALL get their fair share.

I hope to make some progress on this issue of fairness to all in the next coming months. Change is not easy and many think that current practices are the best choices but with all due respect I ask for change. I am encouraged by the thoughtfulness and big picture outlook I have seen from many on the board. All of us represent our district as well as ALL the residents of the County. I have personally stepped up for other areas in this county far from Highland Park and ask my fellow Board Members to consider my comments and join me in fairness for all on taxation and delivery of service.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Commissioner Applications.... for "Election Commission"

Update- We won a preliminary injunction to allow our Clerk to administer the elections and prevent Judge Foreman from appointing an election commission. So, why I appreciate those of you that applied, all is on hold until we have our day in court on this issue.

I am hopeful however our state legislators will fix this matter and put it to rest when they return to Springfield removing this "Gotcha" legislation for Lake County...

 If we are unsuccessful in stopping this pitiful legislation, HB2418 requires Chief Judge Foreman to appoint a five member "Election Commission" which will over see elections in Lake County.

The News Release issued by Chief Judge Foreman sets forth the process required by law. Applications and other forms are available on the site and must be returned by August 16th to conform to the timeline laid out by the HB2418 legislation.

If you wish to apply for the position of "Election Commissioner" you need to do so immediately to fall within timeline. Requirements prevent those that currently hold elected office or have held an elected office within the last 2 years from being a "Election Commissioner".

Chief Judge Foreman must appoint the five commissioners by end of August and the "Election Board" must be up and running by the end of October.

The New Metra Board must be accountable to citizens

Well, now after the second scandal in just a short time we must demand a big change on how the Metra board does business. While I am not thrilled on how our newly Lake County appointment Norman Carlson has conducted himself the short few months he has been on the board, he does have the expertise to make good decisions. His political and administrative decisions so far have failed us.

Whether this board is totally removed or all resigns, I am hoping collar counties do not lose a voice in the Metra process. Any appointment has a level of politics whether it be the Governor, Mayors, or County Board Chairman. Bottom line is that these jobs should be filled with competent non-political decision makers. If appointees can't be accountable to the citizens maybe the professional staff should just report to currently elected officials quarterly for policy decisions.