A Big Announcement

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Meeting up with Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor in January of this year.

Earlier today a press release was issued by our Lake County Board Chairman, Aaron Lawlor, explaining his current thoughts on the Route 53/120 Extension Project. A key supporter of the project since the Blue Ribbon Advisory Report (BRAC)was adopted in 2012, Chairman Lawlor now believes that due to “dynamics that have changed over the past several months, it has become clear that the financial and political realities have become insurmountable.” A main concern is that “critical environmental and community protections will be cut in an effort to minimize costs.” In addition, he fears that the situation “will only get worse the longer gridlock persists in Springfield. Legislators cannot agree in the short-term on a budget to fund essential services let alone have the long-term vision to enact the legislation necessary to form the environmental stewardship fund, which is a key component of the Route 53/120 project.”

For decades, the proposed path of this road extension has been slated to run through Long Grove. Our community has opposed this project for many years and the Village Board passed a resolution this past October reaffirming this position. Having our County Board Chairman come out today suggesting that “the best thing for Lake County would be to stop the Environmental Impact Statement and refocus our attention on a sustainable vision for the current Route 53/120 corridor and plan for necessary improvements to our County’s current transportation network,” was big news to everyone following this issue.

Chairman Lawlor called me this morning before the news went public and while I was surprised by the announcement, I was not shocked. When I first took office, Aaron and I met for breakfast and I was very frank about my concerns about this project, that I was personally not in support of it and worried about the financial obstacles of building it in a way that would protect our sensitive environmental areas in Long Grove. Chairman Lawlor stated that he was adamant that the Tollway and IDOT adhere to the enhanced environmental standards identified in the BRAC report, and in his mind these were non-negotiable. These recommendations set more aggressive standards for stormwater management, light and noise pollution, water quality, plant and wildlife health, salt spray and other important safeguards. Since that first meeting, these sentiments have been reiterated over and over in our conversations about this project. I believed Chairman Lawlor when he pledged to pull back his support if he felt the Tollway or IDOT was not living up to their commitments. The integrity shown today was not a surprise.

I feel that it shows great strength to thoughtfully reconsider a position on an issue, and make a new decision in light of current information. This is a character trait that I think we all want in our leaders. It takes courage to try and change course once the journey has gotten underway, and endure the criticism that is sure to come. Elected officials are often faced with tough choices. I am grateful that our County is served by those deserving of our sincere trust and respect.

The Art of Communicating

Long Grove Village President Angie Underwood speaking at the BACC Economic Summit on February 10, 2016. Photo credit: Daily Herald

Long Grove Village President Angie Underwood speaking at the BACC Economic Summit on February 10, 2016. Photo credit: Daily Herald

In my previous blog entry I talked about my views as an audience member attending last Saturday’s Legislative Breakfast, listening to a panel of our State elected officials present and answer questions. This week, the roles were reversed as I took a turn at the podium participating in the Economic Summit sponsored by the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce. Mayors and Village Presidents from eight towns were invited to speak about current events in our municipalities, and the state of affairs in our local retail and business districts. I always enjoy these opportunities to interact with my peers and find out what is new and in the works with our neighboring communities.

When speaking publicly for the Village, I take into careful consideration the message that I want to convey and how it will influence the listener’s perception of Long Grove. But I have learned from experience that you cannot control how that message is in turn going to be passed on by others. When I communicate I strive to be positive and genuine and I believe that honesty is the best policy. My recent presentation mentioned the successful changes to our festivals in the past year; the increase in attendance and profits with additions of family activities and bands to attract a young adult demographic. I highlighted the fact that we currently have 54 businesses in our historic downtown, with new additions such as Village Pizza & Ribs, Bell’s Apple Orchard & Bakery, and Finch’s Beer. I kept my remarks focused on projects being undertaken by the Village Board that relate to economic development such as the update of our comprehensive plan and the downtown expansion of our public water system and anticipated connection to Lake Michigan water.

After the individual speeches, the audience submitted questions to the panel. One to be answered by all was our thoughts on the State of Illinois withholding funds to municipalities. I was specifically asked to comment on what the Village of Long Grove is doing to support the extension of IL Rt. 53. The newspaper today chose to write about my responses to the question on new residential housing and the possibility of multi-family housing in Long Grove.

Controversial issues are what we want to hear about, what we want to read about, and then pass judgement on. This dynamic is clearly evident in our local political climate too. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a sign of the times.

Grace under pressure is a skill that improves with practice, and I am grateful for events such as this which allow me to rise to the challenge. Maintaining composure and sounding articulate while answering tough questions is something many of us can benefit from, not just those in the political arena. As I continue to represent Long Grove I will keep singing the praises of this Village that I care so deeply for, regardless of the spin or slant others choose to hear. I aim to perfect the art of communicating my message–encouraging others to experience our unique atmosphere and visit the charming shops, restaurants, and open spaces which make our town a special place to live and raise a family.

Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Gala


(L to R) Nandia Black, Village President of Kildeer, Me, and Mimi Black of Kildeer.

(L to R) Nandia Black, Village President of Kildeer, Me, and Mimi Black of Kildeer.

One of the enjoyable parts of this job is having the opportunity to get to know some of the other Mayors in the Chicago suburban area, like my neighbor Nandia, pictured above. The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus provides a forum through which the 273 chief elected municipal officials of Chicago and the collar counties meet quarterly. We work together as local governments to develop consensus and act on common public policy issues and multi-jurisdictional challenges. This past weekend was the annual Gala event, held this year at the Shedd Aquarium. I had not been to the Shedd since chaperoning a field trip when my kids were in grade school, almost 20 years ago! The One World Aquatic Show was great, but even more interesting was mingling with my peers and meeting new faces. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and Governor Bruce Rauner were also in attendance. My dinner table companions were from Suburban Cook County and DuPage County. What did they want to talk about? The Route 53 extension was top of their minds when learning I hailed from Long Grove. The evening was festive and the conversation was polite, and boy, did I get an earful!

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!

Route 53: Fear and Loathing Part 2

Members of the Long Grove Village Board at the October 27, 2015 meeting.

Members of the Long Grove Village Board at the October 27, 2015 meeting.

I have never used my gavel more times in a meeting to maintain order and civility than I did last night. Things never truly got out of control, but emotions were high in the capacity crowd of Rt. 53 objectors. The mood of the room prevailed as the Trustees voted 5 to 1 in favor of a resolution declaring formal opposition to the extension of Route 53 by the Village of Long Grove. The Illinois Tollway Board is set to make a decision in December on whether or not to move forward with further engineering studies for this project. Time will tell if this action of taking a stand by Long Grove will have any effect.

For those of you who are interested, below is a link to the letter written to our Village Board from Lake County Chairman Aaron Lawlor, concerning the informational meeting held last week about Route 53. This was read aloud last night by our Village Clerk and entered into the public record. The letter also contains an additional link that takes you to the Route 53 website which features video, maps, and additional details on the project.

Letter from Chairman Lawlor


Route 53: Fear and Loathing Part 1


Elected officials in attendance at the October 20th Route 53 Informational Meeting include (L to R) Long Grove Village President Angie Underwood, Lake County Treasurer David Stolman, Lake County Board President Aaron Lawlor, Lake County Board Representative Sid Mathias, and Hawthorn Woods Mayor Joe Mancino.

Last week our Village Board hosted a public meeting to discuss the proposed extension of Route 53. An initiative of Trustees Stan Borys and Mike Sarlitto, this meeting was billed as “neither pro nor con” on the issue, but simply a presentation of facts to better inform our residents. I don’t think anyone walked out of the meeting feeling that it was a neutral discussion. I am on the record as having objected to the last-minute timing and organization of this meeting, and the Village Board as a whole had limited opportunity to vet or approve the materials being presented.

Since last Tuesday, the fallout from the meeting has been significant. County officials who were in attendance to observe (they were specifically asked not to present by Borys and Sarlitto) were treated in an unprofessional manner and have responded with a letter to “correct the false and/or misleading information that was shared in the official presentation.” Chairman Lawlor’s letter will be read tonight at our Village Board meeting and I will reprint it in my next blog entry (Route 53: Fear and Loathing Part 2).

Our communication and working relationships with County officials whom Long Grove is dependent on for critical services such as police and road maintenance (think Diamond Lake Road) are now strained.

My inbox has been filled with impassioned emails from residents opposing the project, many of whom live in the proposed path of the road. A few of these included threats.

Trustees Borys, Sarlitto, and Jacob have as of Friday, forced on to our agenda tonight a vote for our Village to take an official position opposing the Route 53 extension. This short-circuited the normal open process of having two weeks of public awareness in between a Board discussion and a Board vote. This process is in place to ensure consistency, fairness, and transparency. I will write tomorrow on the results of tonight’s meeting, to which we are expecting a large crowd (perhaps brandishing a few pitchforks and flaming torches?)

To better clarify my position on the matter, my opening remarks from the Oct. 20th meeting are reprinted below. Following that is the article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune describing the meeting.

I first learned of the proposed Rt. 53 extension 18 years ago when my husband and I were looking for a home in Long Grove. Over the years this project has surfaced again and again for study and debate, never advancing to fruition due to lack of funds and consensus. I have never been in favor of this project. If it were all up to me, I would preserve our beautiful open spaces and natural areas as they are today, and this road would never be built. However, I am also aware that many residents do support this project. I don’t believe that I was elected to advocate for my personal point of view, but rather to be a representative for ALL Long Grove residents.

Shortly after I took office, I was asked to participate in committees to further study the Route 53/120 Extension. In the past two years, I have attended over 15 of these meetings and I have witnessed firsthand the strong support this project has within both the County and State. At this time, the decision whether or not to advance the Route 53/120 extension rests with the Tollway and our State legislatures. If the road is eventually constructed, it will be dependent on many future decisions of which Long Grove’s active involvement will be crucial, particularly in safeguarding our environmental concerns.

I am ever mindful that what is done and said in the name of Long Grove has and will have consequences, good and bad. My role as Village President is to lead our residents into the years ahead maintaining the best quality of life possible. If that future must include a toll road, then my responsibility is to preserve Long Grove’s seat at the table, and work with other State and County officials to make sure our voice is heard. It is my belief that the best possible outcome for all can be achieved by collaboration and respect.  –Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President

Audience “gangs up” on County Board Chair during Route 53 Meeting by Ronnie Wachter, Pioneer Press/Chicago Tribune

No new information–but a lot of old emotions–came out of Long Grove’s open-house meeting to discuss the possible extension of Illinois Route 53. Lake County Board President Aaron Lawlor responded to criticism by saying he would not be treated like a “punching bag,” and Long Grove Village President Angie Underwood asked the crowd to stop berating him. Two other members of the Long Grove Village Board spent about 90 minutes on Tuesday skewering aspects of the Illinois Tollway’s plan to extend Route 53 from its current terminus at Lake Cook Road up to Illinois Route 120 in Grayslake. The project would build an entirely new, likely four-lane highway near or through wetlands and neighborhoods. The 12 miles of new pavement, currently estimated to cost about $2.5 billion, would then join a renovated Route 120 in an attempt to ease traffic and spur economic development. In a recently published public-opinion survey that Long Grove Village Hall funded, 53 percent of respondents opposed the project, while 47 percent favored it. Only three members of the Village Board spoke at the session–Stan Borys, Michael Sarlitto, and Underwood. All three identified themselves as against the extension. Underwood said she wanted to keep an open mind to its possibilities, but Sarlitto and Borys spoke frankly about the flaws they see. “If there are any residents here who support this, I dare you to come up here and explain something positive about it,” Sarlitto told the audience of about 200. No one in the standing-room-only audience answered that challenge. At several points, crowd members called for Chairman Lawlor to answer questions, which he stood up and responded. Lawlor challenged nearly everything Sarlitto and Borys put into their presentation. No new information on the project itself came from the gathering. Lawlor said Long Grove invited him on the premise that he would not be asked to make a presentation. “I’m not going to be here, at a meeting that I was explicitly told I wouldn’t be speaking at, just to be a punching bag,” Lawlor told the crowd. Underwood admonished the visitors to respect Lake County’s top elected official. “This is not a meeting for everyone to gang up on Chairman Lawlor,” she said. But Sarlitto said some of Long Grove appears to be misinformed, saying that the 47 percent of survey respondents who want Route 53 needed to know what he knew. “If you had the facts that have been crammed up in this little noggin in the last month, it would be a hell of a lot higher opposition,” Sarlitto said. “Long Grove is Ground Zero for this project,” Sarlitto said. “It starts right here, in this gym.”

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.”