Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Greene Farm

Last week I toured the Greene Family Homestead at Greene Valley Forest Preserve. Tom Brown, Herb Nadelhoffer, Marylou Wehrli, Alex Greene, Mike Palazzetti and I explored the house and then the barn. It was very interesting to hear Tom relate life growing up here. The original home and barn date back to the 1850's, yep, pre-Civil War. Over the years, each had additions.

A few points of interest: The stone foundation of the barn arrived in the following way. Over the winter they would cut ice from the river and then haul it into town to sell. Then they would go to the quarry and purchase stone to bring back to the farm. Evidently, it took a couple of years to get as much stone as was needed. The barn had originally had oak beams pieced together with wooden pegs. Most likely they were white oak, but I have noticed quite a bit of burr oak in the area. As you toured the barn you see the change of wood to pine. Steel bolts took the place the wooden pegs. The rafters were changed over the years, too. Just west of the house are several concrete items. Adjacent to the house is the remnant foundation of the summer kitchen. The hitching post has the same pattern as the tin siding in the kitchen, as that is what they used for the forms. A concrete step is just north of the post, and was used to step up into a buggy.

Tom was in town to receive an honor for the master plan for downtown Naperville, and deserves much of the credit for envisioning the RiverWalk. Herb had arranged with me the opportunity to tour the property. Mike is the Director, Office of Land Management for the District. In part, this meeting included the opportunity to make the barn available for public use, as was the dream of Bill Greene when he gave/sold the land to the Forest Preserve District. I like the idea and will explore with staff the opportunity, perhaps as a nature education center. I have several irons in the fire to include other local municipalities and entities to partner as stake holders in this endeavor. I will have more on this soon.

Meanwhile, I am starting to read two books that Herb gave to me, written by Bill Greene, 'Dear Progeny' and 'The Greenes on the East Branch'. It is interesting to view the history of DuPage through the eyes of this man's family.

Monday, April 17, 2006

All Red, All Right!

I just got a note from Senator Kirk Dillard, who is also the Chairman of the DuPage Republican Party. Vote totals are in from the March 2006 Primary Election. It seems that DuPage is not so blue after all. Kirk noted "In 2006 there were 12,000 more Republican votes cast than 2004 and the split was 70-30 Republican over Democrat - the highest margin in six years! The Democrat ballots cast fell 11% or 20,000, down to 43931 from two years ago... 12,000 less than four years ago. This is a 32,000 vote swing back to the DuPage Republican Party... so things are working."

It is nice in a non-presidential year to have an increase in ballots cast for Republicans, because there were several referendums and people could have taken a Democrat ballot or a non-partisan one. However, one primary vote is not something I, or the local leadership, would want to hang our hat on. This turn back to the Republican Party in DuPage is probably a big wind in Judy Baar Topinka's sails, as she will have to win DuPage big if she wants to overtake the current Governor.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Alternate Revenues

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County will one day need to ask for an increase of the rate of its operating portion of the tax levy. It might be surprising to many, but the District has only recovered the inflation of money each tax year. With the additional development in DuPage, the tax rate has actually gone down 9 of the last 10 years, the Land Acquisition Referendum year being the only exception.

Meanwhile, we have added miles of trails, added dog parks, picnic shelters, etc. All of this adds pressure to the operation budget. In the near term we have covered a tax shortfall in the operating budget by setting up a plan that uses interest from the landfill funds that we have saved up to cover any potential environmental problems at the landfills. This has secured our operating budget for the next five years at the same level we enjoy today. However, as DuPage's population grows and with the increased pressure of the inflow of 'daytime only residents', there will be a demand for more parking, trails, and other facilities. It does not appear that the interest from the landfill funds will suffice beyond five years, especially if we add the facilities that are already in planning, such as, the Peabody Mansion rehab, the Willowbrook Wildlife Center expansion, St. James Farm... Some of these projects will generate revenues of their own, like the banquet facility and tea room at Mayslake. Still, there will be the need to locate additional money to run everything, or there will be a reduction in services.

So what is my point? Well, nobody likes more taxes. So I will be pushing at the District to develop more alternative revenue sources to help relieve the need to raise taxes. I am not so overly optimistic to think that we can completely avoid a request
for more operating funds after five years, but perhaps we can push out the date some years and not have to ask for as much when we do.