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Archive for the ‘FOIA’ Category

Sometime after The Observer published a link to the ePacket agenda yesterday for Wednesday evening’s Village Board meeting, another topic for recommendation was added to the agenda under Building & Zoning.

Item 5.5 on the agenda is now “[Recommendation] ZBA Text Amendment Re: Horse Boarding.”

The updated ePacket agenda can be viewed here.

Related article: Appellate court decision sends local commercial horse boarding complaint back to lower court for further proceedings

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New VB Start TimeThe April meeting of our Village Board will take place Wednesday evening beginning at 6:30 PM, and for the first time, the ePacket agenda the board members have access to prior to meetings has now been made available in advance to residents.

These ePacket agendas include:

  • Unapproved minutes drafts from prior board meetings
  • Monthly financial reports and bills for approval
  • Monthly police reports
  • Building department activity
  • Ordinances and resolutions to be voted on
  • Administrative reports

The Observer applauds this landmark in transparency and appreciates the efforts of all who took part in making this significant enhancement to Village communications.

The April Village Board ePacket including links to document downloads can be viewed here.

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Friday FlashbackFollowing are some of the articles published by The Observer in January in the last few years. These articles, gathered from various publications and editorials, are noteworthy for residents in that they remind us of where we’ve been as a community.

End of Barrington Hills light debate coming Monday? – 2011

Barrington Hills’ long-controversial outdoor lighting ordinance could be up for its final vote on Monday, but even its most ardent opponents are at peace.

Read the Daily Herald story here.

Law needed to halt FOIA abuses – 2012

FOIA, the Freedom of Information Act, is an enhancement of governmental transparency. FOIA provides access to information, including the village budget, costs, procedures, and the like. FOIAs are legitimately used by the media.

Read the original post with comments here.

Barrington Hills may host meeting on auto auction site – 2013

Because East Dundee won’t hold a fifth hearing to discuss the merits of an auto auction business coming to town, neighboring Barrington Hills, which opposes the project, wants to host a town-hall meeting on the issue.

Revisit the original post with comments here.

Longmeadow Parkway fate may go to voters – 2013

If Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen gets his way, Kane County residents may be asked whether the county should proceed with long-planned improvement of transportation on the county’s north end.

Lauzen told County Board members Wednesday he would be reluctant to support further work on the proposed Longmeadow Parkway project without a demonstration of public support for the large, regional road project.

Read the Northwest Herald story here.

–     The Observer

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Selman 15The most recent Village Newsletter was delivered at the peak of the holiday rush, just a day or two before Christmas, in mailboxes crammed with holiday cards and gifts.  As a result, many residents may have missed out on what can only be described as the most self-serving and insulting gaffe any elected official ever published in a Barrington Hills newsletter.  Trustee Selman, in her finance and 2014 budget update, buried on page 5, wrote the following:

“The 2014 Budget is lean, with a reduction in legal expenditures and over contributions to the police pension fund that combined equal a total of over $200,000.  It will work, as long as everyone behaves.”

We assume from her obtuse writing style that the $200,000 referenced represents savings to taxpayers as a result of efforts she personally had little or nothing to do with, but we’ll give her a pass on that.  As for the caveat she used regarding everyone behaving, that’s another matter.

Karen Selman is the last person on the board to preach about behavior to residents based on her own misbehavior in the last three years.  Though it’s a matter of record, we believe some of her acts of misbehavior warrant repeating.

MessMerSelIn her 2011 campaign for office, Selman accepted a $5,000 campaign donation check made out to her personally, and then donated the money to her campaign committee under her own name as though she was the contributor.  As a result of her actions and those of her fellow candidates running as “Save 5 Acres” that year, the Illinois State Board of Elections penalized their committee with a two-year probation period that ended just last October.

Upon election to the Village Board in 2011, she was ironically appointed to the position of overseeing and reporting Village finances to the board and residents.  That hasn’t worked out well either.

At numerous Village Board meetings, Selman is routinely incapable of answering some very rudimentary questions regarding bills for approval.  Her utterance of “I’ll have to get back to you on that” has become an all too frequent response.  Clearly, Selman enjoys the position, but does not do her homework before meetings, or at other times when it matters, and that’s clearly poor behavior.

Most recently, besides the newsletter gaffe, in October, Selman stood alone in voting against approving an overdue agreement with our sworn police officers after years of very costly losing litigation.  Had her peers sided with her, our Village would have continued to hemorrhage legal fees and accrue more back pay due to our police force.  More on this can be read in “Oh no she didn’t!

Based on her history, many may wonder why Selman would even discuss behavior in her newsletter message.  It’s hard to tell, but we think we have the answer.

A handful of residents exercise their lawful right, sometimes frequently, to file FOIA requests seeking answers to what occurs behind the scenes in our Village government.  Fulfillment of some of these requests becomes costly due to what many believe is unnecessary reliance on Village counsel and inefficiencies with Village Hall staff.

Regardless of the costs, Selman chose to advise thousands of residents via the newsletter to behave themselves for the sake of budgets.  This was another ill-advised, obdurate move on her part, and frankly, it was downright dumb.

Selman 09In his book Timequake, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “If your brains were dynamite, there wouldn’t be enough to blow your hat off.”

Based on everything we know now, Selman is clearly safe to wear hats anytime she wants.  The bigger question, however, is if the ignition has already occurred, or when it will occur between now and when her term ends in fifteen months?

In the title of this editorial we asked, what was she thinking? Sadly, the answer seems to be, once again, she wasn’t thinking.

–     The Observer

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2013ReviewInPics

The Observer takes a look back at the year gone by and presents our most frequently read editorials and news stories for 2013.  Click on any title to read or revisit stories from this past year.

Editorials:

It’s morning again

In May, the Observer anticipated the swearing-in of newly elected Village President Martin McLaughlin, and presented readers with a message of healing and reconciliation.

September Board recordings released and our observations

This was our most commented story of the year, and focused on the efforts of Trustee Patty Meroni to block the Inaugural Hills are Alive Fall Heritage Festival.

Time to step aside

This editorial from August discussed the ongoing difficulties that Village Board member Karen Selman seems to have with her duties chairing the Finance Committee.

The IAA Battle: Why it was over before it began

After East Dundee approved the proposed IAA auto auction facility in July, the Observer reflected upon a multitude of reasons that Bob Abboud’s strategy was doomed to fail.

It’s all about the money

This editorial, leading up to the April Village Election, highlighted the financial issues which faced the Village, including exorbitant legal spending and high FOIA costs.

McLaughlin for Village President, Konicek Hannigan and Stieper for Trustee

This opinion piece featured The Observer’s endorsements for Village Board seats in the April 9 election. 

News Stories:

McLaughlin Looks Ahead to Barrington Hills Presidency

The day after Martin J. McLaughlin’s surprise election victory over incumbent Robert G. Abboud, the Daily Herald interviewed the President-Elect, and discussed the challenges which lay ahead.

2013 Survey Report

As was the case in 2012, the compilation of the results of this year’s annual resident survey was one of the Observer’s top five stories of the year.

Hills are Alive Heritage Festival draws big crowd

The first-ever Hills Are Alive Fall Heritage Festival drew a large crowd of over 800 residents, who enjoyed many activities at the Barrington Hills Park District Riding Center.

AG’s office reviews ex-mayor’s Barrington Hills appointments

Shortly before leaving office, and with little if any prior notice, the former Village President made over thirty nominations or renominations to nearly every Village non-elected board, commission and committee. 

Ex-Barrington Hills mayor admits talking to ComEd about auto auction plan

Former Village President Robert Abboud admitted in July that he had contacted ComEd president and CEO Anne Pramaggiore and had urged her to deny Insurance Auto Auctions’ request to allow access to their East Dundee business using a ComEd easement.


2014 New Year

Once again, we at The Observer would like to express our heartfelt thanks to our readers and subscribers.  We wish you all           

Happy New Year!

–     The Observer

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Illinois residents have the benefit of new laws aimed at opening up more government records — and when they don’t get the information they want, they’re raising a stink about it.

Appeals to the Illinois attorney general’s office for denied Freedom of Information Act requests jumped 22 percent last year. Most of those came from members of the public.

Read more here.

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Abboud SpendingNow that early voting has begun in advance of the April 9th election, Barrington Hills residents are in the process of vetting candidates for Village President and the three Village Trustee positions.  A comparison of incumbent President Bob Abboud and his “Save 5 Acres” slate to challenger Marty McLaughlin and trustee candidates Colleen Hannigan and David Stieper shows few differences in their positions on preserving five-acre zoning, protecting our natural environment or communicating better with residents.  Where they dramatically differ, however, is in their stands on the state of our Village financial situation.

Abboud & Company believe that “no increases in tax levies” and so-called “balanced budgets” equal wise fiscal stewardship.  However, a closer evaluation of the Village’s spending during Abboud’s eight years in office tells another story.

  • Highest per capita property taxes.  According to the Daily Herald, “among 83 suburbs spread throughout six counties, Barrington Hills has the highest per capita property tax collection of any of the suburbs.”
  • Exorbitant legal spending.  The Observer has previously compared Barrington Hills’ legal expenditures with those of two of our neighboring communities – Barrington and South Barrington, showing that our village pays out more to lawyers than those two towns combined.  But, let’s look at another nearby community.  Hoffman Estates serves a population more than 12 times greater than our Village’s 4209 residents.  Its operating and capital budget combined is 105 million dollars vs. Barrington Hills’ budget of just under 8.3 million dollars.  Yet, Hoffman Estates’ total legal spending is $502,000.  President Abboud has budgeted $784,000 for legal spending in fiscal year 2013.  Think about that – a town with 12 times as many residents to serve, with a budget 12 times as large as our Village spends 32% less than Barrington Hills does on legal services.
  • Wasteful spending.  Whenever opponents challenge Abboud on spending, he usually asks, what do you suggest that we cut? Should we stop fixing the roads or reduce police protection? This sort of comment is disingenuous at best. The Observer has already documented the careless management of our tax dollars in instances ranging from the granting of essentially free office space in the Village Hall to BACOGspending almost $95,000 on FOIA records management in 2012, or the squandering of over $1400 on Abboud’s presidential portrait.
  • SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAMore waste.  There are so many more examples of taxpayer money being wasted.  Voters  should think about the nearly $4000 dollars that the Village paid last  summer for bringing in a tanker truck to water the landscape plants on the grounds of the Village Hall (despite the fact that there is a functioning irrigation system which we paid to maintain as well).  Or there’s the $129 the Village pays each month for doormat rental. Yes, $1500 of our money each year is spent renting doormats.  Taking a deeper look at our Village bills also shows $1559.00 spent annually on the calendar posted on the Village’s website.  And, the village-wide mailing to announce last month’s “Mug Club,” which only four residents attended, cost us $523.

It is abundantly clear to The Observer that an infusion of fresh leadership and vision is long overdue on our Village Board.  If voters select Bob Abboud and his hand-picked slate, higher spending and higher taxes are virtually guaranteed.  We urge residents to open their eyes to the real financial state of their village and to vote for the candidates who are not afraid to face facts and cut out the fat in Village spending.

–        The Observer

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AbboudLast month, the Daily Herald published two articles featuring twenty-one northwest suburban village presidents and mayors, including Barrington Hills President Bob Abboud.  The first article published December 22, 2012, was titled, “Mayors, village presidents name best activities, projects,” and it asked participants to answer the question, “What was the most important or biggest or best thing to happen in your community last year?”

President Abboud cited a flat tax levy for 2013, modernization of operations and the physical relocation of BACOG to Village Hall among other things.  The Observer has already weighed in on BACOG moving into Village Hall (see Barrington Hills taxpayers to pick up the tab for BACOG).  But what really caught the eye of The Observer, though, was his declaration that:

“We have instituted an electric rate signup program which provides residents with an alternative electric energy supplier at a substantially reduced cost.” 

This came as news to us in light of Barrington Hills voters’ rejection of the electrical aggregation referendum in March and the fact that our Village Board later voted not to negotiate an “Opt-In” aggregation agreement with a single supplier.   We performed a search of the Village website, and indeed there is a listing of a few energy suppliers and a link to “Plug In Illinois”.  But these resources have been available to all Illinois residents for many years, so this can hardly be considered something Barrington Hills government “instituted.”  To have a village president tout this as an important achievement is very feeble.

Then, in a December 31, 2012, article titled “Northwest suburban mayors look ahead to coming year” the Daily Herald staff posed the question, “What’s your biggest expectation/hope for your town in the coming year?”  Most village leaders chose their words wisely, using positive statements, and sentences including words and phrases such as, “financial security,” “vitality,” “opportunity,” ”community,” and even, “looking forward to….”

This time President Abboud used his opportunity to drone about pension reform, the East Dundee/IAA project, union arbitration, etc., and went on to state:

“Continued cost containment — particularly with things such as the very high costs of malicious FOIAs….” and “efforts to mitigate the impacts of dilapidated properties on surrounding property values.”

A quick examination of the online FOIA request form revealed no check box for “Malicious” or even “Friendly,” so undoubtedly this must be his opinion and besides, there are laws to address excessive FOIA requests.  Clearly, however, President Abboud feels that FOIA requests are enough of a nuisance to increase the budget allowance for FOIA records management to $80,000 for 2013.  Last year, the monthly legal expense of FOIA management totaled a staggering $89,294 through November of 2012.

His other goal of mitigating “the impacts of dilapidated properties” will prove to be an interesting story as it unfolds, because as residents have learned from the varying application of the “Home Occupation Ordinance” in the past, the definition of “dilapidated” will likely be subjective, not objective.

Both articles were inexcusably missed opportunities to attempt to repair our Village’s image among other communities.   Sadly, as anyone who has cringed after reading a quote from President Abboud in newspaper articles during the last eight years already has learned, this was just another case of “Bob being Bob” again.

The question is, how much longer can we as a community continue to dismiss these public missteps and finally return to a path of positive forward progress?  Not much longer in our opinion.

–      The Observer

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