Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Park District's Beach House...

In an e-mail sent to Executive Director Liza McElroy on September 20, 2012, Highland Park resident Daniel Shure asked the Park District of Highland Park (PDHP) a few simple questions:

·         Who lives in the building at Ravine Beach [Millard Park]?
·         How is it decided who lives in that building?
·         What is the lease or financial deal for those living there?”

He further indicated that he had previously asked this question through the general info e-mail address at the PDHP but had received no response. His e-mail also mentions that he had asked a couple of commissioners, as well as other PDHP employees, about the tenants and “no one seems to know who it is other than they assume it’s a park district employee.”

Ms McElroy provided an incomplete response on September 21 as follows:

“Hi Mr. Shure:   The Park District no longer rents the space at Ravine BeachThe Park District is looking into demolishing this building and this is something that Park Board will address over the coming months.  Thanks for your inquiry. Liza” (McElroy to Shure) [emphasis added]

Desiring a complete and transparent response from Ms. McElroy, Shure sent an e-mail the next day pointing out the disparity that, even though she said the Park District no longer rents the space at Ravine Beach, people continue to live there:

“If the Park District no longer rents the space does that mean the couple that live there are living rent free?  They are still there. Who are they?  How were they chosen to live there?  And, what was the financial arrangement between the Park District and the couple?” (Shure to McElroy)

By this, Dan was indicating that he continued to see individuals who appeared to be residents there even after Ms. McElroy's initial reply.  

Not receiving a timely reply from Ms. McElroy, Shure sent another e-mail on September 25 as a reminder.  He sent yet another reminder on September 27, and, finally, on October 1, he sent a brief e-mail with one additional question:  “Is there a reason you are not answering?”

Executive Director McElroy ultimately replied to Shure’s September 22 e-mail on October 2 as follows:

"Hi Daniel:  I am sorry, I have been out of the office and am still catching up.  At this point, I have nothing further to add to my previous comments.  Liza” (McElroy to Shure) [emphasis added]

Dan is entitled to answers, and we should be interested in them. The PDHP needs to provide all relevant information about the rental of the Ravine Beach house -- how long people have been living in the Ravine Beach Field House, how the property was evaluated for rent, how much the rent was, whether it was paid, whether the tenant was an employee of the Park District or the City of Highland Park, etc.  At the very least, from a compliance and governance perspective, it is appropriate for Dan to have asked about the policies and practices for determining who could live at the beach and if they were paying full value for the enjoyment of living in what might be the only house directly on the beach in Highland Park. 

After reviewing the PDHP’s financial statements made available on the web, there doesn’t appear to be any distinct line item for rental of the Field House (although it would appreciated if the PDHP could point out where it is, if it exists).  Clearly it was reasonable for Shure to ask the Executive Director about the arrangements concerning the Ravine Beach Field House.  It is unacceptable to provide him with wholly inadequate and mostly non-responsive answers. Why no answers to simple questions?

Ironically, for those who have been following the PDHP’s roughshod treatment of more than 1000 residents who signed a petition to oppose placing another beach house on the Rosewood Beach shore, the Millard Park/Ravine Beach Field House was mentioned several times by residents in public meetings as an existing building on the lakefront that could serve as viable location for Park District programs in lieu of sacrificing the shoreline at Rosewood.  Apparently, Ravine Beach was fine as a lakefront home for unidentified lessors, most likely PDHP employees, perhaps for decades.  Now the PDHP has determined that it should now be demolished. 

Answers to Dan's questions?  Dan has been forced to take a path that is becoming increasingly too familiar with the PDHP.   On October 4, he filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to gain access to relevant records.  He has received no response to date.  If the information is noteworthy, it may be reported here.  Regardless, isn’t it time for the Park District of Highland Park to stop acting like a fiefdom and start being open and responsive to the residents who pay dearly for the PDHP?

The Park District of Highland Park’s (HPPD’s) organization chart, approved March 3, 2012, states that the CITIZENS OF Highland Park are at the tippy-top of the org chart.  Everyone at the PDHP ultimately reports up to the residents.  Even the executive director.   Looks good on paper, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works at the Park District of Highland Park.

1 comment:

Tom Hardy said...

Thank you for sharing this info, my friend is moving to that area and along with water and heating he wants to know how the plumbing in Highland Park is. He just moved away from a plumbing nightmare so he wants to feel a little comforted in this area.