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Archive for the ‘Village of Downers Grove’ Category

July 16

Joint Review Board – Ogden Avenue TIF District – 4pm – Committee Room

Joint Review Board – Downtown TIF District – Immediately Following Ogden Avenue TIF Meeting – Committee Room

99BOE Regular Business Meeting – 7:30pm – ASC – Agenda

 

July 17

Foreign Fire Fund – 7:30am – Fire Station #5, 6701 Main Street

Village Council Meeting – 7:00pm – Council Chambers – Agenda

 

July 21

Coffee With The Council – 9am – Orchard Brook Homeowners Association Club House, 1089 35th Street

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Dear Gentle Readers,

It’s been a hit or miss year for the Chronicle, so if you’ve stayed faithful (and my stats say some of you, at least, have indeed) you’ll have noticed the dismal lack of posts.

It’s been an interesting year, and the curse of ‘May you live in interesting times’ is a strong one. I’ve had my hands full, and the Chronicle– despite the best of intentions (and we all know what they say about that!)- has suffered the consequences of my interesting times.

There has been less of a need for the Chronicle to, well, chronicle. With the addition of Brian Slodysco to the TribLocal team and Nick Vogel to The Downers Grove Reporter, Downers Grove gained two young and enthusiastic reporters who aggressively cover our town. It seemed redundant to write yet another story on the village council passing its consent agenda when the two of them competently report the story.

And, too, my focus has changed. I’m now writing a column over at the TribLocal and that’s taken a chunk of my time.

I’ve been thinking lately about the Chronicle, and whether it was time to close up shop or to change focus. It’s always been important to me to get the facts straight, and I’ve tried to keep my opinion out of a story unless the distinction was clearly obvious. So often, however, the story posted isn’t the one I’ve wanted to write.

Just like everyone else, I’ve got an opinion. (And, yes, I know the old joke.) It’s an informed opinion, and I pride myself (fairly or not) on basing my opinions on the facts. In the days ahead, I’ll be working on changing the Chronicle to something that is distinctly more my own- for good or bad- and less a redux of today’s news.

I hope you’ll stick with me through the journey.

To kick it off, and because my inbox is starting to get filled with emails about the upcoming April 5 election, I’m going to add a Letters to the Editor page. Send me your letters about the candidates and the issues in this election and I’ll post them here.

A few rules. As always, I believe we should know who’s talking to us, so please send your name and phone number with your letter. Your name will be published, but not your phone number. I will, however, call and verify your information.

Your letters need to be civil and to the point. No potshots, no name calling, no nastiness.  It won’t be posted if you make a personal attack on a candidate. Kids are ALWAYS off limits. Remember the old adage of “issues, not people” and you’ll do just fine.

Comments will be turned off for all letters to the Editor. Readers should be able to submit a letter without feeling like doing so is an automatic bid to a shouting match of he said/she said. Have a different opinion than one expressed by an author? Write a letter of your own!

I’ll print your letters in the order received. Send them to editor@downersgrovechronicle.com.

I’m looking forward to reading your points of view.

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With dire predictions of snowpocalyptic weather conditions set to arrive Tuesday afternoon, Village Hall is on alert.

“We have a snow plan and are ready to activate that if conditions present themselves. We’ll be pretreating the roads before the snow falls and when it does we’ll be ready to plow. We have the ability to call in extra help if we need it.” said village spokesman Doug Kozlowski.

The village has two meetings scheduled during the current Blizzard Watch of 2011:  a council meeting on Tuesday and a Human Services Commission meeting on Wednesday. The decision to cancel a village meeting is staff initiated after consultation with Council members, according to Mayor Ron Sandack. “In my 8 years on the Council we have only canceled one meeting due to weather,” he said.

Kozlowski said the staff has several reference points when making the decision to close Village Hall. “We look at the National Weather Service and DuPage County Office of Emergency Management recommendations when it comes to canceling meetings. If they are suggesting that people stay off the roads, then that would be a reason for us to cancel a meeting.”

The village is prepared for all potential problems caused by the storm, he added. “If conditions become dangerous, the village has contingency plans in place in the event that emergency shelters are needed.”

Districts 58 and 99 make the decision to close schools due to weather conditions early in the morning, based on a number of factors which include not only facility conditions but the ability of the buses to safely transport students to and from schools. Both districts utilize a phone system to notify parents of any school closings. School closing information is also immediately posted on their respective websites.

According to Jewel spokeswoman Karen May, area stores haven’t experienced any major runs on food or supplies. “Our stores are stocked and ready to go. They’re prepared in case shoppers need to get anything.” Shoppers don’t need to worry about the stores closing early, she said, adding, “We’re like the post office. We stay open for our customers.”

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Lost in the rhetoric and teeth-gnashing of last week’s vote to increase state taxes is the role that local government plays in attracting and retaining businesses. Economic development programs to entice businesses are the norm for most counties, but a few cities have taken matters into their own hands and have formed economic development corporations (EDC) of their own.

The two municipalities- Downers Grove and Naperville- in DuPage county with public-private EDCs are among the most successful at attracting new businesses in the region.  In The Business Ledger’s ranking of top 10 business stories in 2010, Downers Grove successes in economic development earned it two separate spots on the list.

According to Greg Bedalov, president of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation, “The ability to remove obstacles and streamline processes have been a tremendous advantage for Downers Grove.” As an example, he pointed to the EDC’s role in facilitating the swift (six months from concept to completion) construction of an additional lane on 31st street to meet the expanding needs of businesses in an adjacent office park.

Bedalov is proud of the EDC’s accomplishments. “We run through walls to get things done,” he says. “Businesses want to know they’re in partnership with local municipalities and we focus on that.”

Part of the “tools in the toolkit” of any economic development program- whether county or municipal- are the incentive programs the state offers to businesses. In the competition for businesses, states offer a variety of services which are designed to “help Illinois businesses thrive in today’s economy.” according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

One of the popular state programs offered to businesses is the EDGE tax credit program. A business can receive this tax incentive when making a substantial development in Illinois, vis a vis job attraction or retention. The EDGE program gives businesses a credit against their tax liability. This credit is based upon income taxes their employees pay to the state of Illinois.

EDGE agreements already signed with the state of Illinois would be based on the previous individual tax rate of 3%. During the inauguration festivities in Springfield last week, Bedalov spent much of his time speaking to legislators about this program. “It’s a major issue,” he said. “Will businesses with EDGE agreements have their corporate tax credit increased to the new 5% rate? With the corporate tax increase up to 7%, it could make a big difference for our businesses.”

While EDCs are talking to legislators to keep their municipalities and counties competitive in today’s economic climate, DCEO is “still internally analyzing the impact of the new tax rate on the EDGE program.” said spokeswoman Marcelyn Love.

In the midst of the uncertainty, Bedalov says the EDC will be sticking to the tried and true of business retention: nuturing the relationships between the village of Downers Grove and local businesses. “For the next six months, we’ll be focused on retention and making sure we have good customer service. It comes down to old-fashioned blocking and tackling and we’re really good at that.”

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Audience members at Tuesday’s village council meeting were met by a Downers Grove police officer standing at the west entrance to council chambers.  DGPD presence at a meeting- which on Tuesday came in the form of on-duty supervisor Lieutenant Gillette- isn’t uncommon, according to village manager David Fieldman.  “We have had a police presence at our village meetings for years,” he said.

Usually, either Chief Robert Porter or one of the deputy chiefs represents the police department, but “leadership is [still the] police”, Fieldman noted, regardless of whether “it’s the chief or a deputy or a lieutenant.”

The recent tragic events in Arizona were a factor in his decision to have Lt. Gillette at the door, he said. “The safety and security of our village meetings is and has been a priority for years. I did reach out [this week] to make sure someone was there.”

Nationally, there has been a call for members of the US Congress members to coordinate their security needs with local law enforcement when visiting their home district. When asked if Downers Grove would be making any changes in how it provides security to local, state or federal officials, Fieldman told the Chronicle he was “comfortable with the plans in place; our procedures are solid. We’re always looking to make improvements, but don’t foresee any changes at this time.”

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As December draws to a close, reviews and top 10 lists abound every where you turn. We seem to have a need to put the ending year in perspective- that, and fill white space- and a list fills the need. After hours (cough) of rereading news stories and pondering their significance, and skilled and thoughtful questioning of many Downers Grove residents (ahem), the Chronicle offers the following list of 2010 Downers Grove stories that we’ll still be thinking about in 2011.

1. Sandack Goes To Springfield
The appointment of Downers Grove Mayor Ron Sandack to fill the newly vacated seat of State Senator Dan Cronin caused a ripple effect in the upcoming village council elections. Because Cronin dallied in announcing his replacement- during which time there was significant political wrangling and maneuvering in local politics- Downers Grove was left with one mayoral candidate for the upcoming election. Maybe Martin Tully is the best candidate for the job and maybe not….but Downers Grove residents don’t have a choice, and that’s a shame. On the plus side, Downers Grove will have direct representation in Springfield for the first time in decades, and will hopefully be seeing the benefit of that in 2011 and years to come.

2. Financial Stability in Difficult Times

Village Manager David Fieldman led the council through an extensive and thorough long range financial planning process, and the 2010 budget was based on the analysis and evaluations that came from the plan. Despite continued economic difficulties, Downers Grove managed to keep expenses in line with severely reduced revenues without the loss of core services. Considering the challenges other DuPage municipalities faced this year- think Naperville and the police layoffs and subsequent civic unhappiness- Downers Grove has come through this first year of a new order with ease. Need further proof? Downers Grove racked up award after award in 2010 from industry and municipal groups in recognition of its financial and organizational excellence.


3. Downers Grove Is Open For Business

A holdover from the Krajewski regime, Economic Development Corporation (EDC) President Greg Bedalov more than proved his mettle this year and silenced his naysayers. As other municipalities watched buildings empty, Downers Grove filled office and retail space with high profile corporations such as Dover and DeVry and smart, successful businesses like the the wildly popular Lemon Tree Grocer. The village and EDC facilitated businesses large and small with their needs and village tax receipts of 2011 will reflect their success.

4. Spotlight On Community Spirit
From fires that left families homeless to a civic organization that pulled together a community festival in just a few short months, residents stepped up to the plate during tough times this year. Two major fires- an apartment building on Belmont and a single family home on Main- had residents mobilizing on a dime to get the families the help they needed right away. When the village cut Heritage Fest due to budgetary concerns, the Rotary Club stepped in and put on a festival with all the highlights residents had come to expect over the years. The volunteerism was inspiring to many, and appears to have carried over to the village’s Human Services Commission, as they begin their new task of finding ways to bring the time, talents and pocketbooks of residents who have, together with those who are in need.

5. District Schools And The Courts
Despite the occasional grumbles from some who just wanted it to be over, the decision by the District 99 Board of Education to fight the eminent domain case brought against the Woodridge property by the Village of Woodridge looks like a good one. The board’s recent decision not to continue to appeal their loss is a prudent one as well. With 14 million dollars in the bank (instead of the 8 million originally offered by Woodridge), the district has more breathing room as it begins consideration of needed physical improvements to both schools. District 58 has concluded its time in court as well, and was finally able to issue Life Safety bonds to replace failing school roofs. Beginning in 2009 and carrying over to 2010, the 58 Board was involved in a bizarre series of legal maneuverings, when board member Scott O’Connell made repeated threats of legal action if the board continued pursuing the issuance of Life Safety bonds. Sanity prevailed and the district was able to begin roof replacements and other necessary safety repairs. In related news, O’Connell did not file for reelection to the board.

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At the Human Services Commission (HSC) meeting last Wednesday, members were asked to “consider if the Village could leverage the name and resources of the Village, and the volunteers from the community, to act as a clearinghouse for information and/or funds to fill voids left by the current economic conditions.”  The new direction for the HSC was first proposed by Commissioner Bob Barnett, who said his hope was that “we can provide real help to our residents without magnifying the all too real financial difficulties of our village government or increasing the property tax burden on our residents to pay for non-core services.”

Not all of his fellow commissioners agree.  Last year’s cessation of village funding of social services in Downers Grove has become a politicized, contentious issue, and the rhetoric has been heated on the council dais, with Commissioner William Waldack segueing the issue into a mayoral campaign.

At the basis of both sides of the issue are numbers, intrinsically linked but seen with two different perspectives.

8.1% unemployment in DuPage County (as of August 2010).  Almost 1500 Downers Grove residents living in poverty.  55% of social services providers in suburban Chicago report losses of revenue. 1 in 4 have reduced services. More and more people are needing help, with fewer resources able to provide it.

Property tax increases 2 years in a row. Reduced revenues. Increased personnel expenses, including an increase in the fire and police pension fund from $2,180,466 in 2008 to $3,685,460 in 2010.  Elimination of departments.  Reduction of staff by 45 full time employes in three years, including the police and fire departments.  Anticipated loss of over $1,000,000 in state shared revenue in 2011.

Put simply, there’s no money to spare. Anywhere.

It’s going to take some time for the HSC to study the issue. Commission members asked Village Manager David Fieldman for additional information about social services in Downers Grove, and how services have been affected in the village by cuts in assistance from governmental sources and privately funded organizations.  Members also asked for more information about Naperville Cares, a private organization that provides assistance for the needy.

Let’s put aside the rhetoric and politics while the commission takes a look at all the options available to assist Downers Grove residents.  It’s cold outside, and the holidays are almost here.  Our neighbors are hungry and in need of our help.  While we’re waiting for the HSC recommendations, let’s get started. We might not have as many dollars as we once did in Downers Grove, but we have big hearts.

Here’s a list of just a few of the local organizations that assist Downers Grove residents:

FISH Pantry
340 Prince Street, Downers Grove
(630) 964-7776

St. Mary’s
444 Wilson, Downers Grove
(630) 969-1063 ext. 237

St. Joe’s
4824 Highland Avenue, Downers Grove
(630) 964-0216

Downers Grove Township
(630) 719-6610
gary.ostrowski@dgtownship.com

Family Shelter Service
(630) 221-8290
http://www.familyshelterservice.org/

Walk- In Ministry of Hope
1047 Curtiss Ave, 6th Level, Downers Grove
(630) 322-9803

Immanuel Lutheran Church
5211 Carpenter St., Downers Grove, IL
(800) 363-LCFS (5237)

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