Buffalo Grove town hall meeting focuses on local issues
Community members gathered for a Town Hall Meeting held at the Vernon Township Community Service with Buffalo Grove Village President Jeff Braiman, state representative for the 53rd district Sidney Mathias and Lake County Board President David Stolman. |
Updated: September 17, 2012 12:25PM
In a town that has plenty of issues to talk about, the hottest topic is also the newest.
At a “town hall” meeting on Monday, called by three candidates for three offices in this fall’s elections, the subject that audience members brought up most frequently was the idea of building a downtown for Buffalo Grove from scratch. Unveiled seven days prior at the most recent Village Board meeting, the idea of a mixed-use city-center drew more comments than spending at Stevenson High School, bills in Springfield that would have local effect and even the traditional hot-button topic, traffic.
“Why was this even drawn and shown to people?” asked one woman, who did not identify herself.
The meeting was organized by state Rep. Sid Mathias of the 53rd District, Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman and Buffalo Grove Village President Jeff Braiman; held in the Vernon Township Community Services Building, the program attracted an audience of about 50. Braiman, a Democrat, is seeking a judgeship in the 3rd subcircuit of the 19th Judicial Circuit, and faces Republican Dan Shanes; Mathias, a Republican, will oppose Democrat Carol Sente in the newly drawn 59th District; Stolman, also a Republican, has no competition; Stolman and Mathias represent Buffalo Grove in their districts.
The three took turns fielding questions that included how Illinois will fulfill its pension obligations (Mathias said he doubted any final decisions will be made at Friday’s meeting of legislators in Springfield), the results of the 2008 quarter-cent tax hike to save the Regional Transportation Authority and the programs it oversees (“If any of those systems fail, we are all in a lot of trouble,” Mathias said) and their agencies’ financial conditions (Village Hall and the county both have the best bond ratings possible, but the state is moseying toward self-destruction).
Audience member Marjorie McKee asked what is being done about the invasion of the emerald ash borer beetle, which is killing the Midwest’s population of ash trees. Braiman said the village had yet to find a deterrent that appeared effective: The best chemicals he had seen would cost about $600,000, and came with no guarantees.
“The treatments are not very successful, and they’re very expensive,” he said.
Visitor Joel Resnick took issue with SHS, which this fall will hand out 800 Apple iPads to students enrolled in three courses.
“Although Stevenson is a great school, it’s bleeding us dry,” Resnick said. “Let the parents pay for them if they want to have iPads.”
All three speakers said they wanted, and had, no control over the School Board, which had no members at the gathering.
“I don’t believe I should be able to call Stevenson up and say ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’” Mathias said.
Several speakers asked about traffic-control projects around town, particularly the widening of Weiland Road and related work on Lake Cook Road. Braiman said that the Village Board was still waiting to see engineering studies for those ideas; if that work comes to fruition, both he and Stolman said it would be funded almost entirely by the county and the federal government.
“The contribution by the village will be virtually nominal,” Braiman said.
He said later that Weiland is “disintegrating,” and that it would need to be widened in some form soon to handle increasing vehicle counts.
“We do, obviously, need some help with getting through our village,” Braiman said.
Several audience members, though, brought concerns about what the 65-acre retail, entertainment, government, office and residential development proposed last week by CRM Properties Group, Ltd., would do to those already-rising traffic counts. Lake Cook Road currently handles 103,000 cars daily (though the possible extension of Illinois Route 53 north of its dead-end on Lake Cook would lower that), and some voiced reservations about placing the massive project on such a taxed street.
One man asked if the area’s northern border, Old Checker Road, would be widened as part of construction; Braiman said the current proposal left it at two lanes.
Visitor Ron Friedman said the manner in which CRM debuted its proposal concerned him. All of the land the firm would build on is owned by Village Hall, which has not sent out a public request for proposals of downtown construction.
“It’s not really a public concern at this point,” and Braiman would repeat to several other questioners that “This is just the beginning of the process. It could go away at any time, if it doesn’t look like it’s in the benefit of the village.”
That mantra did not satisfy Friedman and at least one other speaker after him.
“I think that’s just skirting the issue,” Friedman told Braiman.
All of these issues will be up for further discussion as the elections approach.