I talked about the two cell towers coming before council in A Packed Agenda. The Plan Commission voted unanimously to forward a negative recommendation on both towers.
The village council, however, is damned if they do, and damned if they don’t, and really has no choice.
Many residents spoke gracefully and humorously to the topic. Resident Dave Brown said hiding a cell tower in a park works as well as hiding a bus in council chambers-not at all. Every resident who spoke did so asking for their parks to be kept free of cell towers of any kind for any reason.
The problem is, council can’t simply ban them because it is outside of their jurisdiction to prohibit the Park District from entering into a lease to do exactly that.
Commissioner Neustadt stated the obvious harshly but accurately, and most agreed in their own way. Tully made the existence of a legal opinion memo known, and Marge Earl, an early watcher of this issue, asked for clarification of what the memo said, and where it came from. In a lame bit of would-be sophistry, Sandack insisted that this so-called secret memo, concerning a public issue, involving two public bodies, at a public meeting no less, could not and would not be revealed, neither who had written it, or what it said. What he was selling, no one was buying.
Obviously, our tiny rabble residents brains would explode or something had we found that this memo, plainly written by Village Attorney Enza Petrarca or one of her two legal staffers, all public employees, plainly stated the obvious: state law trumps local ordinance, even if you are Home Rule. If it said anything past that, like the PD could hamstring the village on water detention areas in parks if they didn’t cooperate, I could see why they would want it kept quiet. But the secret memo doesn’t have anything to do with the items covered under allowable executive session secrecy, and it does impact a public vote, and it was brought up in a public meeting as setting the parameters of what council could and could not consider, so it should state the legal obvious-so let’s see some of that transparency guys. You’ve even had time to change it so it doesn’t say anything potentially loony.
One resident, Mo Mathey, said, among some other great things, the Park District was “money blind”. He is probably right. T-Mobile could just as easy have done a deal with Willis Johnson and skipped the Hummer Park flagpole, but why give up $20K+ a year? And even I missed that the Gilbert Park set-up was pre-designed so another cell transmitter building and antennae array (on the same pole) could be sold off and installed.
This was a brutal meeting for Tom Dabareiner, Director of Planning and Community development. The two cell towers, the IHDA bond cap for housing. The easy one was a guy with a non-conforming pool who wanted to rebuild it as a non-conforming pool. Like I said, for TD, that was the easy one.
One thing that kept bugging me was, and I forget who it was, a council member saying these are Park District lands; they own them (I don’t want to think it was Tully, but it was Tully). Technically I guess so, but what the residents attending last night were saying is; no, these are public lands, our lands. We paid for them so we could have parks, forests, open spaces, playing fields, and we don’t want our PD to sell us out. Public parks to me means maintained at the public expense and under public control for the benefit of the public. It’s our Park District, not someone else’s, and that’s why so many were out to say so.
Art Jaros was at the meeting along with Dan Cermak. Jaros is the best known PD Commissioner, partly because he makes himself available to residents, who usually seem to end up not liking what he says. Say what you will; Art may be guilty of brutal honesty over artful deceit, but at least he is a public elected official that is out there. I could not even tell you the name of any other PD board member except Bob Gelwicks, and I would not know if he was standing next to me. And I’m going to try and attend Thursday night’s PD broard meeting, so they can give me deserved crap about that should they so choose.
One of the biggest problems citizens face when opposing any government actions is timely information. The cell tower deal was months and months in the works before it had a bright light shone on it. By then, by now, it is too late unless the PD changes it’s collective mind, it’s heart if you will. The opposition to this was not up to speed in time to derail it. The deal was done as it came before the PD board, and by then it was probably past effecting. Had the PD board asked residents if they were in favor of such leasing and income, and discussed the pro and con up front, who knows if anything would have changed, but the early disclosure would have been good. Residents want to know what’s coming down the road; they don’t want to have village applied blinders on. We’re all big boys and girls and we deal with reality on a daily basis. Give us the low down and we’ll give you our thoughts, and it will be a civil give and take.
This was another meeting that felt like the council had already had a meeting about it and decided what they were going to do. Village staff and PD staff probably met and hashed things out when the Plan Commission did the opposite thing staff wanted. Staff did the same thing this time they’ve done before: ignore the PC here’s what we recommend.
Next week, amongst much explanation and dancing, council will approve both towers. They really have no option. Maybe Willis Johnson could put a tower up just north of the tracks across from Pepperidge Farms, but that just slows everything down, and council will want this done and gone ASAP.
PS- And yet another request for waiving a one week waiting period so the village could do another yearly contract for health plan consultant and accounting services. Staff didn’t know this was coming for, oh, say, a year? Take off the blinders and look down the road to see what’s coming, and get these things done on time so council is not constantly sidestepping their own policy on timetables. It has to be driving Sandack batty that this keeps happening; waiving one-week waiting periods was a Krajewski thing that limited public participation, something Ron wanted to change.