Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ravinia Neighbors, Bravo!

On Tuesday, I received an important call from Councilman Mike Brenner who provided me with a brief update on the status of the Master Plan for Storm and Sanitary Sewers.

By way of background, Councilman Brenner is the only member of City Council who responded directly and immediately last year to my brother in response to his letters, on behalf of all HP residents, to the Mayor and the full City Council protesting the fairness and soundness of the Master Plan. For those of us who attended the December 4 meeting at the Public Works building, you may recall that the Mayor indicated a level of surprise about the issues raised by the Ravinia residents. Yet most of those complaints and questions were clearly articulated in my brother's letters to the Mayor and City Council more than a year ago. (Those letters will be posted as soon.)

So, no other City Councilman called my brother to discuss the issues with him, or wrote him a response. The Mayor sent a letter to support the Master Plan in every respect. He did not call to further inquire about the facts or to engage in a discussion. He did remind my brother that the City would place a lien on his home for failure to comply. Except for Councilman Brenner, they all remained staunchly confident that the Master Plan should move forward "as is."

So, we send our thanks to Councilman Brenner who got involved in this subject and was responsive when no others were, and who didn’t need to wait until there were 100 angry residents to see some of the flaws in the Master Plan as illuminated by my brother’s letters. This is what we expect from our Councilmen, regardless of agreement or outcome. Responsiveness and accountability.

This week Councilman Brenner informed me that, at last Monday’s City Council Meeting, the Council decided to place the Master Plan on hold and reassess the issues. He indicated that everyone is now on board (at least they seem to be). We’ll look forward to reviewing the minutes of the meeting. Perhaps those of you who watched and/or attended the meeting would like to share what you heard by adding a comment. Councilmen are welcome, as this blog is for everyone interested in good City governance.

Councilman Brenner also indicated that the City will look into whether to reimburse the citizens who already paid with their personal checks under the Master Plan and what the mechanisms for paying them back might be. Let’s hope that the citizens in the Highlands and Sunset Park - the people who were coerced to pay for City Council's ill conceived scheme - will become active and let their voices be heard.

The City Council’s decision is all because of you – our neighbors in Ravinia. You vociferously objected to a wrong and made yourselves heard about your rights. Bravo, Ravinia neighbors, bravo! You have made a huge difference in the future of our community.

Just don’t stop now…and stay involved, active and vigilant because the Master Plan isn’t exactly dead. You heard at the Public Works meeting last week that the City was returning to Earth Tech to seek answers to the simple questions you asked. Tell the City it is unacceptable to pay this same company to review their own work, especially when it seems that their first report was so lacking in the answers to the questions any homeowner would ask - at least we can base this perspective on inability of the City Manager to answer the questions based on the existing Earth Tech report. The City should hire an independent consultant and not one chosen by our City Manager, David Limardi, who was the major proponent and implementer of this poorly designed and mismanaged Master Plan. The new consultant should be chosen among several viable bidders to review the work done to date and help assess the future with your review and input. (We can note here that we've been told that Performance Pipeline was the only bidder to meet the City Manager's specifications for doing the sewer repairs. Certainly one would expect at least 3 bids for any City project, unless the bid has been designed for a single provider.)

Now that we're not in the crisis mode of homeowners having to shell out $3,500-25,000+ from their personal savings or obtain a new loan, the challenge for us is to not sit back and forget about the Master Plan. Our City Manager and City Hall ignored the voices of many individual homeowners and ignored their valid objections. It seems they listen only when there is an organized group of citizens with enough people to vote as a block against them. Tell the City Manager, the Mayor and our Councilmen that you expect nothing less of them than fundamental respect for HP residents and responsiveness when they have a complaint. Respect and Accountability in the City where character counts!

We also should recognize that stepping back from the Master Plan for Storm and Sanitary Sewers is a big, if not historic, step for the Mayor and City Council. While it is difficult to understand how they decided to adopt this plan that was so unsupportable in the first place, and how they managed to ignore the various individual citizens who complained about its inherent unfairness and baseless technical justification, we should acknowledge that they were good enough to stop and think now, and we can thank them for being willing to set another, and hopefully, better course. Thank you to our Mayor and City Council - we look forward to working with you in a constructive manner.

It is a learning experience for all of us.

The Mayor and City Council should confine itself to developing budgets that spend tax dollars, and not your savings.

We, the citizens and residents, need to speak up when something is inherently wrong. We can, and do, make a difference.

And one more thing we should all know by now. The City needs new management. The Mayor and the Councilmen need to be supported by an administration that cares about and respects the residents. Time to speak up. Time for change!

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