My husband Aaron has turned his hobby of genealogy into a business, so I do know a bit about my family tree. In a recent conversation with my Mom, she reminded me that I have inherited the characteristic for leadership from her side of the family. And in fact, I do have an ancestor that served as the Mayor of Bloomington, Illinois from 1906 to 1907, my great-great-grandfather Alex Gustof Erickson. A.G. (as he was known to friends and family) was a grocer and dealer in meats, who was born in Sweden in 1863 and emigrated to Illinois in 1869. Before he became a prominent businessman, he worked as a mail carrier and in the coal mines, and served as the President of the local Coal Miners Union. He took a leading part in the politics in his home city, and was elected as a 7th Ward Alderman before he was elected to fill the unexpired term of the previous mayor who died in office. In 1915 he was still active in government as the City Commissioner of Public Health and Safety. Many times I am asked the question, “What made you decide to run for Village President?” And frankly, I ponder the answer to this quite often myself! I guess the simple truth is this: it runs in the family.
I have often made the comment that I “learn something new every day” in this job as Village President. Almost two years into it, and this observation still rings true. It continues to amaze me that I have so much yet to understand about our Village, and about government, and about myself. The lesson for today was about inner strength. Last night’s Village Board meeting was a challenging one for a variety of reasons. A controversial topic, Video Gaming, was back on the agenda, and I had to break not one, but two ties relating to this. We have extended the trial period for another 120 days, but are holding off for now on sending it back to the Plan Commission and Zoning Board until we get more resident feedback. A Village-wide survey is coming out in April, which will have questions related to the update of the Comprehensive Plan, and a few relating to video gaming. Add a difficult conversation with a Trustee and campaign-related drama to the mix, and it made for a high-tension evening. What got me through it was the advice I was wisely given the day before from two former Board members. It centered around attitude and confidence, and came from a place of experience. I am extremely lucky to have mentors to step in and support me when times get tough. The lessons are still there every day waiting for me. And so far, I am still eager to learn.
The snow has finally melted here in Long Grove, and it won’t be long now until our beautiful open spaces look as green and inviting as the one pictured above. I took this shot in early spring of 2014, on one of the Village Pathway segments that connect through Stonehaven subdivision. I know many residents share my deep appreciation of the preservation efforts of those who came before us. We are so very fortunate to be able to enjoy our natural areas in Long Grove because of the many parcels set aside and protected through special conservancy zoning. To that end, our Village has a Conservancy and Scenic Corridor Commission, which works to help preserve prairies, wetlands, and woodlands as they come under development, and to help residents restore these precious landscapes and keep them healthy and thriving as time moves on. I attended the recent meeting of the CSC Commission and it was great to see some renewed enthusiasm as we welcomed a new commissioner, Helen Wilson. A wonderful presentation was given by representatives from Conserve Lake County, a local agency which shares our mission of preservation, restoration, and education. The group talked about ways in which we could work together to partner resources in helping apply for grants, and in working with homeowners to educate them about the best ways to control invasive species. In Long Grove, we want to encourage our residents to practice careful stewardship and practical ways to do this were discussed, such as offering seminars and training days, and reaching out directly to Homeowner Associations. Even though the view from my office windows today is somewhat brown and drab, the Spring season is now officially upon us! I cannot wait until our pathways dry out and my “Grove Trotter” walking group takes to the trails once again. And I am thankful that these open spaces remain for us to enjoy, and lovingly maintain for the generations to come.
“Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made”–Otto von Bismark
Our current Village Board has been criticized recently for not being cohesive. The Trustees “cannot agree on issues and the Village President has had to break too many ties.” I don’t enjoy having to break ties. But it’s part of my job, and I will dutifully accept that responsibility when it comes my way.
It is true that the Village Board has been indecisive on major agenda items over the past year such as: covered bridge repair or replacement, video gambling, and long-term capital infrastructure funding and the policies guiding this. By nature, democracy is necessarily messy when dealing with issues that split public opinion. The Rt. 53 extension, and the fairness of funding public vs. private roads are but two more of the hot-button issues up for debate in the months and years ahead.
I’ll admit, it would be great and make my job a whole a lot easier if the Board was packed with people who all agreed on every issue. But the beauty of democracy is that differing opinions cause individuals to cooperate by working together to look at solving problems from a different angle; perhaps craft a compromise or come up with an entirely new solution. The power of the group is that consensus leads to a better decision than any individual can make.
Direction may seem obvious when looking at a single decision from one’s own personal perspective. However, the Village Board must take community greater good into account, and balance each judgement on how it fits into a multitude of others from the past and into the future.
Collaborative and representative decision making is a very different style than dictatorial. If you run your own business, you may have the authority to call all the shots. The process of democracy calls for putting egos aside. It has no place for someone who is arrogant and has all the answers. Those who practice it must be willing to trust and work with others.
Our current issues are not trivial, and part of making a good decision is to take the time needed to converse with fellow residents, take the pulse of the community, and seek public opinion. Long Grove is at a crossroads of change in many ways. Downtown ownership is going through a transition. Further economic development, and housing which may involve multi-family or mixed use will be a part of the discussions relating to the update of the comprehensive plan. Road improvements on Old McHenry, Aptakisic, Rt. 22 and even possibly Rt. 53 will affect the traffic in our Village and impact our lives on a daily basis.
Civil discussion and debate, careful consideration of facts, and resident input are all a part of the process leading up to a vote of majority opinion. And once a direction has been identified, support of the entire Board, respect for the individuals who sit upon it, and acceptance of the collective decision that has been made is essential for any democracy to succeed.
One of the benefits of having an upcoming election is getting the chance to mix and mingle with residents at campaign events. Last night the Village Tavern hosted a fun and well-attended community night to meet several of the candidates, and ask them questions about the issues the Village faces. It was a great opportunity to meet up with merchants, neighbors, and friends in a casual setting. I am gratified to see so many residents really engaged in the current topics, and the collective desire that I saw last night to all work together towards the common goal of making our Village more vibrant was heartwarming. With Trustee Joe Barry retiring, we are guaranteed to have at least one new face on our Village Board later this Spring. A contested election is always a bit stressful on a community, but what I saw last night was a community really pulling together to empower some positive momentum.
In his inaugural speech on January 12th, Governor Bruce Rauner stated that, “Each person here today and all those throughout the state will be called upon to share in the sacrifice,” in reference to fixing our current state financial woes. On February 18th, we learned of his proposal for Long Grove (as well as every other municipality in Illinois) to share in the sacrifice. This proposal, if passed into the next Illinois budget by both the Senate and House would take effect on July 1st, 2015. And it would cut in half the state income taxes that Springfield hands down to its municipalities. To Long Grove, this means a loss of about $400,000, out of an operating budget of less than $3 million. Long Grove has never charged a property tax, and this state income revenue is our second-largest source of funding, behind only sales tax.
At our Village Board meeting last Tuesday, we discussed this proposal and the effects that it may have on our next fiscal budget, which is set to be approved in April. The Village Board will be adopting a resolution at our next meeting opposing the proposed reduction of distributive revenues by the State of Illinois. I have written letters to Governor Rauner and our state representatives expressing our opposition to this loss of revenue. In Long Grove, we have been forced to make tough decisions to keep our budget balanced every year, and now it seems we are asked to dig a little deeper into the reserves for the sake of the State of Illinois. I hope this is one sacrifice we will not have to make.