October 2011

General Membership Meeting Minutes, October 20, 2011

355 E. Chicago St., Room 239

 

Attending:  Cyndy Fowler, Mayor Kaptain, Bill Briska, Doug Tomsha, John & Carol Anderson, Fran Cella, Dan and Pat Miller, Donna Leetz, Deborah Allan, Jeffery White, Dorie Alpha, Julie Schmitt, ROPE Officer Eric Echevarria, Chris and Karen Bach, Glenna and Mark Preradovic

 

Meeting was called to order at 7:02 p.m.

Mayor Kaptains Report:

Our main concern right now is the budget.  We have predicted that there is going to be a  10-13 million dollar shortfall in 2012.  The goal of the city council is to have a balanced budget proposed by early December.  The reason we are in this predicament is that all of our streams of revenue are down – property taxes, sales tax, our portion of the state income tax, telecommunications tax, and riverboat funds.  All of them have declined with our costs staying the same.  Employees have had no pay increases for a couple of years and we have decreased the number of employees.  To balance the budget the first thing we are going to do is to make the city more efficient then do whatever is necessary to balance the budget.  The budget is our vision for the city.  It defines the community.  It is not just balancing the beans.  It defines  us as to what we should look like for the next five years.  I feel we should be an arts community, a destination city.  Our image dogs us.  There has been lots of press recently after the comment from Boone county.  Our crime rate is as low as anywhere in Illinois.  Our police force does a great job.  We have to remember that we are a city with all of its bad things and many good things.  We need to sell ourselves as a place for people to go to get assistance like the Crisis Center, the hospital, drug intervention.  We are actually considered an evacuation center for metropolitan Chicago as we are at the end of the Metra Line.  I am putting together an organization for disaster assistance.  I am asking the faith based organizations for volunteers.  In the huge storm we had a few years ago, had we had volunteeers organized in advance for emergencies, they would have helped greatly in the tree limb cleanup.  After that strorm realized that we were very deficient in tree trimming and got a grant to have Davey Tree do some major trimming so mother nature does not make such a mess in doing it in the future.

Elgin as a major city has to have a leadership role.   I have bragged that we are the arts center of the N. W. suburbs.  We need to take advantage of that. There is nothing in Elgin that we need to be ashamed of.  One of the assets we have is our history and our historic homes.  GPA has exploited that with its Housewalk.  Funding for the grant programs is going to be tough but we are going to try. With the 13 million deficit, nothing is sacred.  In my campaign I made no promises except that I would not lie to you.

Doug Tomsha wondered if Davey tree is any cheaper than having God trim the trees for us.

Jeff White mentioned that he is glad to see us touting our low crime rate.  He said that he lived in Evanston and that they actually have a higher per capita crime rate than we do.  Elginites are not told that.  Elgin is a self supporting city with some flaws.  We need to communicate our positive attributes to the media.  They stress the negative.

Mayor Kaptain continued saying that after that Boone county comment in the paper (“We don’t want to be like Elgin and Aurora.”) we need to confront the negative press.  Everyone needs to hear about the positive things that are happening in Elgin.

Fran Cella added that she feels there is only so much you can do.  We need to embrace Elgin as a city.  I am very interested in the gang issue.  We need to be proactive.  I don’t see it as one of Elgin’s major problems.  The police are making them more visible.  There is a national gang conference in Chicago every year.  West Chicago gives a presentation every year on what they are doing.  I feel Elgin needs to go and strut their stuff, showing the incredible effort that we put into it.  They need to put Elgin on the map.

Officer Echevarria added that our gang unit has a monthly gang meeting with nearby cities.

Mayor Kaptian added that he campaigned on transparency.  If there are gang issues, the public needs to know about tit.  We used to hide the homeless issue.  If we have them I feel we need to get out there and fix the problem.  The police do a great job everyday.

Fran Cella mentioned that she felt the community recently mobilized because of the shooting of the five year old.  We need to keep that momentum going.

Julie Schmitt asked the Mayor why we have a budget deficit.

Mayor Kaptain responded that the council set up a committee to make recommendations to council on the ways to balance the budget.  They were working with a 4 million dollar deficit and now when the property tax numbers come in, we have more than doubled the deficit.  We are too dependent on property taxes. 11% of the state sales tax is to come back to the city.  The state just informed us that they are going to cut our share in half.  My own tax assessment is down 23% from last year.  The city has had the same multiplier for years but with it, my taxes go down.  We may have to recommend raising the tax levy.  I would like to see it based on the average which would increase some people’s taxes.

Julie Schmitt asked what can be done on the expense side of the issue.

Mayor Kaptain responded that riverboat funds should be used to do things like pave the streets.  The General Fund is 75% salaries and benefits.  Lots of cuts in services have to be made.

Julie Schmitt added that she felt the U-46 management is bloated.

The Mayor reminded the group that the city of Elgin has no control over the school district.

Cyndy Fowler mentioned to the group that she is a Public Works employee.  Last year when they lost a person in the department to early retirement she did not get replaced.  She is now doing two jobs.  We have had to consolidate the best that we can.

Mayor Kaptain informed the group that the city reduced employees by 100 two years ago.  Many want just salaried employees cut, not Police and Public Works.  There are not enough to make up for the shortfall. U-46 accounts for 2/3 of everyone’s taxes.

Jeff White asked if other Fox Valley cities are having the same budget problems.

Mayor Kaptain responded that they are.  We got dependent on riverboat money which hurts us now.  We funded things in the past that others do not.  Now we can no longer fund them.  Riverboat communities have been hurt worse by deficits.  Every revenue stream has fallen which has probably never happened since thee 30’s. 40% of our sales tax revenue comes from the sale of cars.  That is dangerous.

Dan Miller commented on the Mayor’s mentioning transparency.  He feels the city should be commended on its transparency.  He reminded the group that every document a council person has at a meeting can be seen on line.  The entire budget document is available and should be viewed by all of us.

Mayor Kaptain added that he feels we all need to speak up for what we feel is important.  We need to have a vision for this city.  We may have to raise taxes to achieve that vision. If we do not fund quality of life issues people will never come to Elgin.  Many people suggest that the city sell some of the things it owns.  If we sell property right now we will get 30 cents on the dollar for  them.  Some suggest we sell our golf courses.  They are currently making money so it would make no sense to sell them. We do want the community to tell us what you want us to do to fix the problem.  I will help to fix the problem and do not care if I get reelected.

Pat Miller added that the most important program for our inner city is the Deconversion Program.  In the past it has been underfunded.  With $100,000 only one or two homes can be funded.  It is not as visible as the 50/50 grant program.  If you live next to one you know there is  big difference.

Mayor Kaptain added that he feels politicians are like crows.  They like shiny things.  We need to revisit some of the grants.  Maybe they need to be smaller.  We need to adapt.  Why should you give a $20,000 grant to a home that is only worth $50,000 in this market?  I do agree with you Pat. We need to look at what gives the most bang for the buck. The deconversion program is certainly important.  The grant programs may stutter.  We may have to miss a year.  The 50/50 and 75/25 — do we need both?  We will be moving money around.  We have to look at things differently.

Julie Schmitt asked if the city can influence school district U-46.

Mayor Kaptain responded that we cannot.  We have started to talk about sharing things.  Many communities work in silos.  We need to sit down and ask how we can help each other.  I have recently been working with Pingree Grove, Wayne and Campton to see how we can help each other.  We recently let Pingree Grove tap into our water lines for their emergency source.  It saved them thousands since they did not have to dig a new well.  If they use any of our water, they will pay for it.  Hoffman Estates and Elgin recently dedicated a common park. They will maintain it.  We are looking into sharing a fireworks display with other communities.  Perhaps they could be held at the Sears Complex.  Maybe each car would be charged for parking to help with the costs.  This is the kind of thing I see in a regional government.

Pat Miller added that there is a U-46 and Elgin connection.  Multifamily houses are taxed only for extra baths and kitchens.  The amount is not proportional to the kids spewing out.  There is something wrong that that.  Cook County does it differently.

Mayor Kaptain added that we straddle two counties which is a problem.  30,000 Elginites live in Hanover Township.  In the past they did not help us with the flooding of Poplar Creek in Hanover Township.  They did not realize it was their problem.  That will change.  I have had a lot of conversations with our neighbors and will do a lot more of it in the next four years.   I want to set up an emergency task force which will include the faith based organizations.

Cyndy Fowler informed the group that she was here to talk about the “S” word.   Dan Miller interjected the wrong ‘S’ word.  The one she is talking about is Snow.  She mentioned that working in Public Works, she always hears complaints about the plows plowing in driveways and mailboxes.  She informed the group that a plow driver could not possibly lift the plow at ever driveway.  The disheartening calls she gets are from seniors that can’t get their mail or get out of their house because of snow.  She has made calls and helped 52 people last year with the help of Senior Services.  She has talked to four other neighborhood groups to encourage individuals to help their neighbors with shoveling.  She passed out a brochure explaining their Snow Buddies program.  If you know of a senior that needs help with snow this winter call Wendy at 847-741-0404. She mentioned that a year ago she fielded 12 calls in the Summit/Park neighborhood for help with shoveling snow.  They have taken it upon themselves to help their neighbors in the future.  No calls were taken last year.  Kids were directed to help and one neighbor commented, “We take care of our own.”

Jeff White mentioned that we have had odd even parking in our neighborhood for about three years now.  Street sweepers go down both sides of the street while only one is free of cars.  Why? Odd even parking was started to make things like street sweeping and snow plowing easier but they are not taking advantage of it.  They should do one side of the street and then come back and do the other the following day.

Julie Schmitt suggested that there is probably software out there to help them plan the most economical route.

Mayor Kaptain handed out his card and said that he will respond to all e-mails he gets within 48 hours.

 

Secretary’s Report:

Motion to approve the minutes of September was made by Donna Leetz and seconded by Carol Anderson. The motion carried.

 

Treasurer’s Report:

Dan Miller reported that we have a total of $104,232.40 in our checking account, Money Market Account and our CDs.

 

ROPE Officer’s Report:

Eric Echevarria indicated that as indicated by all of the recent press, the police department has been very busy. Their recent program to bust Johns downtown was interrupted by the shooting of the five year old. He added that the Chief of Police gives officers a lot of freedom to pursue our jobs.  After the shooting of the five year old many of us were putting in 12 hour days  — not on overtime.  We have city problems like gangs but we are working very hard to control them.  Our gang unit does home visits.  They tell parents what to look for.  They try to identify kids at an early age.  They do lots of proactive things to come up with solutions.  We are taking guns off the streets.  We have snitches.  I am vested in this city;  I was born and raised here. My family lives here.  My brother has a restaurant here. My wife teaches here.  We are going to have a baby in January.  We are trying very hard to build positive relationships with the media. We encourage positive stories.  Regarding snow shoveling, Eric complimented his neighbor Mark Preradovic on shoveling others walks.  We are actively involved in the Bowes retirement center.  It recently had a break in where people took piping.  It has black mold on the walls because of the water leak..  The owner told us the  cleanup bill is $80,000.  Eric complimented GPA on its recent Housewalk.  He felt it was a fantastic event.  He and another officer patrolled the neighborhood on their bikes.  If you have questions or concerns please contact  Eric at:

[email protected]

Or: (847) 354-3394

 

Standing Committee Reports:

 

Membership Program

Dorie Alpha commented that Mich and Maryellen Barbezat are new members.

 

Historic District

 

Housewalk

Bill Briska reported that we have netted about $6000 although all of the bills have not been turned in yet and we have not received all of our sponsorship money.  We had 1280 attendees.  The ticket sales receipts were $13,134.

 

Public Relations

 

Turkey Trot:

Thru an e-mail Amanda Carlson reported that a website for the event is up and running.  People can register on line. Five have registered already.  We are doing a lot more marketing this year.  We expect about 200 runners.  The course is around and through Lord’s Park.  Police help will cost us between $1300 and $2100.  We will have posters around town by November 1.  Thanks goes out to Laura Jacobson for designing the posters. To volunteer to assist with the project, please contact Amanda Carslon:

[email protected]

(630) 400-6687

 

Slate of Officers for 2012

 

Carol Anderson read the following proposed slate of officers:

President:  Karen Bach

Vice President:  Fran Cella

Secretary:  Barbara Evans

Treasurer:  Bill Briska

At Large 1:  Carol Anderson

At Large 2:  Tony Sanchez

 

A motion was made to close the nominations for officers and it passed unanimously.   A vote on the slate will take place at the November general membership meeting.

 

Other Comments & Concerns:

Laura Jacobson has offered to coordinate the GPA window decorations for Christmas.

We need someone to coordinate the annual Wassailing Saunter Christmas party

and homeowners to open their homes for the event.  If you are interested contact Karen Bach at 741-8533.

Carol Anderson reported that the Tree For All program got 37 trees planted in our neighborhood.

Habitat for Humanity is going to be doing an unveiling of 140 N. Channing on Saturday October 29th starting at 11:00 am and are asking for neighborhood volunteers.  If you wish to participate contact Dan Miller at 697-3370 as they want a head count.

Karen Bach reported that in lieu of flowers for Audrey Behrens the family asked for donations to an animal shelter or to the Gifford Park Association.  We received $500.

The Gifford Park Association donated $50 to the animal shelter.

Dan Miller reported that David Knoerr has set up a Social Media site for the Gifford Park Association.  You should all have gotten an e-mail giving you a link to look at it.  Check it out and give any feedback to Dan  at [email protected] so that we can decide whether or not to move forward with it.

Deborah Allan passed out some great bike maps for Kane County.  If you would like one contact her at 847-917-5229.

A motion was made to adjourn by John Anderson and seconded by Dorie Alpha.  It passed with a sigh of relief.

Respectfully submitted,

Dan Miller

Acting Secretary