Thursday, March 30, 2006

Our Vision

When I first became a Commissioner there was a mission statement for the District, that is, why are we here. What was missing was a vision for what we can become and how we would get there. So we developed 'Our Vision' and 'Our Guiding Principles'.

I am especially interested in partnership, our first guiding principle. The Commission just recently entered an agreement with Benedictine University to participate in a Masters program in environmental studies for teachers. This will help us reach into the classrooms with empowered teachers. As we develop this and each future partnership, we will be a step closer to achieving our Vision.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Community Archery Range

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County has recently developed an archery range at Blackwell Forest Preserve. Ok, it really is parking lot with a few targets set up in it. It is growing in popularity as people become aware of it. This mirrors the rest of the country, as archery is the fastest growing recreational activity in the U.S. Why might you ask? It is a sport that almost everyone can compete in, regardless of physical ability. It is also relatively inexpensive to get into. You can purchase a traditional bow for $100. Add a few bucks for arrows, and away you go. A compound bow starts for around $250. We have planned to redevelop the area into an archery complex facility. This will remove the existing blacktop and install 4 ranges. The ranges will 2 static ranges, one for the beginner and one for the more advanced and 2 interactive ranges. There will also be a picnic area, interpretive areas, a concession stand, a fishing pier, and more. It will be developed in a sustainable manner, lighting run on solar energy, permeable paving, using recycled materials as it is available. The nice thing is that the Commission believes that we will be able to complete alot of this facility with grants, donations, and sponsorships. We have started with an initial donation by the Archery Trade Association of $50,000.
More info soon.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Naperville Republican's New Leaders

Thursday night the Naperville Township Republican Organization elected its executive board. The results were:
Chairman - Fred Spitzzeri
Vice-chair - Tom Laz
Recording Secretary - Barry Greenberg
Corresponding Secretary - Pat Fee
Treasurer - Rachael Ossyra

Over the next few months we will be working to revitalize NTRO with an eye toward this fall's general election. If you are interested in helping, please send me an email at . Or post a comment with contact info.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

To Buy Or Not To Buy - Take Two

Here are some other considerations regarding a land acquisition referendum. We might also consider some capital improvements with the land also, such as building more trails.

  1. Clean air and clean water is good government. Adding land that can be restored will help in that effort. The process of restoring a farm field (Yes Virginia, there still is farm land left in DuPage) improves both. By reseeding a prairie or woodland we clean pollutants out of the air. It also encourages water infiltration that reduces run-off and subsequently reduces water polution.
  2. The purchases can help reduce traffic congestion. Making trail connections will encourage more walkers and bikers that takes cars off the road. Coordination with the County, Municipalities, Park Districts, etc. will make these purchases more effective. A recent survey by the Naperville Park District indicated a perceive need for more trails.
  3. If we do a good enough job cleaning the air and getting cars off of the road, then maybe we can save money by no longer requiring emissions testing on cars. We might also eliminate the need for a special blend of gas that increases the price if there is a shortage, because we can't just ship in any ol' gas.
  4. Then there is the legacy thing. Today we decide what we are leaving for our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren. I am hard pressed to imagine anyone going to Springbrook Prairie and exclaiming "Boy I wish that 20 years ago they would have built a series of strip malls and an office complex here!" Nor can I imagine "Life in DuPage would be great if I could only add another 20 minutes a day in a traffic jam on my way to and from work."

More on this topic later.

Friday, March 17, 2006

To Buy Or Not To Buy, That Is The Question.

A question that will be before the Commission over the next few months will be "Should we have a Referendum for land acquisition and for how much?" My opinion is that it is entirely proper to offer the Citizens of DuPage County the opportunity to decide if we should buy more land. It will be the responsibility of the Commission and staff to inform the people so they can make a wise decision. A recent survey showed that the amount should be between 50-75 million dollars. 50 million dollars amounts to seven dollars and change a year for the average homeowner. I think that is a bargain, especially when one considers the alternatives.
  1. Other land uses will likely have an even higher increase in property taxes. Open space has been referred to as the 'Ultimate Tax Cap'. Unit School District#204 is not asking to build a new high school because land is being permanently maintained as open space. Add to that roads, other infrastructure, police, fire... you get the picture.
  2. DuPage County has a 7.2% increase in daytime population over the nighttime resident population. When the County is built out, there will be about a million residents. That amounts to about 72,000 extra people. That will put addition pressure on the District because of the potential for overcrowding in some of our preserves.
  3. For good or for ill, we must decide now what we are going to preserve. Once land is put into brick and mortar, it is nearly impossible to regain its natural resources. It is also cost prohibitive.
  4. Our potential purchases are mostly about the quality of our preserves, not about the quantity. If you were going to build a 4000 sq. ft. house, you might start with a 40'x100' foundation. You would add floors and walls. You have all the square footage that you need, but you wouldn't be done with your building. You would still need a roof, a driveway, utilities, etc. That is where we are now. Making trail connections, adding buffer space to protect quality habitat, protecting the riverways, etc.

More to come...

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Other Day...

...I was at James 'Pate' Phillips State Park for a Commission meeting. Afterwards, I took my binoculars in hand and went for a walk on the trails. As I walked over the bridge, I saw 6 Northern Flickers feeding on the ground. They each in turn flew up and out of sight as I passed.
After a while, Dr. Carl Strang came out and chatted with me about the park and how some of the improvements there were coming along. Then we heard that unmistakable sound. Flying toward us were 26 Sandhill Cranes. In less that a half an hour I counted 203 of them migrating north. I am not much of a birder, but I was still impressed. You have to love a staff that can arrange a show flight of cranes on short notice.

Monday, March 13, 2006

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

Recent efforts to sneak around the U.S. Constitution's method of electing the President by John Anderson and Friends really get stuck in my craw. Where it might be an interesting assignment in a political science class to imagine ways to subvert the intent of the Constitution by State Legislatures, it is bad public policy to do it. If the Constitution needs to be changed, the issue should be brought to the public square, debated and amended. The fact that it is not easy to change the Constitution and attempts to eliminate the Electoral College have failed, is not an excuse to subvert it. In my letter to the editor, I noted James Madison's view of a straight democratic form of government. He rejected it because of the obvious opportunity for abuse.

As for those who want to pass a national popular vote law in Illinois because of candidates not campaigning here, they are really only suggesting changes to which regions get ignored. It makes me wonder how many times George Washington, John Adams, etc. campaigned in, say, Georgia? With today's communication technology, it seems that there is less need to have a physical presence. Still, I have some suggestions. 1) Require all Presidential candidates to personally certify their spot on the ballot. If they do not come, they are not on the ballot. 2) Raise about a million dollars (a dime a person) in Illinois. Let the candidates know we are splitting the pot on a certain day. If you come, you get your share. If you don't, your share goes to your opponent. 3) Provide for a 'virtual' campaign. They can video conference to thousands of people at a time.

The Constitution is not broke; it is working the way it was designed.

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So Long, It's Been Good To Know Ye

One of the benefits of being a Commissioner of the Forest Preserves is being able to associate with the quality men and women that are employed there. I was reminded of that when our Director of Education was recently tagged as the new Executive Director of the Illinois Audobon Society. Tom Clay has done an excellent job of pulling together all of the education components at the District. In some ways it will be hard to let him go (as if he was giving me that choice), but he has put in place programs that will help us get along until we can find someone to fill his shoes.

Best Wishes Tom! We look forward to working with you in your new role.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Sprouting Seed

"Our Forest Preserves are a gift that we pass from one generation to the next. Let's enjoy what others have given to us and be careful to pass along something better than we received." I repeat this often when asked about our Forest Preserves. This blog will be about my thoughts, opinions, odds, ends, this, that, and the other thing. There will be alot of information about what is happening in the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and how we pass along something better. Maybe even a little politics, horticulture, music, community, etc.
I also hope that you take this opportunity to give me your ideas on how we can improve our Forest Preserves.