Archive for the ‘OP/Ed’ Category

We are pleased to announce the recipient of the 2017 Shining Star Award — Barrington Hills Police Chief Richard Semelsberger. Chief Semelsberger epitomizes the very best in a public safety professional, and the residents of our village are very fortunate to have such a dedicated individual at the helm of our Police Department.


Chief Semelsberger is well-known to many in the community, having started as a patrolman in 1989, and rising through the ranks over the last 28 years.  Having worked under four of the nine previous village chiefs of police, Rich became Deputy Chief in 2011, eventually becoming Chief of Police in March 2015, after the retirement of Chief Michael Murphy.

He is respected and well-liked by officers in his department, and works easily with our elected officials, village hall staff, and attorneys.  A familiar face to many, Rich is in attendance at each annual Hills Are Alive Heritage Fest, where he can be seen engaged in friendly conversation with village residents.

Over the years, Semelsberger has continually impressed us with his vast knowledge of the department’s operating budget during Board of Trustee meetings, always having the appropriate facts and figures when questioned by board members.  But what has been the most striking recently has been his active participation in many other discussions during Board Meetings.  Whether the topic was the somewhat controversial outsourcing of our 911 Dispatch services to QuadCom, or the purchase of a new phone system for the Village Hall, it was obvious that Semelsberger had studied the issues very carefully and had an intimate understanding of all of the pros and cons.

The Chief’s low-key yet highly effective style was most notably on display in early 2017 when he set the record straight on the many of facts surrounding the village’s CTY alert system, police staffing levels, and the false accusations of discontinuation of the police non-emergency number.  These issues had been raised during the months leading up to the April 2017 Election by the “Your Barrington Hills” slate and their supporters.  Despite the highly political atmosphere that had been created, Semelsberger calmly and clearly refuted the unfounded allegations one-by-one in a decidedly nonpartisan and straightforward manner that left little doubt what the facts were.  See these Observer articles for more detail: All the world’s a stageApril 24th Board meeting recordings released, and Regime revived?

Our village is indeed lucky to have such a fine man as Richard Semelsberger fully committed to serving and protecting our homes and families.  We commend the Chief for his leadership of our award-winning Police Department, and for making our community safe each and every day.  Thank you from the residents and from all of us at the Observer!

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The Spirit of the Season


This time of year, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the annual frenzy of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, door buster sales, and expedited shipping.  There are end-of-year work deadlines to meet, airline flights to schedule, Christmas cookies to bake, and school concerts and office parties to attend.  Mix in sore throats, sniffling noses, traffic snarls, winter storm warnings and black ice, and it might seem as though you have the perfect recipe for a holiday headache.

That’s why it is so important to stop and feel the wonder of the season.  Look all around and drink it in with all of your senses. There is the special soft glow of lights on the tree, the cat pawing at a low hanging ornament, the whistling winds outside and the sight of crisscrossing deer tracks in the snow.  The kids making a mess of the kitchen as they build a gingerbread house.  The family dog dozing by the fire. The crimson bows, the smell of evergreen boughs.  The warmth of family, the laughter of friends.  Remembering those who are gone.  Missing those who couldn’t be here.  The soaring voices of the church choir. The wide smiles on Christmas morning.

These are the simple joys. This is what makes memories.

Merry Christmas from the Observer!

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audio_tape_revox_pr99-203Audio recordings from the July 24th, 2017 meeting of the Board of Trustees have been posted. To access the menu of recordings edited by agenda item, click here.

Most of the brief meeting consisted of routine business, but, again, property owned by Barrington Hills Farm LLC (BHFarm) provided the most interesting fodder for discussion.  As we mentioned previously, the owner(s) of the unoccupied property at 2400 Spring Creek Road had been cited for demolition of a residence without a building permit and for removal of two posted Stop Work Order signs. Additionally, many trees and much vegetation had been removed without a permit required under the village’s Heritage Tree Ordinance.

Trustee Colleen Konicek asked Administrator Bob Kosin for an update on the situation.  The issue of the removal of the Stop Work Order signs is currently in the hands of the village prosecutor, and the courts will be left to determine if the violation did take place, and what fines, if any, should be imposed.  Kosin went on to state that the necessary demolition permit had now been obtained, albeit AFTER the fact, and that according to the demolition contractor, none of the work to remove the debris from the demolition of the 2900 sq. ft. home had required an overweight permit.  Trustee Brian Cecola strongly questioned the notion that a residence of that size could be taken down without the need for an overweight permit.  Konicek pressed the issue further, asking Kosin what evidence had been provided that an overweight permit had not been required? Kosin was forced to admit there was no evidence, just the word of the contractor. We wonder how many other residents would be afforded this same benefit of the doubt.

On the issue of the trees that had been removed, Kosin stated that the Village’s tree contractor had been sent out, and he determined that no heritage trees had been lost or jeopardized on the site, again AFTER the fact, and that the property owner had been appropriately billed (and paid ) for the arborist’s inspection fee. Kosin expressed supreme confidence in the arborist’s psychic abilities to determine the species of trees which had been removed, without ever having seen them.  We don’t quite understand how this was possible — perhaps he conducted a DNA analysis of the sawdust residue?

President Martin McLaughlin expressed concern about the objectivity of the arborist, Chuck Stewart, who had performed the study of the property, because Stewart rents office space in a building owned by one of the members of the board of Barrington Hills Farm. Trustee Michelle Maison was also troubled by this perceived conflict of interest and inquired if another independent tree analysis should be conducted.

McLaughlin then brought up the issue of the deannexation request (dated July 17, 2017) for 2400 Spring Creek Road. Back in the fall, the trust controlling BHFarm had expressed interest in annexing ALL of the former Duda property back into the Village during a friendly 2 1/2 hour staff meeting during which the village outlined two timelines to complete the annexation petition process. He found it odd that first they wanted to annex into the village, and now they want to annex out of the village. He also reminded the new Board members about the trust’s previous request for an easement for its proposed HARPS facility (which still has not broken ground).  The trust had wanted an easement, requested it, constructed the legal documents for it, and when the Board agreed to it, the trust wanted the easement out.

McLaughlin described how the Village has gone out of its way to say “yes” numerous times to requests by BHFarm, and explained how the Village has tried to work with the individuals representing BHFarm, only to have the trust change their minds about things that they themselves had asked for.  He likened dealing with the BHFarm trust as doing the Hokey Pokey — they want the easement in, they want the easement out, they want to annex in, they want to annex out. All of it, he said, amounted to much silliness, and in our opinion, wasting of board and staff time, not to mention taxpayer dollars.


Doing the annexation hokey pokey

Trustee Paula Jacobsen wondered why the village couldn’t have employed a warmer and fuzzier process to inform the property owner of their violation of the cease and desist order, perhaps by placing a personal phone call. Jacobsen was either playing dumb in thinking that property owners’ phone numbers are listed on property deeds, or perhaps she was pandering to BHFarm’s board which is headed by a prominent donor to her recent trustee campaign. Her point seemed to be that the property owner was not being treated in a neighborly manner, despite the fact that the only publicly available contact information is an street address in Chicago. Never did she place any onus on the property owner who apparently assumed that it was okay to knock down a house without consulting the municipal authorities in advance. Maybe she has never heard of the expression “ignorance of the law is no excuse”?

And, if the village had gone to extreme lengths to track down a telephone number in this particular instance, wouldn’t that create a dangerous precedent for the village’s future contacts with other property owners?  AND, does Jacobsen really believe that the contractor(s) who removed the trees and demolished the residence didn’t inform their employer of the Stop Work Order?

Those conversations can be heard here.

Later in the meeting, during discussion of the disconnection petition itself, Village Attorney Mary Dickson described the legal requirements for disconnection and confirmed that the subject property meets all of them. However, the village cannot act on such a petition sooner than 30 days after receiving it, and, as a result, the attorney will prepare an ordinance for possible action at the next Board meeting in August.

Dickson cautioned that any penalties regarding the cease and desist order violation pending in court should be resolved and that any other monies due to the Village should be paid PRIOR to the Board of Trustees taking final action on BHFarm’s petition.

Jacobsen continued to puzzle over the reason for the disconnection request into unincorporated McHenry County, and asked if the petitioner would be making a presentation to the Board explaining the reasons for the disconnection.  Dickson explained that no such presentation is legally necessary.  (We suggest that Jacobsen pick up the telephone a place a neighborly phone call if she wants to quench her curiosity.) Attorney Dickson opined that maybe developmental rights are the reason, and perhaps the best prospects for the owner’s desired development of the property may lie with the county rather than the village. We’d say that Ms. Dickson hit the nail on the head with that assessment.

The disconnection discussion can be heard here.







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President McLaughlin


Trustee Konicek Hannigan

On Tuesday night, Barrington Hills Village President Martin McLaughlin and Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan were sworn in for their second terms, and the “Your Barrington Hills” (YBH) slate candidates Paula Jacobsen and Robert Zubak were sworn in for the first time.

In his opening remarks, President McLaughlin expressed his desire that board members, both old and new, would be working together in solving issues in a collaborative way and welcomed new ideas and initiatives. As hopeful and inclusive as his words were, we are not as optimistic that the new trustees will be anything more than a retread of the ideologies and failed policies espoused in past campaigns by former Village President Bob Abboud in 2009, the “Save Five Acres” slate in 2011 or the “Save Open Space” slate in 2015. In fact, most of the strategies employed by YBH in 2017 are directly out of the old regime’s playbook.

They employed the same strategy that Abboud did in his initial run for Village Presidency in 2005; create an issue (Save Five Acres), scare the residents with false allegations via a “ghost writer” (John Rosene), and impugn the character of those running against you. That technique was right out of the pages of “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky, the patron saint of morally bankrupt liberal politicians, who believe that the end justifies the means!

Recently joining in this assault on the unwary residents of the Village was Kristina Anderson with her inflammatory and inaccurate comments to the Board of Trustees at their April meeting, as chronicled in our article April 24th Board Meeting Recordings Released

In response to the proposed Plum Farm development in Hoffman Estates on land disconnected from the Village in 2004, Anderson created a Facebook group to oppose the development primarily due to its projected tax and student impacts to School District 220 & 300 taxpayers. We applaud her and other participating residents for speaking up at Hoffman Estates public meetings on this crucial issue – it’s often these types of grass-roots movements that can have great influence.

However, in addressing the Village Board, Anderson crossed the line between innuendo and untruthfulness a number of times. She presented herself as the beacon of truth, but she provided zero evidence for her wide-ranging allegations. Here are just a few examples:

  • Allegation? Discontinuation of non-emergency police coverage.  REALITY: Untrue. Residents’ access to a non-emergency number still exists today, seven days a week. It has never gone away.  Chief Semelsberger described non-emergency call coverage during the April Board of Trustees meeting in detail. (see link. The only change is that after-hours non-emergency calls are now answered by Quad-com dispatchers, just as all village emergency 911 calls are. According to the Chief, these calls are answered by the same dispatch and our Barrington Hills officers respond as they always have if not engaged in true emergency situations.
  • Allegation? Hills and Dales Farm [sic] and Cressey’s property are already zoned by McHenry County for less than five acre lots. REALITY: Untrue. The Duchossois’ Hill ‘N Dale Farm and the Cressey’s Cresswood Farm, both located in unincorporated McHenry County, are NOT zoned for less than five acre lots. They are not zoned for lots of any size at all! Both are zoned A-1 for agriculture. This is a fact that is easily looked up and disproven.
  • Allegation? Board members haven’t declared their support for 5 acres. REALITY: Untrue. Every piece of literature from Colleen Konicek Hannigan and, Martin McLaughlin in 2013 and in 2017, and every piece of literature from Brian Croll, Michelle Maison and Brian Cecola in 2015 included a commitment to 5 acre zoning minimums. Over 5 years and in at least 12 mailers, each have each stated their support for five acre zoning. And every action by these five as members of the Board of Trustees has been consistent with maintaining this current zoning. There is not an ounce of truth to Ms. Anderson’s claims in this regard.
  • Allegation? Board members have undisclosed interests with the Hoffman Estates Plum Tree Farms developers. REALITY: Untrue. This is such a blatantly false allegation it’s hard to even take this breathless advocate of the people seriously here.  Anthony Iatarola does not have investors linked in ANY way to any members of the Board of Trustees. This claim is completely ridiculous, and, quite frankly, irresponsible.
  • Allegation? President McLaughlin and the Board of Trustees have not been using all legal means at their disposal to object to the Plum Farms development. REALITY: Untrue. As described in the aforementioned Observer summary of the April 24th Board of Trustee Meeting synopsis, many discussions, both public and behind the scenes, have taken place with participation by McLaughlin, Village Attorneys, Village Administration, Trustee Michelle Maison and others. With regard to the oft-mentioned 1.5-mile planning jurisdiction, the village’s lawyers have explained that this does not apply in this instance because Barrington Hills and Hoffman Estates do not have a border agreement (despite several overtures by Barrington Hills in recent years). South Barrington has a legal right to object because it DOES have a border agreement with its neighbor. And due to McLaughlin’s excellent relationship with South Barrington President Paula McCombie, Barrington Hills has been able to sit in on meetings with South Barrington and offer input on strategy.

The simple facts are that open space and 5 acre zoning in Barrington Hills are not threatened by the incumbent Village President and Trustees. We are extremely disappointed that a resident, and an attorney no less, would stand up at a Board Meeting and make such unfounded allegations and insinuations. And, sadly, many of those allegations also came out of Jacobsen and Zubak’s YBH campaign and were eerily reminiscent of the Abboud-backed Save 5 Acres and Save Open Space campaigns. And we are left to wonder if Ms. Anderson was making her opening statement for a 2019 trustee run. We sincerely hope not.


Trustee Jacobsen


Trustee Zubak

So here we are, just one month after the village election, seeing the inflammatory campaign rhetoric continue. If Jacobsen and Zubak decide to adhere to the failed strategies and policies of the deposed Abboud regime, they will only continue to divide the community, and will sadly bring more harm to the equestrian community which they profess to support.

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2017VBHBallotTuesday, April 4th marks yet another turning point in the history of the village of Barrington Hills. Residents will go to the polls again faced with a choice of continuing to advance the positive trends of the last four years, or backsliding into the mired legacy of the last administration. Three trustee positions and the office of village president are being contested.

The achievements of President Martin McLaughlin and Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan over their first term have been nothing short of amazing, even more so, when you consider that for their first two years they had to work with a five person opposition bloc on the Board who were blindly loyal to the old regime, and who fought against change on nearly every front. We won’t waste space here again repeating all of Marty and Colleen’s fulfilled campaign promises here, but instead refer you to the words of the Daily Herald Editorial Board when it said, “Barrington Hills has recorded some notable accomplishments and is on a constructive course for maintaining the town’s prosperity and rural charm, led by a village board whose members are dedicated and independent”, in endorsing both McLaughlin and Hannigan. We concur with their very enthusiastic endorsement.

Six candidates are vying for the two other open trustee positions. The two individuals running under the “Your Barrington Hills” (YBH) banner, along with former trustee Elaine Ramesh, despite rather desperate attempts to minimize and criticize the notable achievements of the last four years, are nothing more than “Save 5 Acres” version 3.0.

The YBH campaign has been marked by negative mailings flooding our mailboxes, attempting to create crises where none exist. Not only do they fail to acknowledge the positive accomplishments of the McLaughlin administration, they ridiculously try to imply that the village has not been prudently managed and that services have suffered. Even the specter of the phantom developer has been raised again.

As detailed in Meet the Candidates Part One and Part Two, Jacobsen, Zubak and Ramesh are distancing themselves from their extremist equestrian bias, in what we see as a deliberate attempt to mislead voters from their true agenda.  We believe that the ultimate goal of these Trojan Horsemen candidates is to reinstate ordinances permitting unbridled, large-scale commercial boarding and unimpeded related commercial equestrian activities in the Village to the benefit of their friends, at the expense of the rights of the rest of us to the peaceful enjoyment of our homes.  Electing any of these individuals will be a setback to the reforms of the past four years and will be a danger to all of our residential rights.  They have shown themselves to be completely uninformed on the true state of village affairs, and will be little more than puppets for the former regime.

That is why we are endorsing the two other independent candidates on the ballot – Matt Vondra and Ralph Sesso.

Matt Vondra, a resident since 2012, is a consultant in logistics and business development, who works for contractors in heavy and highway construction. Matt volunteers on the Executive Committee of the Barrington Area Conservation Trust and recently won the Audubon Society’s Grassroots Conservation Leadership Award for his work on the restoration plan of the Bluff Spring Fen in Elgin, Illinois.

Ralph Sesso has lived in Barrington Hills for 23 years and is an investment fund manager and a certified financial planner. He and his wife raised their four children in the village. He is running to help preserve the long standing tradition of open space and the rural nature of our community. He is also personally interested in residents finding ways to live peaceably with each other, despite differences on political issues.

Vondra and Sesso possess unique professional skills, and both are supportive of the reforms and results that Marty and Colleen have instituted over the last four years. The Observer feels strongly that these two independent candidates would work well with the current board in continuing the positive trends of fiscal responsibility and creative approaches that have become hallmarks of our village government today.

We urge you to make your voices heard again as you go to the polls on Tuesday April 4th to support McLaughlin for President, and Hannigan, Vondra and Sesso for Trustees.

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Less than a week remains until the election, and predictably, a flurry of 11th hour campaign mailings are landing in mailboxes, proclaiming breaking news and urgent bulletins, all carefully timed to prevent rebuttal by their targets, Martin McLaughlin and Colleen Konicek Hannigan.

This time, the mailings, which are highly critical of Marty and Colleen, are coming from a private citizen, rather than a candidate’s campaign committee, so we will not name the person in question.  But the individual is well known as a key member of the polo club,  as one of the most extreme equestrians in the village and as a bosom buddy of the former village president. Readers should be familiar with his notorious 2005 White Paper.

In his first mailing, he basically repeated many of the fabricated claims that have been raised by the Your Barrington Hills candidates Iacovelli, Jacobsen and Zubak, whom he supports, along with Equestrienne Ramesh.  Our feature Meet the Candidates Part Two: YBH — the Trojan Horsemen, published yesterday, set the record straight on many of those issues.

The second letter received today alleges a lawsuit recently filed against the village concerning commercial horse boarding is being hidden from residents.  The writer attempts rile up the electorate with false outrage and cries of lack of transparency.  Funny thing is, he fails to mention that one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is the very same owner/operator of the commercial boarding operation on Bateman Road that has already cost our village taxpayers hundreds of thousands in legal fees in numerous lawsuits over the last decade.  Oh, and the letter writer’s polo club has an arrangement with that plaintiff to use the polo field at that very boarding facility.

So what about the assertion that the trustees and the public have not been made aware of the lawsuit?  Untrue. We direct you to the recently released recording of the Village Board meeting held on March 21st, 2017 when the lawsuit was IN FACT discussed in open session in the first board meeting held after the case was filed.  Click here to hear Village Attorney Patrick Bond’s statement that the Board was emailed a litigation update regarding the amended complaint in connection with that case.  It is apparent that both the Board and the public have been made aware of the filings.

[We wonder where the letter writer’s outrage was when the Sears litigation went on for 13 YEARS without mention to the public until President McLaughlin took it upon himself to work with South Barrington to settle that suit, which could have meant a $20 million dollar judgment against the two villages if Sears had prevailed.]

The March 21st recordings also include the Chief of Police Rich Semelsberger describing the village’s continuing use of the CTY Community Alert System.  His discussion not only makes it clear that the alert system has not been abandoned, but actually has been used, in his words, ” very liberally” for announcements of road closures, chemical spills, missing persons, etc.  He further clarified that the Police Department makes the decision to issue an alert, not the president or the board, and that the Department balances the public’s need to know with the timeliness of the message.  Semelsberger’s comments about the CTY alerts, including a mention of a FOIA request having been filed and fulfilled on the topic, can be heard here.

The Chief also responded to a Board question about police staffing here, and explained that in the 28 years that he has been with the department, there have always been a minimum of two officers on patrol at any given time.  Currently there are two officers out on extended injury, and as a result, other personnel have been reassigned to ensure adequate coverage.  Additionally, there are two new officers scheduled to begin training at the Illinois State Police Academy on April 9th, as a result of a screening process that began last year.

So, the claims about the “hidden lawsuit” are false. Claims about the abandonment of the CTY Alert System are false. Claims about insufficient police staffing are false. Claims about FOIA expenses are false. Claims about rebranding are false. Claims about 911 dispatch outsourcing are false. And on, and on, and on.

Four days remain until the election, and we see the same pitiful pattern of deception that we’ve seen in previous campaigns. Outrageous claims are made, lawsuits and FOIA requests filed, and last minute grenades are launched — all by the same bad actors.  It’s the same small vocal group, inextricably tied to the former president, that spews misinformation and attempts to bully and intimidate the regular folks in the village.  In 2013, voters said “Enough!” In 2015, they shouted “ENOUGH!”  In 2017, let’s get the big hook out and finally drag those bad actors off of the village stage once and for all.

We encourage our readers to stay informed and to share our posts with their friends and neighbors as this critical campaign draws to a conclusion on Tuesday.

[NOTE: The Observer itself is mentioned in both of the aforementioned mailings, and we have to say that free advertising is always appreciated, although not needed, as our readership is booming.]


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Daily Herald Editorial Board:  The acronym TIF refers to a conversation-stopping tax strategy that is not easy to understand but can have direct consequences for communities, schools, parks, libraries and taxpayers. In the best of circumstances, it can help a community encourage development in struggling parts of town. In the worst, it can suck resources away from the agencies and institutions people count on.

A proposed 184-acre TIF district in western Hoffman Estates qualifies as the latter, and adds insult to injury by potentially increasing demands on local resources, schools in particular, while simultaneously taking resources away from them.

So, it’s not hard to understand why nearly every affected agency took a stand this week in opposition to providing the incentive to a proposed residential and commercial development near routes 72 and 59. In a pair of votes, members of a joint review board overwhelmingly declared the project ineligible for a TIF designation on land the Hoffman Estates village board is considering annexing.

Most of the review board members had selfish reasons to be wary of the proposal. For up to the next 23 years, it would divert tax money away from them — including, among others, Barrington Unit District 220, Community Unit District 300, the Barrington Area Library, Harper College, Elgin Community College, Barrington Township and the Barrington Hills Park District.

All in the interest of a project that — if successful — would bring businesses and residents to an area already bustling with restaurants, grocers and department stores.

The complete Daily Herald editorial can be read here.

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