The Highland Park City Council has exuberantly acknowledged that they weren’t the only governing body with their hands in our wallets.
Mayor Rotering, stated on these digital pages and elsewhere, that the council has “prioritized collaboration with our sister governments” as an immediate goal. And at the top of their list is the “future use of the Highland Park Country Club and golf needs in Highland Park” noting parenthetically “(do we need two public golf courses?)”
It is way past time that our City Council and multiple overlapping municipal jurisdictions collaborate as a team. And Mayor Rotering’s initiative should be celebrated to achieve the stated goals of reducing total costs, enhancing services and improving management of our resources. But in setting out along this path it also essential to frame the issues properly, which Mayor Rotering has not done with the Highland Park Golf Course issue.
The question is not do we need two public golf courses, but do we need THREE? The Highland Park City Council remains unwaveringly behind an adopted policy of supporting a new public golf course at Fort Sheridan. And, with the approval and endorsement of both the Highland Park City Council AND the Park District of Highland Park, the Lake County Forest Preserve is currently soliciting proposals to build yet another public golf course at our city boundary.
Anyone who has followed this public policy boondoggle knows that both the city-owned and park district-owned golf courses have been losing money for years. If you followed city budget discussions you also know that general fund money from the city has to be pumped into the Highland Park Country Club operating fund. Losses by the city and the park district are in the millions of dollars over the last 8 years.
These losses are far in excess of those associated with either the city-owned movie theater controversy or the park district’s shameful pension scandal which have commanded headlines and brought folks out with pitchforks and torches. Yet every time someone tees up a golf ball at the city-owned golf course, it costs Highland Park residents over $20. We seem to have infinite tolerance for this misappropriation.
The city and park district-endorsed new golf course from the Forest Preserve is projected to cannibalize 10 percent of the revenue from both of the existing golf courses. This, of course, only exacerbates ongoing and escalating losses by both golf operations. With the imminent development of a new Forest Preserve golf course, it would appear that not only is one Highland Park golf course doomed but both may be. Either that or golfers are going to be playing on our public dime.
Although this debacle was hatched under previous city and park district administrations, all the sitting city council and park district board members have had the opportunity to take a stand and stop this nonsense. But none have chosen to do so. And now, with the imminent development of a new county golf course in our neighborhood, the options are severely diminished.
Still, it's not too late for leadership.
Stay tuned for an in-depth feature on Fort Sheridan Preserve, coming soon to Highland Park Patch.