Democracy and Difficult Decisions


(L to R) Resident Carolyn Denaro and merchants Rachel Perkal and Jenny Weizerchon help envision Long Grove’s future at a recent workshop.

It’s no surprise that the job of Village President involves making some weighty decisions. I have previously blogged about this topic, for example, in my post Just Call Me, “The Tie Breaker.” Today I have been trying to make peace with another difficult choice that will result in some number of residents on the disappointed/unhappy/outraged spectrum, no matter how the decision comes down. Certainly politics is not a job for someone first and foremost concerned with pleasing everyone.

David Brooks is a political op-ed columnist for The New York Times, and his articles often resonate with me. On February 26, 2016 he said this about democracy and decisions:

“We live in a big, diverse society. There are essentially two ways to maintain order and get things done in such a society–politics or some form of dictatorship. Either through compromise or brute force. Our founding fathers chose politics.

Politics is an activity in which you recognize the simultaneous existence of different groups, interests and opinions. You try to find some way to balance or reconcile or compromise those interests, or at least a majority of them. You follow a set of rules, enshrined in a constitution or in custom, to help you reach these compromises in a way everybody considers legitimate.

The downside of politics is that people never really get everything they want. It’s messy, limited and no issue is ever really settled. Politics is a muddled activity in which people have to recognize restraints and settle for less than they want. Disappointment is normal.

But that’s sort of the beauty of politics, too. It involves an endless conversation in which we learn about other people and see things from their vantage point and try to balance their needs against our own. Plus, it’s better than the alternative: rule by some authoritarian tyrant who tries to govern by clobbering everyone in his way.”

The article, “The Governing Cancer of Our Time,” goes on to talk about Donald Trump’s current campaign, which I am NOT going to comment on!

But on this subject of learning from other people and seeing from their vantage point, the Village is currently in the middle of doing just that with our Comprehensive Plan Update project. Earlier this winter we held a series of stakeholder interviews, and have been gathering resident opinions via surveys and other online engagement. On April 11th an “EnVision Long Grove” public workshop was held with well over 100 residents attending to participate in shaping the future development of our Village. It was a great turnout and wonderful to see so many citizens working together to help preserve our community character with an eye to our needs going forward.

Updating the Comprehensive Plan will involve a series of decisions by the Plan Commission and Village Board in the coming months. Some may be difficult and generate some passionate discussions and differing opinions. On with Democracy!

Looking Ahead for Long Grove


Last week the Daily Herald asked all the Lake County Mayors to answer this question, “What are you most looking forward to your suburb accomplishing/doing/changing in 2016?” Here is how I answered:

In 2016, I am most looking forward to accomplishing an update to our Village’s Comprehensive Plan, which has not been done since 2000. This process will take the better part of the year and will engage the community in a series of open houses and stakeholder sessions to gather residents opinions on how Long Grove should best plan for the years ahead.  We will be reviewing residential zoning, commercial and economic development opportunities, and the potential changes that controversial issues such as multi-family housing, covered bridge replacement, and the Route 53 extension may bring to our community. We have taken the first step in this process by conducting a Village-wide survey this past summer, and have hired a consulting firm to guide us through this major update.

This and so much more is ahead for Long Grove in the new year–stay tuned to this blog for regular updates!

We Get By with a Little Help from Our Friends


My friends (L to R) Steve Lentz, Mayor of Mundelein, Joe Mancino, Mayor of Hawthorn Woods, and Tom Poynton, Mayor of Lake Zurich.

My friends (L to R) Steve Lentz, Mayor of Mundelein, Joe Mancino, Mayor of Hawthorn Woods, and Tom Poynton, Mayor of Lake Zurich at a recent Lake County Municipal League meeting.

Today, an article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on the topic of the proposed IL Route 53 extension and the recent concerns being voiced by the municipalities directly in the path of this road. As Village President, I joined with the Mayors of Hawthorn Woods, Mundelein, Kildeer, and Round Lake to sign a letter to the Tollway Board and CMAP to express our collective concerns over recommendations regarding land use in the highway corridor. We are asking for more information and specific details regarding a proposed oversight body, a Corridor Planning Council, which has the potential to override local municipal decisions on how land along this roadway could be zoned and utilized. Our voices have been heard, and I do believe that more information will be forthcoming in the months ahead. But this is just one example of the ways in which Long Grove works together with our neighbors to enable positive changes.

Recently our Village Board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Buffalo Grove to work cooperatively towards tightening up our code enforcement. Under a two year agreement, Buffalo Grove will assist us with property maintenance inspections, issuance of tickets, and administrative adjudication proceedings. Why is this needed? Because by partnering with our neighboring towns or agencies to get services done, we can increase efficiency and save both time and money.

You may have heard Governor Rauner talk about the need for our various units of government in Illinois to combine and share services. This is nothing new to Long Grove. We have partnered for many years with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for our police protection. The Village currently contracts with both Ela and Cuba townships for various road maintenance services and use of their equipment. This summer, we have partnered with the Village of Kildeer to cooperatively bid road repair contracts to take advantage of volume pricing. Having a minimal government philosophy means that old Beatles tune is right on–we do “get by with a little help from our friends.”

And The Survey Says…

Richard Dawson, host of TV's "Family Feud"

Richard Dawson, host of TV’s “Family Feud”

In my younger days, staying home from school on a sick day meant catching up on the daytime game shows that I never had a chance to watch. Wow, I’m really dating myself here, because this was even before we could record shows on the Betamax! Well anyway, my favorite game show was “Family Feud,” hosted by TV star Richard Dawson (who remembers “Hogan’s Heroes”?) I loved the idea that they could survey groups of people on various questions, and make a game about guessing the most popular answers. Anyone who uses social media today knows that surveys are still popular, and we’ve probably all had our email inbox invaded by a “survey monkey” at one time or another. The Village hopes that your enthusiasm for participating in surveys is not a thing of the past, because we are getting ready to mail out an important set of questions in the next week. As much fun as it was on the show to watch contestants guess the answers, the Village Board would prefer to KNOW your opinions on current issues in Long Grove.

This summer, the Trustees will be making some very significant decisions and I hope that you will add your voice to the process. We have just finalized a resident survey that will be sent to all Long Grove households. The goal of this survey is to help inform the Board of the feelings of the residents regarding various aspects of community character and values that will be reflected in the update of our Long Grove Comprehensive Plan. This plan is similar to a “blueprint” and helps guide staff and elected officials in the ongoing shaping of our Village, especially in regards to zoning, open space, commercial development, infrastructure maintenance and capital improvements. The Village Board would like to know your thoughts on these important topics, so please take the time to fill out and return the survey when you receive it.  While we won’t have the excitement of a TV host dramatically revealing the answers to us…”And the Survey Says….”we will have a valuable prize instead–community participation.


One Lesson at a Time

Sharing a glass of wine with Past Village President Maria Rodriguez

Sharing a glass of wine with Past Village President Maria Rodriguez

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.

State of the Village of Long Grove


Happy New Year!  I hope that your 2015 is off to a great start.  I’d like to take a moment of your time to recap some of the significant things that happened on the Village Board in the past 12 months, and give you a peek ahead to what is on the agenda for Long Grove in the coming year.


Every two years, as new Village officials are elected, the new Board spends a workshop day identifying goals for the months ahead.  2014 saw the realization of several of those goals, and significant work was achieved on many goals that are ongoing.  Goals that were achieved include:  the replacement of street signs throughout the Village, update and expansion of the permitted uses in the downtown historic district, lease of the Village soccer fields, and determining the specifics of a road maintenance funding referendum, which was held this past March.  One goal that is ongoing is to “identify sustainable long-term funding sources for needed infrastructure repair and replacement.”  Following the failure of the referendum, this goal became a high priority.  A series of infrastructure workshops was held over the summer and fall months, with the 4th and final workshop planned for January 20th.  Members of the community were invited to work with the Board of Trustees in exploring funding options aided by the guidance and advice of consultants in the fields of strategic planning, engineering, economic development, and finance.  As an outcome of these workshops, the Board expects to have a consensus on direction with regard to funding our current and future infrastructure needs.  The completion of a long-range Capital Improvement Plan that provides a comprehensive view of the Village’s capital needs is another goal that is ongoing, and has been a topic of this workshop series.


Several new issues were brought before the Board this year, two of which resulted in large attendance at public hearings and Village Board meetings.  Video Gambling was approved by the Board on a six month temporary basis, and is currently available at four locations in the historic downtown.  The decision on establishing this on a permanent basis will come before the Board this coming April.  Two new Senior Living & Memory Care developments have been approved in the Village, one near the intersection of Routes 53 and 83, another near the intersection of Rt. 53 and Long Grove Road.  Construction is expected to start on both of these projects in the coming months.


On April 7th, you will be asked to participate in the future direction of our Village as three of the Trustee positions will be up for election.  Six candidates are running in the race, and your vote will be important.  Our Village Clerk position is uncontested.

One of the first goals that the Board will be addressing in 2015 is an update of the Comprehensive Plan.  It has been many years since the previous update, and the time has come to take the pulse of the current residents to make sure that our policies and guiding principles accurately reflect those of the majority.  To assist with this, the Village is hiring a professional survey organization to conduct a Village-wide survey this winter.  If you are called to participate, please let us know your opinion.

In the coming year we expect to make progress on the extension of our Village pathway system, finalizing a connection between the south Schaeffer Road path and the Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve.  A decision on the renovation or replacement of our covered bridge will be made, and steps will be taken to get this work underway.  Our Village water system will be extended from the municipal well at Sunset Plaza into the downtown crossroads.  This will bring higher quality water into the shops and restaurants in our historic business district and be an important factor in attracting new development and encouraging improvements to existing properties.  Speaking of new development, many of the properties in the historic downtown have recently come under new ownership, with several more expected in the next few months.  The Board is looking forward to working with these new owners in 2015, as new shops and restaurants are opened.  We will be assisting with efforts to attract new businesses by forming an Economic Development Commission, and will be taking a more active role in outreach.

Many goals are yet to be achieved.  But your Village Board has the willingness to work hard, and with your support much can be accomplished in the year ahead.