Thursday, December 03, 2015

Everybody should be able to watch Lake County Committee meetings

Lake County Board Member Sandy Hart brought forward a request to start video recording our Finance Committee so the public could watch and hear our deliberations. The reason she chose the Finance Committee is most all agenda items deliberated by the Lake County Board comes through the Finance Committee. Starting at Finance would also be a pilot of sorts by demonstration of the more informative discussion at committees.

Our Finance Chairman Brent Paxton, Member Steve Carlson and Member Diane Hewitt spoke against video taping any committee meetings. Members Strongly supporting Member Sandy Hart's efforts to video tape the Finance meetings were myself and Member Nick Sauer of Lake Barrington. While our Chairman Aaron Lawlor and Member Mike Rummel had supportive words, they both had qualified support to move forward.

Bottom line is all the action at Lake County happens at the Committee level. Unless you can personally attend a committee meeting there is no way to experience the verbatim conversation on the many issues we vote on monthly at the Lake County Board. There are not even public accessible audio recordings of the committee meetings.

Listening to Members Carlson and Hewitt's vehement condemnation of an public open accessible video recording or live presentation of these meetings really left me without words. I am not understanding what the secret is and why they would not want to integrate our public in these deliberations. What is there to hide? Is there a different Member Carlson and Hewitt representing their constituents away from the cameras then in front of them? I would hope not.

Citizens have a right to be able to watch us speak and represent them at these committee meetings. They have a right to better understand the work we do on their behalf. Interaction is essential to our representations and video recordings of these meetings will allow the public and press to experience verbatim explanations of agenda items, questions, concerns, and hear new ideas. Since the press hardly comes to any of our meetings, it will give them a better chance to write about our agenda items, better understanding of facts and motivations.

Come on! Its almost 2016 and still members of this Lake County Board want to keep government in the 1950's. Please, lets open our doors, let the sunshine in and promote video taping at the committee meetings. PLEASE

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Representing The People

Current events in Chicago and Fox Lake have again made me reflect on my role as an elected official being challenged with official misconduct. Along with just reacting to these matters, we must always review policy as new data emerges to be sure there are sufficient checks and balances in place to prevent misconduct.

During my time representing Lake County and Highland Park there have been several times I have been challenged to understand the actions of our employees when their actions were contrary to our values or policy. When we are elected to public office we become trustees of that municipal corporation but are still ultimately accountable to our residents. When our governments produce misconduct events it is incumbent on us to fully understand how and why these actions occurred. We should never put our head in the sand and must always take immediate and appropriate action to remedy any wrongdoing. There can't be any tolerance to criminal behavior, resulting safety of our public, and possible financial cost to our taxpayers.

While I was in Highland Park we were challenged by racial profiling charges and came up with measures to mitigate profiling. We challenged our officers to have more open and transparent interactions with the public. We started recording all stops and created a public safety committee of Councilman that reviewed video of those stops, periodically and unscheduled. We also handed out cards to all citizens that were pulled over and gave them a contact number to our Human Relations Commission and how they could go to make a complaint if they felt they were not treated properly.

When you're in government as an elected official there is constant talk about protecting the services and operations of government. I am always surprised that we don't have more discussion about the tolerance of citizens to shoulder the burden of government and deal with the aggressive nature we sometimes exhibit, either being from regulations, restrictions, or police enforcement. 

I always reaffirm in government meetings that my first responsibility is not to ensure the protection of the government but rather the citizens, the shareholders of the government. Dr. Thomas Rudd, our Lake County Corner, has demonstrated his welcomed independent view on several matters over the last few years offering his opinion on matters, even though they were in direct conflict with others in Lake County government. Dr. Rudd's efforts have challenged closed door decisions within our government jurisdictions, provided much needed sunshine on wrongful actions, and promoted transparency for our citizens.

While we should always promote a positive team spirit within our governments, it is incumbent for us including our staff,  to realize that the first team we are all on is the Citizen team, led by all the citizens and families that support and depend on us. Leadership like that of Dr Rudd demonstrates that we should always support our communities values and always pursue uncovering wrongdoing when something just doesn't seem right. We should always voice our opinions, suggestions, and demand dialog on remedies to possible conflicts, even before they might occur.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Buying Public Land is a Huge Tax Increase and loss of Open Space

When I served on the City Council with Mayors Pierce, Geraci, and Belsky, we worked as ONE government representing the people of Highland Park. We might not have agreed on every issue with the school and park district, but all of us showed the respect for each others office being aware that we all worked for the same citizens.

Whether money is spent by any taxing district in Highland Park, the money comes out of our citizens pockets. Past practice of governments I served on did not monetize land transferred among our districts. A few examples are Moraine Park, the HPCC driving range, and the Aqua Park. In the 90's, the City either gave properties to the Park District for one dollar, or/and swapped the land for other needed public uses like the Central Avenue Fire Station.

Currently, I am reading that the School District 112 wants to buy West Ridge Park for 4 million from the Park District. This would be a huge 4 million dollar tax increase for the citizens of Highland Park. Where does this new money come from? These new acquisition dollars come from increased tax dollars that won't go towards the services the district is mandated to perform. In district 112's case, add this cost on the already over budgeted capital outlays that are considered, and the tax burden grows.

I also will say, we should be creating more open space in Highland Park, not disposing of what we have acquired. The value of open lands and respect for nature is Highland Park. To cash out on our ball fields and greenways would be a mistake.

Highland Park and its governments should never accept a net loss of open space for its residents and should continue to build on the great green work of prior governments. If governments can't agree on a swap then maybe it is not the right choice for our community and citizens. Please don't charge your own citizens for land that they already own and want to keep.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Kentucky Clerk Needed to follow the law and should be Removed

When we take the oath of office we swear to support the constitution and the laws of our nation. For those politicians and elected officials that refuse to follow the law and directions of the courts, removal from the office they hold is a clear result.

If you become a soldier and are required to fight a war, but refuse to follow orders to kill, you are either jailed or released of service. This situation is no different and the issues here are crystal clear.

While many of us that believe in G-D and do our best to follow a good path in life, OUR values don't necessarily mesh with the laws of our nation. A fundamentalist's religious belief and order in many cases does not provide the diversity and choice that our current constitutional framework provides.

If one wants to serve as an elected official, we need to serve the orders of the courts, follow the laws of our nation, or face the consequences of being a criminal in our society. We have the right of religious freedom and practice of those choices as long as it does not take away from the freedoms of others. Live and let live is the motto.

The Criminal Clerk of Kentucky Kim Davis needed to perform her job or leave it. The harm has occurred and she has chose her personal belief over the law. She is a criminal and should be removed from the elected position she holds immediately as she has refused to abide by the orders of the court. Case Closed.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

4.4 Million in Centralizing Assessments should remain a Lake County Priority

Yesterday at the Finance Committee I asked if we were adding "Centralized Assessments for Lake County" on our 2016 Legislative Agenda. This is a timely issue since our RRL (L for Legislation) will be putting together our Agenda for our State Legislators over the next month.

To refresh everybody's memory, I had brought the issue of Centralized Assessments up to the RRL Committee about a year ago, our staff put together a Final Draft Report in which an estimated 4.4 million of wasted property tax dollars could be saved, and the RRL Committee differed further discussion with direction we meet with representation of 18 Township Assessors.

While Lake County Chairman Aaron Lawlor stated that legislation could be introduced through February of 2016, he thought it would be difficult to pass such legislation downstate on an election year. All that being said, we could amend our legislative agenda at anytime, giving us ample time to get the issue on the table after our discussion with the Assessors.

I believe the Lake County Board Members should stand up now and ask the State to give us authority to Centralizing Assessments in Lake County and Eliminate 18 Township Assessor offices. It has always been my opinion that these offices are a waste of money we can't afford and closing them would save our taxpayers at least 4.4 million dollars in property taxes. Read the Report! After many conversations with assessors and reviewing their data, I feel very comfortable that our Lake County report showing a estimated 4.4 million in savings is on the mark. I am not expecting any new revelations to emerge at future meetings with the Assessors but only a response to our Lake County report which I have heard.

Now we can sit on our hands and wait for Melinda Bush and other legislators of Lake County to do something constructive on Centralizing Assessments, but their recent silence on this subject has been deafening and discouraging. While you could be right Mr. Chairman on the election year politics shutting this initiative down, we were not elected to be bystanders and I strongly suggest we NUDGE them a bit. We need to put the welfare of our residents first by adding Centralized Assessments on our legislative agenda in 2016! Hey, this should be a no brainer for our reform Governor Rauner.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

This Presidental Race is Painful and Harmful

Listening to the anti-women rantings of republicans and the email Clinton saga really has me down on this Presidential election thing.

Really? In 2015 you can proclaim you're going to strip the rights of women and steer our nation towards the control of the fundamentalist religions and get elected? What happened to freedom of religion and thoughts?  I thought we were at war with ideology and rebels that dictated and dominated folks with their own religious values.

While this screaming level of rhetoric challenges our social tolerant values, the spill of this hate and motivated violence is seeping through the cracks of our social fabric, causing harm and polarity that could jeopardize us all. We must all be careful on personalizing our frustration and taking aim at select groups with our own view of justice.

There is a big difference of having a robust discussion of governance policy and those that take aim at their political villains, spouting evil doings and a harsh personal tone. I know these political debates about abortion, immigration, and governmental communication protocols are not meant to spur criminal and physical reaction throughout our public, but as frustration grows within supporters of these aggressive views, I would suggest violence becomes more rational to everyday citizens.

I am hoping we can turn down the personal attacks and accusations on fellow politicians and citizens. While there is much work to be done and many issues to resolve, we must always put civility first before we resort to violent speech or actions in support of our great nation. As we focus attentions on the intolerance, hate, and barbaric actions of foreign fundamentalists, we must not lose focus on the tone and actions within our country. One only has to look at world history to determine what could be our future.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stand up for Rt. 53 or Sit Down!

I would like to know which fellow Lake County Board Members support increasing the taxes and fees on Lake County Residents. I recently asked Chairman Aaron Lawlor to place the discussion of a 4 cent a gallon Lake County Gas Tax on a committee agenda to discuss and get a vote on the Lake County Boards position. It is my understanding that a new tollway plaza in the proximity of the old Deerfield Road has been proposed along with the increase of tolls prices.

During my political career I have voted against the Route 53 extension mostly because of my stance against suburban sprawl and my position on retention of our green assets. If given the opportunity, I will Vote Against this proposal again, not only because of my general belief concerning suburban sprawl and the future of Lake County , but also because We should not be raising taxes and fees on our residents.

Not only will the 4 cents hit us in our pockets, increased fees and tolls will push cars and trucks off the 294 tollway and onto route 41, causing dangerous and increased traffic for our eastern Lake County residents.

With a majority of the Lake County Board seats up for election in 2016, I think it is incumbent on the candidates to voice their position on these taxes and fees prior to the filing deadline for the 2016 election. We need to have this discussion soon since the Lake County Board has never taken a position on these increases in taxes and fees and the viability of the Route 53 plan is based on an acceptable and valid financial plan.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Let's Bring People Together, Not Divide

Saying we should bring people together and not be dividers is a good objective and should result in positive warm cozy feelings. But that alone does not do a thing for creative and sensitive solutions for the problems we face today in our world. I love folks that go out and proclaim they will bring people together and unite us. For What? If the majority of government has old fashion ideas, what good does unification and good feelings help its citizenry. What unified solutions will they move forward? When I support citizens for public office, I expect strong constructive results that help facilitate a good life for my family and community. Considerations, good intentions, sweet talkin, and all the schmaltz in the world really does not mean a thing when it comes to creating good government. We must challenge the status quo to be successful.

The methodology and delivery of many of us out there in the political world has not been as smooth and gentle as we might hope. Working on reduction of inefficiencies and consolidating redundant operations that maintain the core services IS what I expect our representatives to focus on. The lack of participation on these efforts does cause frustration, anger, and strains the ideology of peace, love, and harmony. But when you are confronted with a posse of mediocrity one needs to shake it up, speak up, and cause a little pain or you're not doing your job.

I would suggest we all keep open minds and LISTEN to the substance of the discussion in politics and not as much on the delivery and appearance. While I know that political marketing, mob spin, the press, and our wonderful leaders have a tone and an specified bandwidth we should fall all within, breakout and rise above the noise to comprehend the Substance.

Friday, July 24, 2015

More Environmental Leadership in Government

In a perfect world for me government staff would constantly be bringing up ideas and programs to reduce pollution, support renewable energy, and promote a more sustainable world. In a little less perfect world I would be surrounded by elected officials that would pursue and push staff for a strong environmental agenda for government and citizens to follow. But in the real world developing strong environmental strategies as a core program simply draws more flies than human acceptance.

I have been driving an electric zero emission Nissan Leaf for 3.5 years now and have saved thousands in gas dollars. Since our electricity comes from mostly nuclear plants and to some degree renewable energy the use of my car puts out no emission where I use it and much smaller amounts globally when compared to all fossil fuel vehicles.

Over the last few years solar power subsides have been available that promotes a return on capital that exceeds the best financial investment returns. Finally, last year our LCFPD staff realized this opportunity and is currently doing their due diligence to install our first active solar electric system. Lake County is being pulled along by the Forest Preserve action and hopefully will follow in 2016 if subsides are still intact.

During the past several discussions with Lake County leaders on strategic policies all environmental initiatives are qualified by "if economically feasible". Do we qualify Economic Opportunities, if economically feasible, health and resilient communities, reduce congestion, transportation, and public safety IF it is Economically Feasible? No, just our value of a sustainable environment is qualified. While myself, Sandy Hart, and a few others fight for Lake County Leaders to stand up and provide a stronger leadership position on sustainability, I hear the rhetoric from our administrator Barry Burton and many fellow board members demonstrate that sustainability is NOT as important as those other core values.

The reason I am calling for more folks to consider running for public office is we need stronger leadership in government not only sustainable in a more efficient and consolidated government, but also one that pushes for environmentally sustainable programs that provide leadership for clean water, air, and retention of more green capital. I hear current Lake County Elected officials speaking about our open green space as prime opportunities for transportation, manufacturing, office space, and residential development instead of supporting existing infrastructure and towns that have empty commercial structures and foreclosures. It is a Classic example of suburban sprawl instead of the great revitalization projects happening in urban areas around the world that promotes more sustainability. Being sustainable is being fiscally conservative. Conservation and sustainable practices will reduce taxation and promote a better life in Lake County. Step up, provide leadership and think about public service.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Don't waste Democracy! Empower Responsive & Effective Leadership

How do we live in a more responsive nation when it comes to our governments ability to treat us fairly and implement policy that supports our families and neighbors lives. Democracy has been a tool not used by enough citizens in our nation and our neighborhoods. Your right to express yourself and promote your thoughts on governance, taxation, and governmental powers needs to be exercised.

Many elections come and go without any real debate or candidates that are required to exchange ideas and policy. While personally having drawn competition in every consolidated and general election I participated in since 1990, we just saw a Mayoral, City Council, and several other local and County races that were unopposed. Bottom line is that people are refusing to participate in our democracy. Many good contributors to our communities will not run for political office.

Current times demand creative thinking and a change in governmental structure to carry us forward. To have a detached and polarized connection to our democracy and government will only allow continued dysfunction and much higher taxes.

Running for local offices such as County Board, City Council, Park District, and School Districts can be done without being tortured by a mass marketing campaign against yourself and family. Running for County wide, State, or Federal office is another matter and does require a sophisticated marketing approach for success, but you can attract professional support at this level if your message is remarkable.

Without independent citizens willing to run for office, we are asking for mediocrity and the existing politico's hand picked replacements to continue on current governmental policy failures. So, step-up and discuss these matters with friends and neighbors. Public service can be rewarding and is a obligation to citizens to have a successful democracy. Waste not, run for office or cultivate a constructive dialog with neighbors to get good candidates to run for office.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Grateful Dead, Memories, & Independence Day

While I am not a deadhead, I did experience a few slices of their history with the band at the UPTOWN theater working for Jam Productions, 1978-81. As a crew member, spotlight operator, and Master Electrician, their shows were not just one night stands of wham bam thank you maam. They came in for several days with their entourage and set up camp. When other bands mostly played one night and maybe treated the crew to some swag (a tee shirt), the Grateful Dead served us Steak with all the trimmings, cold Heineken beer, and overall were very hospitable before each show. It was far more like joining the party then a job. I also remember hearing rumors that they loved playing the Uptown Theater and had conversations to purchase the venue.

Remembering moments onstage and off with fellow members of the stage crew, roadies, staff, and members of the band are priceless and live on in my memories. I can't think back on those times without remembering our fallen Local #2 Brother Mark Shapiro and his insane life on and off the stage, but I must say we had good times and he always put a smile on our faces.

Watching the video from Soldiers Field on the "Fare Thee Well" Tour of the Grateful Dead, it brought me back to the Uptown Theater and thoughts of our independence of spirit and body. While Independence does not usually foster truth, perfection or joy, it does give us the freedom to create our own destiny and make our own choices. Happy 4th of July Everybody... 2015. Wishing all a Joyous Holiday.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tax Freeze is only way to Property Tax Relief

When I ran for the County Board a few years ago, I did so only to continue my pursuit of governmental consolidation and efficiency. I did so knowing it was a steep hill to climb and to accomplish this task my fellow Lake County Board Members and State Legislators would have to step up to the plate and be bold in taking on old political practices that keep taking more money from our citizens pockets.

My attempt to save Lake County Property Tax payers an estimated 4.4 million by Eliminating 18 Township Assessors has been slowed down considerably because my fellow Lake County Board members do not want to promote this obvious reduction in property taxes and create a better assessment system. You think Politics? Really? The Board has made it clear that the Governor and/or Legislators would need to take a lead on this issue to move forward but again refused to take any position on this reform. I will continue to drill down on data with our assessors to promote correct facts as long as the County Board will permit.

Other County functions that need study and have promise of tax savings are restructuring/consolidating offices like the Recorder of Deeds, County Clerk, Treasurer, and Coroner. Even though I was promised by some we would look into these issues, to date, very little work has taken place on these efficiencies.

Unified and properly sized school districts have barely moved over the past few decades and continue to be the largest burden on property taxes.

Pensions and other benefit packages for politician's and staff still need work to become more realistic to market conditions, but only baby steps have been taken on this front.

Bottom line is local government needs a reality check to get with the program and find new ways of cooperation and consolidation. Politicians that won't budge and refuse to change should be voted out of office immediately. Citizens need to run for office and challenge the old and new guard if they continue to remain stagnant.

One way of stopping increases in taxes and levies from governments is to freeze the levy so local governments are forced to find ways to maintain services without simply spending more. I am hoping the Governor an Legislators do continue to push on this front because I do find local politicians are in denial and refuse to show the leadership needed to support our residents and create a sustainable governance model.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Assessors meetings discuss real data

After receiving the staff report that projected a 4.4 million dollar savings by centralizing our assessment process and eliminating the 18 township elected assessors, our Chairman Aaron Lawlor scheduled 6 meetings with all the townships to discuss data, process, and governance outcomes. The Lake County staff that produced the report has not participated and we will be going back to committee in early June to get permission to engage them.

I attended all six meetings with Township Assessors, Supervisors, almost all fellow County Board Members, and other affected employees. The majority of the discussions were positive and constructive on pursuing accurate data, best practices, and unified standards across the county. Since our staff has not been taking part in these discussions I am very anxious to hear their response.

Much of these first discussions centered around the true cost levied upon the citizens for the 18 assessors. The county study pinned that number at approximately 8.2 million based on budget data that was available. Townships levy taxes for both the Supervisor and Assessors together. While they have two separate budget documents, some of the costs for assessors is within the Supervisors budget such as the Assessors salary. In these meetings the townships took the positions that real expenditures should be the basis of cost, not the budgeted numbers. This has created a bit of a apples vs. oranges comparison that does muddy the water. The true cost to our citizens is what is the assessors budgeted cost that is levied? That is the true cost to taxpayers! Anyway, I am hopeful future meetings will nail these costs down. The assessors preliminary expenditure numbers have been around 7.1 million, 1.1 million less than Lake County staffs preliminary 8.2 projections. But again this is projected budgeted numbers vs. preliminary expenditures so more work needs to be done before any real determination can take place. So at this point I have no reason to believe the staff report projections are inaccurate.

The second concern of the assessors was the projected staffing of the centralized county system. The townships believed that with their analysis of actual work loads and the data from the county's surveying, the County's actual projected staff levels with a centralized operation and associated costs would rise. Again, our staffs response is crucial to final determination.

The third major issue discussed was the impact on the citizens and the customer service at the local level. While we do envision an assessment presence throughout the county we have not yet evaluated the programming on having a local presence. As I explained at the meetings, I thought there would be two levels of customer service, one topical and the second more professional. For example we could partner with township supervisors or municipal clerks to be a place for citizens to fill out exemption and senior freeze forms. They could also print out basic assessment information that could be received online.  At a more professional level we could use some of the vacated space of our existing townships to have permanent/roaming satellite places for a local presence of Lake County assessment staff. Now, these are just my initial thoughts and as this discussion continues, ideas will turn into actual recommendations with hard numbers. I am however not expecting these costs to be substantial compared to the existing 18 township office currently filled with assessment personnel.

Other issues of consistency and accuracy were discussed with the assessors voicing concern of time and examination of local neighborhoods under a centralized system. They did however agree for the most part that there were issues of different assessment values across township lines that negatively affected taxpayers.

More work needs to be done to refine data as a first step and then it is up to our state legislators to pursue remedies for Lake County to follow. As I said at the meetings, we need to be prepared with accurate data and costs before the State legislature moves on this issue. We all need to position ourselves to be constructive partners in the process of legislation that will provide best practice and the most efficient governance.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Will You Step Forward?

A few weeks ago I wrote in my blog about saving 4.4 million by changing to a Centralized Assessment System in Lake County. I provided a Lake County Report and Power Point that discussed a Centralized System in Lake County that would eliminate 18 Township Assessors and produce 4.4 million in savings. Like all positive change in this world, it does not come without some negative outcomes that challenges ourselves and our relationships with others. Pain will simply be an unintended consequence as we move forward in transitioning government to align our citizens ability and willingness to produce revenues to support governmental service structures. But it is our job as elected officials to present choices that will produce overall good for our residents and remain sustainable so we can provide needed core services for the future. It is the Citizen's job to support or reject those choices. Citizens make those choices by referendum or voting for a candidate. More information from articles in Tribune / News Sun and Daily Harold.

Strongly supporting open space preservation through purchases, land use petition conditions, and easements, I was constantly faced with rational and reasoning of why we should not or could not save the land for nature and our citizens. Reasons included too much money, not a priority, land should be developed for economic growth, not governments job, strangers will be allowed on lands, people will be harmed or killed, and on and on and on. . . . . . Bottom line is there will always be reasons put forward by good well intentioned folks not to do the right thing or make change. But open lands would have not been saved without challenging objectors and protecting our core value of saving open lands by promoting positive reasons to make it happen.

I have chose to move forward and create positive change, will you? As we move forward on this discussion of Centralized Assessments in Lake County, I need you to raise your voice in support by emailing, calling, and participating in the public process. You need to step forward and continue to express your concern about high property taxes and demand your elected representatives do more to reduce the tax burden placed upon you. It can be done through constructive dialog and cooperation.

Just like the objectors to the Open Space discussion people will come up with many reasons not to proceed. Don't let them stop the discussion. The League of Women Voters of Highland Park had proposed a study on the viability of township government but unfortunately some league members STOPPED that study dead in its tracks. Objectors to reform in government will again blame the schools for your taxes and will say this reform will produce only a small savings on your property taxes. While there is some truth to those assertions, reform across all governments including the 4.4 million projected savings by elimination of Township Assessors should move forward as a viable starting point for providing a less burdensome taxation and removal of waste for our residents.

So Will You Step Forward and help support my efforts on Township Assessor Elimination and save 4.4 million for Lake County?

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Ben E. King and musical transformation on us

As I am well into my 23rd year in government I am hoping that my fellow electeds will stand by me on pursuing governmental reform. I think about all the progress we can make for our citizens when contemplating all these opportunities up on the roof. As we work through all the issues we face in government and are faced with challenges to increase taxes, fees, and not changing governments structure, please save the last dance for me and let us stay true to our citizens by reforming, consolidating, and always searching for efficiencies. I keep waiting for that magic moment when we all fall in a harmonious rhythm of positive change.

Music can deliver us to moments and places we love and need. Rest in Peace Ben E King.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Elimination of 18 Township Assessors saves 4.4 Mil.

Elimination of the 18 Township Assessors in Lake County will save a projected 4.4 million out of the current 10.2 million in Lake County Assessment Costs to our taxpayers. A recent report released to the RRL Committee of the Lake County Board by staff projected a Centralized Assessment System, operated by Lake County, would provide value uniformity, accuracy, local customer service, and cost reduction from a current average of $32/parcel to a projected $22.27/parcel (4.4 Million in savings). Link to April 8th presentation at RRL.

This study was based on surveying the best practices and award winning assessment systems nationwide and comparing them to our current 18 Township Assessor/Lake County system. The results were clear that our current township assessment system is old, archaic, and simply a waste of taxpayer money. The conversion to a Centralized Assessment System is usually legislated statewide such as Indiana in 2009 (Indiana policy examination enclosed in our Lake County report). Lake County is positioned well to operate a Centralized Assessment System because of our current and advanced networked appraisal system. For this reason I have suggested that Lake County be a county pilot program for the State of Illinois.

Short history of this process is that during our 2013 budget discussions I had asked our Chief Assessor if we had the best practice for assessments in Lake County? The answer was NO. In 2014 I asked and was given unanimous support from our RRL (Revenue, Records, and Legislation) Committee to have staff research the assessment issue for best practices and report back to committee. The released April 2015 report verifies this government waste and demonstrates how we can consolidate government, eliminate 18 assessors and units of government, and provide a much better assessment system for Lake County residents.

Challenges: Politics, political structures, and political relationships will be a huge hurtle to moving forward with this reform. As this process aligns with the re-election of 2/3rds of the Lake County Board my fellow members are feeling the heat. I am sure our County Board will stand up to the political pressure and fight for our residents. Our State legislators Ed Sullivan  (Assessor and State Representative), Sen. Melinda Bush, Sen. Terry Link, and my Sen. Julie Morrison have all demonstrated support to me for reforming the system and eliminating Township Assessors.

Process: I am hoping that myself and other board members will meet with our Township Assessors and Supervisors to discuss and flush out how we can best serve our citizens on this matter. We need open, transparent, frank, and constructive dialog to trim government waste and provide the best ideas on a transformation to a Centralized Assessment System . I would also look to provide employment opportunities for many township employees that would be displaced into our Lake County government. Working with Supervisors, we could provide satellite places for citizens to have local assessment contacts. After some initial discussions with stakeholders the plan is to return to RRL for further direction. Diane Hewitt, Chairman of RRL has been very helpful in facilitating this process. I am also looking forward to the engagement of our elected officials and government organizations throughout Lake County to increase communications and provide important feedback to our County Board. Over this summer I will be working with our State Legislators and fellow County Board Members to support legislation that will enable elimination of the 18 Township Assessors. In this legislation we will need to also eliminate the Assessor part of the Township tax levy and transfer the needed portion of the levy to the County to realize the 4.4 million in taxpayer relief and support the centralized assessment system.

While this is not an easy task, it can be done if the County Board members stand up for our citizens and work with our State legislators to eliminate these wasteful units of government. Please contact me at 8474566933 or email at for more information or if you wish to help.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

New 112 Schools and property surplus must produce efficiencies with other governments

School District 112 is in the mist of reducing their school structures so they can be more sustainable for the long term. School District 113 has been upgrading the high schools and is hiring a new superintendent. The Park District has leased the Highland Park Country Club and is going over their long term capital plan to look at their facilities in respect to needs of our residents.

As we are moving forward through 2015 and beyond it is time for all governments to think globally as we face continued economic challenges and restructure in a way that can reduce costs by looking to share facilities, administration, and services that are in common. So, one might ask where are the services in common with Park Districts (HP, HWD, Drfd), School Districts (HP, HWD, Drfd), and for the heck of it throw in the City's of Highland Park, Highwood, and Deerfield. OR maybe any smaller grouping you might imagine. We have to ask ourselves what services or functions any, all, or additional local governments have in common.

Obviously, schools are more aligned with schools, city's with city's, and parks with parks, but still all have functions that are similar. Maintenance and custodial service of structures and grounds is common to all. Administration and management structures, basic office support services, electronic hardware, and communication equipment are all duplicated. For most, they have finance departments, human resources, legal, and some sort of negotiations with unions. Public safety overshadows all governments and communities. No rocket scientist needed for this exploration and demonstration, just the will to proceed with analysis and consolidation.

Lets start with one facility to be home for two or more of our governments to reduce costs. Shared parking, shared phone bank, shared copy machines, shared tech, shared kitchens, shared restrooms, and shared office help. Along with the reduced cost of one building, you have professional leaders together under one roof where they can hopefully work together on future joint operations and efficiency. We need to start somewhere to change our culture to more align with our sustainability values.

Choice here in my opinion is we can proactively move forward on these efficiencies now voluntarily or be forced to in the near future as revenues continue to be reduced by a failing State government and a overburdened tax base. Let's Move On!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

You can lead a horse to water but can't make him/her drink it!

The problem in politics and attempting to provide leadership on reform is that it is not just one horse that you are trying to lead to water. Also, your not quite sure where the water is since you are usually in a valley and can't see over the hill. What makes it even worse is that your not quite sure you will find clean drinkable water over the hill or if water is what you really need first since you have a little with you in storage and there are many other needs. Now, with that being said why even try to lead them horses to water? We are not bone dry yet and things aren't all that bad as we sit here today. Well, we all know we need clean water to survive and as strategic planners and stewards of Lake County we need to be proactive.

All us politicians proclaim we are working to make government efficient, not waste or steal money, and combing over dollars so we spend money like you would if you were sitting in our chairs. For myself directly representing the 34,000 folks in Highland Park, Highwood, and Deerfield, and being part of a consensus governing 703,000 folks in Lake County, defining the acceptable reform expectations is like trying to catch a greased pig. Let me even go further and say that even DISCUSSING setting the bar of expectations for reform is elusive.

Now the PROBLEM is as you look at property taxes they have kept rising year after year yet our property values have diminished substantially. While our administrators and us politian's have been talking about 2 to 4 % increases in our tax levy, in relation to our property values the reality has been much higher. Several pieces of legislation were proposed downstate to tie these factors together but failed to amended the tax cap law accordingly. Since the economic pull back in 2009, governments have continued to increase operating costs at a ratio that is outpacing the revenue stream and citizens ability to pay. More residents in Illinois are leaving our state than any other and Lake County has declined in population over the past several years.

I am hearing many of my fellow members were upset with me that I have suggested that I am the only one on this board seemingly willing to take the bull by the horns in a comprehensive manner to restructure government in Lake County and reduce taxes. If I am wrong and others believe we should pursue REDUCED taxation by providing leadership and example in Lake County government let me hear. Don't attempt to steer me though a maze that leads to delay and noncommittal. Join me in creating a work plan and process that can provide professional and comprehensive solutions. I only serve my citizens to try to make a difference and represent them as I have promised. . . Like it or not, this has been me for the 22 years I have been a public servant.

Bottom line is that I do work with many smart good folks that are in this deeply grooved government trend of status quo. They believe that we are doing the best we can for the citizens. Lake County government is rated very high like most our school districts, municipalities, and other districts, but needs to work together to integrate and create real reform. Time is a ticken and we are taking a lickin but together we can make the difference needed to better serve our citizens. YOU IN?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wake up Lake County and lets get to work on Reform !

Being on the County Board for over two years now I have greatly appreciated the other members I share the decision making process with up in Waukegan. But like other political groups and governmental entities throughout our country this one is really no different when it comes to making real change. Now unlike what we seem to observe at the federal level, county elected officials do share a level of warmth between us. I do not criticize my fellow members for not having the same governmental integration expectations that I would like to see occur. I do however believe our citizens are demanding a big change and would like to see governmental burdens reduced substantially. I guess the main difference between my fellow members and I is that I do believe that we can reorganize government agencies in Lake County with the help of State government to reduce taxation and provide the services our residents require.

In trying to push forward our agenda of intergovernmental integration, countywide equity, and general reforms to create efficiencies I have yet to find ONE real partner that is willing to fight to reduce the property tax burden on our citizens. There is simply a high level of chatter on process that is without real vested heroes to lead and very little example of successes that have occurred to date.

All my pleas of forming a working committee and retaining experts have fallen on seemingly deaf ears. While each government is complex in our existing framework of 3 times the amount of agencies than mostly any other state in the union, the daunting prospect of consolidating services under less agencies and creating sustaining efficiencies seems to rattle existing professional administrations, thus paralyzing the top elected officials into taking just taking baby steps that simply do not produce any outcomes that our citizens are demanding.

Without elected champions at the table to work staff on these important issues there is no fire set with staff to accomplish any real progress on the reform issue. Along with no real action taking place the debate on "realistic goals" and staff overload dominates the chatter in the back rooms paralyzing any chance of success on a comprehensive process and substantial progress.

The problem I am having creating any real change in government is that being a new member, a democrat, and a progressive, I am seemingly a flea on the tail of this wagging dog called Lake County with no real short term hope of meeting the expectations our citizens are demanding.

That doesn't however prevent me from continuing to speak up and trying to convince my fellow members and community elected officials from getting on board.... Stay Tuned!!!