Ward Meeting Minutes

The 3rd Ward meeting takes place on the second Wednesday of every month at 7:00 p.m. at Prairie Lakes Community Center. Please sign up for my eNewsletter to get the latest information about the meeting. Thank you to volunteer Ruth Bethscheider who takes minutes. The following notes are an informal account of these meetings.


Wednesday, January 10, 2010

In attendance: residents, Representative Rosemary Mulligan (65th), Representative Elaine Nekritz (57th), Alderman Matt Bogusz 

Questions and Answers with Local Representatives 
Note: These are not actual quotes, but response summaries. 

What has been your greatest legislative achievement so far?

(Rep. Nekritz) Work on the state-subsidized, high-speed, inter-city passenger rail which is 4 lines on Amtrak from Chicago to St. Louis that will create jobs in Illinois and also work on giving the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District more authority to help curtail flooding. 

(Rep. Mulligan) Work on the Human Services budget and the public awareness campaign on compulsive gambling. 

Why does the government have to subsidize the rail?

(Rep. Nekritz) Illinois subsidizes $28 million, or the equivalent of 17 round trips a day. This is cheaper than road construction and repair. This is a public benefit that every government around the world takes part in. 

Why is our bond rating so low, and how can we fix it?

(Rep. Nekritz) We’ve been under funding pensions since the 1970s, and now it’s manifesting itself in our low bond rating and crushing debt. The money was spent on other priorities, and pensions were ignored. We need to bring the operating budget back in line with:

Increased efficiencies.
Budget cuts.
Revenue creation
Reforms such as the public employee pension system for state employees, teachers, state university teachers, and judges.

(Rep. Mulligan enters meeting at 7:15pm)

Polices and Fire pensions are going up. What can municipalities do?

(Rep. Mulligan) Lobbyists will prevail in Springfield, and we need to work towards better negotiations with unions. 

(Rep. Nekritz) The returns on municipal funds are much lower, and under funding is significant. Municipalities can raise the retirement age and cap benefits. We have reached a tipping point and need to change the retirement system for current employees. 

(Resident) We need to have employee-defined benefits. People are afraid of the Stock Market. We need to have an account just for government securities. 
Do you favor raising taxes over cutting essential services?

(Rep. Nekritz) Some of both, and it will impact everything if we raise income tax 3-4%. We should have gotten out of this budget mess years ago. 

(Rep. Mulligan) Should we raise taxes on services such as legal services? The industry will just pass the cost along to citizens. This will be the worst year we’ve ever seen. Will it hurt the public if I raise taxes or if I don’t raise taxes? There’s a compromise when raising taxes in that it will “fill the hole,” and eventually to good for Illinois. We ask ourselves how do we fund necessary services now, and people really want us to get the budget work done. 

What can we do to break the stranglehold that certain democrats have on the legislatur

(Rep. Nekritz) It is frustrating to work under the current Speaker of the House, and people in the legislature are leaving. We need to encourage friends in other parts of Illinois and let them know that his system is not working. I voted “no” on the rules of the House that gave the Speaker of the House so much power and talked with him about why I made my decision. 

(Rep. Mulligan) The Democratic caucus’s ethnic diversity gives them better leverage that the Republican’s caucus. The Speaker of the House is becoming more aware of his negative reputation. 

Illinois has more legislation than any other state in the Union. Why can’t we get anything done?

(Rep. Mulligan) There was a time before when we worked together--before personalities became in the forefront. 

What can Des Plaines do to improve its business profile?

(Rep. Mulligan) Support the chamber and its local businesses, support local resources for education like Oakton Community College. TIF is not a solution, and we need to figure out a way to improve business. 

(Rep. Nekritz) We have had bad infrastructure. Des Plaines can work with the state to improve and attract businesses. 

Thank you for working together! State business has been taken away by surrounding states. What can we do, and are there any projections for education cuts?

(Rep. Mulligan) We need to do more to incubate businesses. 

(Rep. Nekritz) Things were so unpredictable under Blagojevich that it turned away businesses from Illinois. We can’t have predictability without a solid budget plan. We receive a pay-per-pupil amount based on property taxes. The northwest suburbs may be cut.

Do you support a private school voucher program?

(Rep. Mulligan and Rep. Nekritz) No. 

Where does the Lottery money go? What about income from other forms of gaming?

(Rep. Mulligan) It’s put in the budget and is a wash. In the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, we look at the rules for legislation. When video poker legislation came through, it wasn’t in order. It will be 2 more years before we see it, but Des Plaines will opt out as other surrounding suburbs have. Illinois will equal Nevada in gaming. IDOT will be given some of the money to go towards roads. 

(Resident) We should bring in sports betting instead of video poker and run it like off-track betting. It won’t cost as much, and will be easy to implement. 

What’s your job creation plan?

(Rep. Nekritz) The high-speed passenger rail program will create jobs. 

(Rep. Mulligan) At the Federal level, we need incentives to keep businesses here. 

What are the plans for the traffic circle and the “S” curve?

(Rep. Mulligan) IDOT controls the circle. They marked lines and put up signage. 

(Ald. Bogusz) Residents around the circle are opposed to its removal. 

(Rep. Nekritz) The railroad over the “S” curve has been secured, but plans to straighten the “S” curve are a matter of money and priority. 

End of Question and Answer session with State Representatives. Ald. Bogusz answered a few questions afterwards.


Wednesday, November 9, 2009

There are no formal minutes from this month's ward meeting. Instead, a series of your questions -- unanswerable in the normal ward meeting format -- were recorded and City staff have worked to compile answers.

Will changes to Health and Human Services affect the 1/2 price cab fares for Seniors?(Holly)

How much of a liability is the Methodist Campground to the City of Des Plaines?

Is there anyway to break the endless cycle of pay raises for union employees considering binding arbitration?

When will new curbs be installed on Dennis Place? (Brydges)

What is happening with the land the City purchased for the fire station on the south end of town?

How deep does a yard need to be to qualify for the rear yard drainage program?


...answers will arrive shortly.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In attendance: 27 residents; Alderman Matt Bogusz; Jon Duddles, Asst. Director of Public Works and Engineering; Cmdr. Matt Hicks, Des Plaines Police Department; Elizabeth Makelim, Vice President, Des Plaines History Center Board

Introduction, Ald. Bogusz

Today’s meeting to focus on Carol Lane and City Budget

Special visitor from Des Plaines History Museum


Carol Lane Issue Overview

Residents have observed excessive speeding occurring on Carol Lane, north of Oakton and South of Algonquin in the 3rd Ward.

Ald. Bogusz part of Staff Traffic Advisory Committee (STAC) whose purpose is to develop a speed calming engineering plan for city streets
1. There is no state or federal guidelines to follow for speed calming

2. The city is challenged by a tough budget season
     a) Any plan for Carol Lane will cost money
     b) Are residents willing to pay for solution in form of assessment?
     c) Residents cannot expect quick turnaround due to budget constraints

3. Will look at the problem as a whole, and not just a concern for Carol Lane, but for surrounding streets and other streets throughout the city with similar issues

4. Speed humps and stop signs have already been proven to not work in street speed calming


Resident Comments

Vehicles speed from Webster to Carol Lane at all times of day and night; some in excess of 50 m.p.h.

Vehicles spotted speeding are Postal vehicles, school busses, and vehicles carrying Maine West High School students

Vehicles use Carol Lane as a cut-through to Oakton Ave, via Webster Ln.

Speeding has been a problem in all of Carol Lane’s history, and no solutions have worked so far.

“Local Traffic Only” signs were installed to placate residents’ complaints more than 15 years ago, but have proved ineffective as they are not enforceable.

Police patrols have been in place, but aren’t consistent, and the problem resurfaces once the patrols are gone.

Children who live and play on Carol Lane are warned by parents to not play near or to cross the street; however, at times, some children do, and an accident is likely to occur.

Vehicles often jump the curb at the bend and damage parkways, lawns and trees.


Residents’ Suggestions

Install speed humps

Install stop signs at Wayne and Dennis

Allow parking on both sides

All times

Alternating times

Increase police patrols

Increase fines given to speeders

Allow turns onto Webster only at certain times of day

Make streets one-way

Use Citizen’s Patrol to supplement police patrol

Create a dead-end at Webster


Commander Hicks’ comments

Traffic Units assigned to Carol Lane

Officers receive a list of problem areas and assign a beat car for one hour; Carol Lane is on the list.

Times and days traffic units spend on Carol Lane have been decreased due to budget constraints.

State controls (City cannot control)

Fine structure for offenses

Placement of stop signs

Speed humps can cause more accidents by vehicles that do not slow down and lose control

A traffic study could assist engineering in making plan

Residents should call the police department to make a report every time there is an incident with a vehicle that tears up the parkway, hits a tree, etc. on Carol Lane.

“Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25” campaign
1. Program places speed limit signs in residents’ yards
2. Designed to raise drivers’ awareness on residential streets
3. Proven to reduce speeding
4. Signs for Des Plaines are already ordered, and will be rotated throughout the community. Carol Lane will receive signs next month indicating 15 M.P.H speed zone.

Jon Duddles’ comments

Speed humps

Mount Prospect and City of Chicago are taking out speed humps because of ineffectiveness in speed calming

Speed humps actually increase vehicle speeding by drivers who perceive being slowed down, and speed up between humps to make up time.

Park Ridge has had none since 2006

Need 75% of street residents in favor; 50% of surrounding streets

Funding got out of hand

Don’t work on “collector” or main residential thoroughfares—more resident complaints

Carol Lane would need 5 humps at a cost of $25,000

Stop signs

Placement of stop signs are subject to federal regulations.

Stop signs are a method of traffic control, not traffic calming.

Because Carol Lane is a dead end street, federal mandates will not allow a stop sign placed at Carol and Webster.

In order for stop signs to be placed on Webster, it must meet 8 warrants in the federal mandate to qualify.

STAC will look into warrants

Residents need to report all incidents in order for reports to go on record

Other traffic calming measures

Striping: painted parking lanes narrow drivers’ perception of street width,

Have been proven to work in traffic calming

Done on Prairie Ave. between Graceland and Wolf

Parking on 2 sides of street: difficult to implement because one side needs to remain clear in case of water main break


Current plans for Carol Lane

Police patrol saturation for one week

Install 2 chevron signs (yellow with black chevron symbol) at the bend

“Stay Alive, Drive [15]” resident yard signs distributed next month


Next steps for Carol Lane

Residents report all incidents on Carl Lane and Webster to Police Dept.

Ald. Bogusz will look at Park Ridge’s plans for traffic calming
1. Residential yard signs
2. “Pace car” volunteer program
3. Citizen radar speed clocking

STAC will draft a plan to benefit the entire city that will create a sustainable way to deal with traffic calming

Ald. Bogusz will hold a public hearing


City Budget

Budget of $100 million is $3 million short. It costs Des Plaines 20% more to run than Mt. Prospect

City employees are 90% union

Set standards are set by their union boards

Contract expirations are staggered; Fire up next

Fire negotiates with binding arbitration

Union employees without binding arbitration work along with the city and walk away believing in fair deal

Every ¼ point reduction City Council can negotiate with unions means $20,000 in savings


Invest to build up capital reserve without layoffs or increased taxes

ERI: Early Retirement Incentive offered to police and fire employees

Possible savings of $3 million

Keeps newly-trained employees; does not fill positions left by retiring employees


Board reported eliminating 3 full-time positions; really eliminating part-time positions to equal full-time hours

Budget discussed and approved by city without challenge


Budget draft

Shows increases in every department

Likely won’t pass as-is; up for amendments at next council meeting


Des Plaines History Center

City of Des Plaines has funded the History Center since 1969

Current funding of $166,000 is set to be eliminated

Receives $77,000  from the Park District

Receives $45,000 from membership

History Center does a lot of good for the City


Repository for historical documents

Reduction in funds would mean less staff support; fewer programs; shorter hours of operation

Resident input

History Center should find other ways to support itself with traditional fundraising

Value services, programs History Center provides, and would be willing to pay more as members

City should reduce funding in incremental amounts over time—not all at once


Next steps

Board President Burke to create a business plan to present to Council

Residents can sign a petition at the History Center.



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Prairie Lakes Community Center
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

In attendance: 19 residents; Alderman Matt Bogusz; Jason Bajor, City Manager, Timothy Oakley, Director of Public Works and Engineering

Introduction, Ald. Bogusz
New series of Ward meetings, “Des Plaines 101” will focus on specific topics
Attendees will become better informed
Attendees will be able to inform neighbors about issues

Presentation on “Engineering 101” by Timothy Oakley
See Powerpoint file

Questions from Residents answered by Mr. Oakley

Will permeable concrete be used more often in Des Plaines?
Yes, the “green alleys” are in test phase. As they are proven to work, the concrete will be used in more alleys and other rights-of-way that are not heavily traveled as dirt can fill the porous spaces, making it ineffective.

Will more street lighting be installed in Des Plaines?
The tradition in Des Plaines has been to illuminate residential intersections and commercial areas. The city does not fund street lighting. Most street lighting is developer-funded.

Will anything be done with traffic signals?
The city owns only one traffic signal—at White and Oakton. All other signals are controlled by IDOT. Des Plaines will be painting signals black for aesthetics.

Water pools at Third and Prairie during storms, and Public Works employees arrive to do something with the sewer that alleviates the problem. What are they doing?
They could be rodding or using a T-Valve; however, there isn’t a valve in that intersection. Will look into issue. Residents should clean debris off sewer covers to assist with proper drainage.

Why do sanitary sewers back up?
Due to defects in the household systems. The city recommends that anyone with sewer backup problems should install “overhead plumbing.” One resident confirmed that this resolved the problem in her home.

Why is there more flooding since the Deep Tunnel project?
The reason for the flooding has to do with higher rainfall amounts. The Deep Tunnel project is not complete because a reservoir has not yet been built for the tunnel to empty into.

What is the lifespan of residential streets?
The cycle of a street’s lifespan begins in 10-15 years with resurfacing; with resurfacing again in another 10-15 years, and then reconstructing after the next 10-15 year time. Street conditions are given ratings by Public Works. 

After Mt. Prospect Rd. was redone, why did they recently put holes back in?
Mt. Prospect cut out holes in the concrete and filled them in again. This was concrete patching on bad areas that had settled.

How long are road contractors responsible for their work?
1 year; longer if an extended warranty was purchased.

Is Des Plaines preparing for the effects on weather of global warming?
More revenue would be needed for capital improvements.

When will Dempster Ave. at the River be finished?
There was a delay due to a design change. It has been resolved, and construction should be complete this week.

Questions from residents answered by Mr. Bajor

How much is the budget down?
Due to a decrease in sales tax from merchants and car dealers, the budget is down $2.5 million. The size of government is large and currently not sustainable with the budget we have. Tough decisions will need to be made on day-to-day expenses. Adequate staffing will be implemented. Beautification is still important in order to attract businesses and increase revenue. Casino revenue will be used to improve streets and pay off debt service.

If a gas tax of 1-2¢ is implemented, how will it benefit us?
A tax increase from the current 2¢ per gallon to 4¢ (Park Ridge has 4¢ per gallon) will directly fund street improvements. An increase will not shut down businesses or affect consumer choice.

How much will a property-tax increase mean to homeowners per month?
A 1% increase on a $300,000 home will equal $2 per month.

What about red-light cameras?
Other communities who have failed at this endeavor have looked at where to make revenue first. Des Plaines will look at safety issues first using traffic studies to determine the most unsafe intersections, then install. Implementation of the ticket process will be reasonable and judicious.

Has a new fire chief been brought in to reduce the work force?
No, he was the best possible candidate. Life safety is a priority. The new chief will assist with determining the most efficient way to run the department including the deployment of various apparatus, the number of firefighters sent on calls, and early retirement options for staff so that firefighters will not lose jobs.

Why is the Sysco retention pond still full? (Ald. Bogusz). An update is coming out this week.

Informal poll of audience

Should Des Plaines implement a gas tax to fund street improvements?
Yes (13)
No (6)

Should Des Plaines implement the use of red-light cameras to improve public safety?
Yes (10)
No (9)


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Prairie Lakes Community Center
7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

In attendance: 25 residents; Alderman Matt Bogusz; Jason Bajor, City Manager

Introduction, Ald. Bogusz
City Council and Staff met to form strategic plan for Des Plaines
Meeting to focus on strategic plan from 3rd Ward perspective
Attendees will break into three groups

Des Plaines Strategic Plan, City Manager Bajor
Plan to determine what we can do now
How much resources do we have
Create a list of priorities for city to accomplish
City Council and Staff met with facilitator
Identified S.W.O.T. – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
What city can accomplish in 2-10 years
Must accomplish
Would like to accomplish
Council will rank and prioritize priorities
To put online available to public
To act as punch list for staff

Question: What will Des Plaines be like in 25 years? (in order of comments given)
A safe, friendly community with good schools
The #1 place to raise families
A city with residential and commercial entities that keeps and attracts businesses
A place for multi-generational entertainment
Improved city and resident communication
Attractive, dynamic downtown and riverwalk
Major economic upturn with more retail
Destination for other communities, suburbs, and city
Lean government

Break-out sessions with three groups identifying Des Plaines’ S.W.O.T. (see notes)

City Council, Staff, and 3rd Ward residents on same page with list of priorities
Next meeting September 9, 2009
Prior, Ald. Bogusz will e-mail list of priorities to attendees to rank
Next meeting will look at results and compare with city’s
Will talk about Infrastructure 101

3rd Ward Meetings Held Every 2nd Wednesday of the Month


Attendees were divided into 3 groups to identify Des Plaines’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (two in each category). Participants reported on findings.

All findings are in alphabetical order:

Family activities
Grocery shopping
Tax base

Metropolitain Square
Nothing to do
Railroad crossings hem us in
Unattractive business areas

Des Plaines Theater
Tax base

Access to emergency health care if Lutheran General is full
O’Hare – air quality and noise
Perception of city

Residents’ Views of City’s Priorities

Residents broke into groups again to determine 1) what significant priorities the city must confront now, 2) what priorities they would like the city to accomplish in the next 2-10 years, 3) what issue/them/plan that has been postponed should be looked at again, and 4) what “big picture” paradigm shift they would like to see occur. Participants reported on findings.

All findings are in alphabetical order:

Must confront now
Attract/involve more young people in the city
Build up downtown
Economic stability
Flood control
Railroad rights-of-way cleanup

Like to accomplish in 2-10 years
Attract more businesses
Create new space for city services: Police Dept., Fire Dept., City Hall
Improved education
Improved signage
Increase theater and entertainment options
Retail development

Postponed issues to be looked at again
Beautification of downtown and Oakton corridor
Re-location of Police Dept. and Fire Dept.
Renovation of Des Plaines Theater
Traffic and railroad issues

Big picture paradigm shift
Age of city
Diversity of population in race and age
Retail and residential foreclosures – who will move in?
Up-to-date look of city