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Archive for the ‘OP/Ed’ Category

For the better part of two years now, members of our Zoning Board of Appeals have been attempting to craft new language for our Sign Ordinance. While appearing easy on the surface, the more daunting it became as ZBA members discussed nearly every purpose, size, height, setback, etc. that people might employ to gain the attention of a passersby.

Last month, the Board of Trustees had an opportunity to review the ZBA’s latest Sign Ordinance draft, and as readers of the Daily Herald now know, some former village trustees chose to use the public comment portion of the meeting to voice their (non)issues. (As it turns out later, they only used this time to grandstand and proved to most why they are “former’ trustees)

In his article,In Barrington Hills, properties have names, and residents want to keep them,” Daily Herald writer Bob Susnjara wrote the following highlights in his article on the October 28th BoT meeting:

“To lose a sense of history would be tragic for our village,” (45-year resident Patty Meroni, a former village trustee) said. “We have signs all around our village that develop our history. It’s part of what our village is all about, part of our uniqueness.”

“Former Village President Robert Abboud, whose property is High Wire Farm, shared his concern about the proposed sign ordinance changes with Barrington Hills officials.

‘I’ve had a sign marking my property for the last 32 years, my parents’ property 52 years,’ Abboud said.”

Perhaps if these two former trustees and former trustee and current Barrington Township Trustee Fritz Gohl had bothered to read the current Sign Ordinance (seen below and linked here) in place before, during and after their time in office, maybe they would recognize how moronic most of their comments were:

5-5-11 Signs

In residence districts signs shall be classified and permitted in accordance with the regulations set forth hereinafter.

(A) R1 District:

1. In an R1 district, the following nonflashing, nonilluminated signs are permitted under the conditions specified: (Ord. 09-05, 5-18-2009)

a. Nameplates and identification signs, subject to the following:

(1) Area and Content, Residential: There shall be not more than one nameplate, not exceeding one square foot in area, for each dwelling unit or driveway entrance, indicating the name or address of the occupant or a permitted occupation.

Clearly, based on his lengthy diatribe made during public comments, the 4.6 square foot vanity sign the one former trustee has displayed on his property, “… for the last 32 years,” has been illegal under current codes.

In fact, Susnjara’s article goes on to read:

“Trustee Colleen Konicek Hannigan said the village is trying to achieve a finely crafted sign ordinance that updates one that dates to 1963 and was last revised in 1977.

‘For those who apparently are not aware, our current ordinance means that probably 90-some-odd percent of the signs that are currently existing are out of compliance,’ Hannigan said.”

When we reviewed the audio recordings from the October 28th meeting (the link can be accessed here and written comments can be viewed here), there were clearly criticism of the ZBA draft, yet for all their hot air and rants on Facebook, was there any constructive ideas shared that would benefit the efforts of those volunteering their time on boards?

As you might imagine, not a one, and that by one definition is whining!

-The Observer

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Is the Illinois Racing Board taking business lessons from the film “Goodfellas?”

In that world of organized crime chronicled so brilliantly by director Martin Scorsese, actor Ray Liotta portrays mobster Henry Hill. He explains the business mantra succinctly as follows: (I have condensed the idea to remove some choice terms.) “Business bad? … pay me. Oh, you had a fire? … pay me. Place got hit by lightning, huh? … pay me.”

You get the idea. They don’t care about your problems, they just want their money.

That’s an approach the Racing Board tried using with Arlington International Racecourse in Arlington Heights, leaning on them so the track would add casino gambling. The pressure from the racing board, or incentive for the track, depending on which side you’re onwas to potentially deny them any of the 68 dates for racing sought for Arlington. The board ultimately gave approval for the dates.

Read more of Randy Blaser’s column here.

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Paula Jacobsen

The latest Village newsletter came out recently, and it mentions the results of the latest Village annual audit among other things. The sound financial position of our Village is noted, but what is absent of any narrative is how earlier this year, first term trustee Paula Jacobsen caused a potentially damaging accusation that caused the auditor to investigate that accusation.

One question Jacobson was asked to answer during the audit was:

“In your opinion, are there any areas of operation of the Village that do not receive enough oversight of management or board, or any particular weaknesses in internal controls?” 

Jacobsen checked off “Yes.” As a Trustee, she could have taken the opportunity beforehand to gather specific information and to offer a detailed explanation or perhaps even actual facts, but instead submitted her vague audit questionnaire on March 17, 2019 (perhaps hoping to disrupt the April 2 election?).

Jacobson had a wealth of resources at her disposal for weeks before if she had any questions whatsoever on completing her forms from the audit firm. She could have easily gathered information from the Village Treasurer, Director of Administration, Clerk or even the Trustee assigned to Finance, but she did not avail herself of those ample opportunities according to recordings. She could have provided an answer to the question she was asked instead of repeating an anonymous rumor told to her by some residents.

Instead, when asked why she answered “Yes” to the audit question, her initial answer was:

“While I don’t know that it is considered fraud, but some residents have claimed that contracts are being given to certain members of family of the Board, however, that is not evidence of guilt. I don’t know that we have a clear process to evaluate this if in fact this is happening.   I’m not aware of any contract awarded to a Board member.” 

The first thought that came to our minds upon hearing this was that of an immature four-year-old who answers the question “why did you eat those cookies?” with, “Someone said I could.”

Though asked repeatedly, Jacobson would not, or more probably could not offer any specificity to her unsubstantiated allegation, and at times her answers to Trustees questions on her inexplicable answer changed from one minute or meeting month to another.

For example, before the auditor was asked to read back her answer to the question in the presence of the Board, Jacobsen denied checking the “Yes” box repeatedly. She also denied making any claim or charge of process or fraud issues, and she only began to recant her statements once the village president asked the auditor to read them into the record.

Jacobson also stated on more than one occasion that she understood that her responses to all audit questions were private and would be kept anonymous.   Those wishing to listen to the recording of this exchange can do so by clicking here.

She followed up at the June Board of Trustees meeting by reading a written statement that actually reversed her position in May. She stated she believes that fraud and processes have been violated at the Village, and further she made a secondary allegation that the auditing firm was not independent thereby impugning the reputation of the village treasurer, the independent auditor and the finance chairman Mr. Croll and the Village board.

If this sounds pathetic, it is, and it goes on (and on). Rather than continue with what is basically transcribing her lunacy from recordings, we have a better solution for all involved.

The solution to this problem will be for the village to spend further taxpayer dollars to “investigate” the rumor that someone repeated to Jacobson, and then hopefully follow that by providing educational information to Jacobson on the importance and serious nature of the annual financial audit so that in the future she may confidently answer the audit questionnaire with facts instead of vague, unfounded rumor.

-The Observer

Related: Flip, Flop: What changed your minds Trustees Messer, Meroni, and Selman?  (August 30, 2011)

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With an expansion of Algonquin Road through the Barrington area all be certain in the next few years, Barrington Hills is urging a different approach, and we hope the Illinois Department of Transportation continues to give it serious consideration.

As Bob Susnjara reported Monday, Barrington Hills is pitching the idea of turning Algonquin Road into a so-called scenic parkway, a roadway that would fit into, rather than obliterate, the bucolic, natural setting of northwest Cook County. Algonquin Road cuts through Spring Lake Forest Preserve on its way to the northern Fox Valley.

“It should kind of honor the open space, natural setting that the Cook County Forest Preserve is trying to maintain and what we’re trying to maintain in our community,” Barrington Hills Village President Martin McLaughlin told Susnjara.

This is a new approach, and one that reflects the increasing interest in preserving the environment of much of the suburban area — hand in hand, of course, with finding better ways to move frustrating amounts of traffic on a daily basis.

Continue reading the full Daily Herald editorial here.

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“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”

— Winston Churchill

State Rep. David McSweeney, Barrington Hills

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, after signing the largest budget in Illinois history, declared that the Land of Lincoln is back, but he failed to complete the rest of that sentence. Illinois is back to the failed policies of more tax increases and out of control spending. Republican “leaders” who supported Pritzker’s big government fiscal policies should be ashamed of themselves. I voted an emphatic “no” on the Pritzker budget and tax increases.

The $40 billion Fiscal Year 2020 unbalanced budget that the governor signed contains more spending than the budget he originally proposed and includes no spending reforms. The budget also includes tax increases on health insurance and online purchases. The Illinois Constitution requires “appropriations for a fiscal year shall not exceed funds estimated by the General Assembly to be available during that year.” The General Assembly did not pass a revenue estimate so this budget cannot be truly balanced. Also, overly optimistic revenue forecasts unrealistically assume that one-time revenue gains will be sustainable.

As egregious as the additional spending is, the real story of the 2019 spring session is taxes, taxes and more taxes. The progressive income tax constitutional amendment is the linchpin for massive future tax hikes and new state spending. Fortunately, voters will have the final say on the progressive income tax constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in the general election next year. I’m confident that 60% of Illinois voters will not support massive tax increases that will eventually hit the middle class. Do you really trust Illinois political insiders to set your tax rates under a progressive tax system?

Read the full David McSweeny opinion piece in the Daily Herald here.

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At its June 5 meeting, the District 220 Board of Education approved the purchase of the residential property located at 36 East Dundee Road, which sits between the Early Learning Center and BMS-Prairie.

The Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District is selling the property to the district. BCFPD had proposed a fire station for the site, however the Cook County Board did not approve the proposal.

It’s reported that District 220 will be paying an estimated $562,800 for the 1,462 square foot ranch-style home built in 1955. Records indicate the roughly 1-acre parcel last sold for $500,000 in December of 2016 to the BCFPD.

“The district expects the land to be used to improve traffic flow and parking at the two campuses,” a recent 220 press release states. The way District 220 has been managed in recent years, we expect this will likely be over a million-dollar expenditure before it’s all said and done.

Related: County board denies plans to build fire station near two Barrington schools

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The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, the Des Plaines Theater in Des Plaines and the Catlow Theater in Barrington — three stately, downtown theater buildings that have been the focus of recent community efforts aiming to give them new leases on life.

All three date to the mid-1920s and each is at a different stage in its operation and development, but they share the common bond that people cared enough about their futures to commit the time, energy and dollars to help ensure they will be viable.

Those efforts and others elsewhere are important, because such buildings and their venues are treasures that are part of the very fabric and character that’s critical to making suburban downtowns vibrant places to visit for entertainment and commerce.

They are attractions that create foot traffic and keep money flowing to restaurants and other businesses.

The Catlow bills itself as the “heart of Barrington” and fans raised more than $100,000 in 2012 to fund a needed digital projector. This spring, in response to another cry for help from the theater’s owner, Barrington Cultural Commission members are suggesting events and looking for other ways to improve business at the old single-screen movie house. Among the ideas being floated is a “Sound of Music” singalong over Thanksgiving weekend.

Read the full Daily Herald editorial here.

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