Friday, June 24, 2011

Do the right thing. Reimburse the residents. Now.

For those of you waiting with bated breath for my response to Councilman Mandel's reply to me, posted earlier today, it follows here in whole.  Frankly, it was great to get a reply from Councilman Mandel -- it was the first time we heard from him on the issue, even though my brother was writing to all the Councilmen in City Hall on the subject since 2007!  At least we now have a better idea of where he stands. 

Please do take the time to read Councilman Mandel's reply.  Now is also a good time to let him know your opinion. He is our elected representative...

As always, your comments are most welcome. 

PS  This will be my last posting today.  New blog posting will resume on on Sunday, when I'll post Council Mandel's response to the following e-mail.  Yes, there's more.  Will try to keep you up to date. .

Sent: Thu, Jun 23, 2011 4:22 pm
Subject:  Reimbursing Residents for the Failed Sanitary Sewer Program

Dear Councilman Mandel,

First, thank you for taking the time to reply as a Councilman to my letter to Mayor Rotering, copied to all City Councilmen.  It’s good to see our elected officials articulate their positions. 

Please be assured that the statements in my previous letter concerning your position on the Master Plan for Storm & Sanitary Sewers (“the Sewer Program”) was based directly on your own communications with my family.

In August 2007, my brother, David Rade, wrote his first letter in a series of letters/e-mails to Mayor Belsky, with copies of all to City Councilmen, to complain about the Sewer Program, particularly with regard to the inequitable treatment of residents, the extraordinary cost, the coercion by lien, the demand that residents agree to undefined repairs with undefined expense, the requirement they provide indemnifications to the City and to the contractor and their neighbors for work done solely at the City’s direction, with the City’s contractor, etc.  Frankly, there were so many flaws to the Sanitary Program and the manner it was implemented, so many insults to residents, and callous disregard for them, that it would take too long to cover it all here.  You and the rest of City Council, particularly the new Councilmen, can easily access the history through the Mayor’s and David Limardi’s office, and some of that correspondence and relative facts are posted on the Down the Drain in HP blog.

Throughout nearly four years of correspondence, only Mayor Belsky and former Councilman Mike Brenner responded in writing.  Only Mike Brenner, and much later, Nancy Rotering, called David to ask questions about his letters, to demonstrate an active interest, and approached his correspondence with an open mind, in learning how this single resident viewed the program. (We did not know then how many others had also complained to David Limardi’s office, their complaints also falling on deaf ears - needed a FOIA search for that.)

I believe David’s last e-mail to Mayor Belsky, copied to all, was on October 27, 2010 (see attached PDF).  Only after three years of this series of e-mails sent by David to the Mayor and Councilmen, did you finally send David a response -- on October 30, copied to David Limardi and Scott Levenfeld only, as follows:
Nothing is a no brainer…..No. 1-- just because I oppose this continued program does not mean it is public or Council  policy No. 2—just because we change public policy does not mean it is retro active.
 If that were the case my parents should get back the money they paid for a public street being paved (Ridge Road). That is also not our policy anymore for us improving arterials……. and that was a public improvement, not on private property.
Now, I say all of this because I am 100% behind the policy change but I am not sure about your second request for reimbursement….. Don’t fry me yet since I have not vetted that issue.. but is far from a no-brainer to me.  Hey, I also finally got my taxes reduced from them doubling them but that did not save me from the years I was unfairly taxed… Can I hire you to get that reimbursement?
Call me if you want to talk further.
Steve Mandel

If you are unhappy with what I wrote, look to the response you sent to my brother, who has been working diligently for three years to gain reimbursement for all the residents of Highland Park, including himself, while City Council ignored him and other residents who had complained.. Frankly, you responded with a “life isn’t fair” type response to a resident on mission to ensure that all residents are treated appropriately and fairly.  We’ve always expected that HP Councilmen are on that mission too in making our voting decisions.

Yesterday’s response will be shared with others interested in this issue.  Many of them remember you running for election the last time, promising that you were not supportive of the Sewer Program. Three years later, nothing has been done. Indeed, most residents in Ravinia thought the program was dead and were shocked to learn it was merely “on hiatus.”  They will be interested to learn that you believe the program was a “huge success” and that, even if it isn’t, your position is that the 45 unlucky targeted residents for 2008 should pay for an expense that thousands of others will not have to pay, except in increments of less of than $10.

Just yesterday, I received an e-mail from a highly articulate Ravinia resident encouraging me to point out to City Council that:
·         There has been no quantitative measurement of success for those neighborhoods where the program has been implemented;
·         The City has not sought additional/alternate funding sources to pay for the Sewer Program (if the City decides to move ahead with it), as promised by David Limardi at the public meetings of irate residents at the Public Works building; and,
·         It does not appear that the City has changed the way in which it handles improvements to the main and lateral junctions for current infrastructure projects, potentially damaging the very laterals the residents are then asked to improve.

Huge success?  Maybe Mr. Limardi, former Mayor Belsky and you think so.  If anyone else on City Council thinks so, he should let me know, preferably in writing, so I can share it on the blog and with the interested residents – or, better yet, they can post their positions directly to the blog.  We need to hold our Councilmen accountable.

Finally, I suggest you take the time to read the AECOM report, attached. It may help you understand the technical issues as well as options considered by other communities.  Frankly, a report like this should have been required by City Council before the Sewer Program was voted on.  In any event, the report is actually issued by the same folks who helped Mr. Limardi design the Sewer Program in the first place.  After the public meetings with the RNA, the City agreed to get a third opinion.  This hardly qualifies as an unbiased opinion, but you will find that, as stated in my previous letter, it is a useful document and notes that  no other community in Northern Illinois forced individual residents to pay for this.

I hope that all the new members of City Council will look at these issues with fresh eyes, and not just rely on Mr. Limardi and Mary Anderson to explain it to them – they certainly didn’t do a good job of it when questioned at the Public Works meetings set up for the RNA in 2008.  Also, I am available to sit down with you and the others at any time  to talk about the Sewer Program. 

In any event, the issue of reimbursement is quite separate.  The City of Highland Park NEVER should have required individual residents to pay for unnecessary “repairs” to their private property to address a City infrastructure problem. The residents should have their payments refunded immediately.

Your e-mail response notwithstanding, this is not a personal matter with you.  Our family is among your constituents.  Your constituents need to be heard and represented.  This is important City business.  I certainly respect your contributions to Highland Park and your long service on the City Council.  This is a single issue that continues to deserve your reconsideration and all the good work you’ve done does not detract from the fact that you’re very off base here.  Do the right thing, reimburse the residents, now, with the new found money in the reserves.

Respectfully yours,

PS  With regard to your parting and unnecessary comment that I should run for office if I want to change city policy:  It is your job, as Councilman and oft times Mayor Pro Tem to listen to your constituents in setting appropriate city policies and laws.  My brother has done an extraordinary job of fighting for equitable treatment for all, and I've been proud to support him in doing the right thing. It is a shame that either of us and the Ravinia Neighborhood Association has had to work so hard and so long for such little success with our representatives.  Three years after the two meetings with the RNA, three years after promises were made and not kept, nothing has been done to address the underlying issues other than place them "on hiatus."  Steve, I'm doing a good job of being an constituent.  I'm looking for you and the others to change the policy and to do the right thing.  That's your job, you know that...

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