Real, Not 'Purported,' Significant Opposition to the Beach House

The Highland Park Park District unilaterally determined more than 1000 resident voices to be “obsolete.” Just who is obsolete in HP? Could it be the Park District Board of Commissioners?

The Rosewood Beach Project.  Talk about Down the Drain in HP!  More than 1000 Highland Park voices have been unilaterally determined to be “obsolete ” by the Highland Park Park District (HPPD).  Starts me thinking about just who is really obsolete in HP…could it be the Park District Board of Commissioners?

 Clearly they consider about 4 percent of HP’s population (and a much larger percentage of its voters) to be absolutely irrelevant and obsolete.

In a August 22, 2012 letter, the Executive Director of theHPPD, Liza McElroy, tells Amy Lohmolder (who submitted a letter on behalf of the Ravinia Neighbors Association – the RNA) that “…your email is inaccurate in describing the purported “significant” public opposition to the Rosewood Beach ProjectThe opposition petitions you cite address an obsolete and now-abandoned plan that is significantly different from that which the Park District of Highland Park is now considering…The vast majority of the signatures on the RNA’s petitions were obtained well before the Task Force presented even its preliminary recommendation to the public in May of 2012…”

I’ve got news for Ms. McElroy and the HPPD Commissioners: there isn’t “purported” significant public opposition, it is actual significant opposition, and sticking your head in the Rosewood Beach sand doesn't make it go away.   
Of course, Ms. McElroy is right about the sequencing of the RNA petition.  Can't address whether more or less of them were made previously or recently. Yes, the HPPD held all the cards very close to its vest until recently when the RNA gained enough prominence to ensure that the HPPD would make the process more  purportedly “transparent.”  By the way, the process has hardly been transparent -- the public meetings consist of residents expressing their frustration or their support and the HPPD Commissioners, staff and consultants not answering any questions.  Incredibly, pro forma financials were not presented until the last meeting and at the last minute -- no one in the room could really even ask a question of the financials being presented on the way in the door. Additionally, the RNA had to submit FOIA requests just to get basic information from the HPPD.  So much for transparency.

Ms. McElroy is absolutely wrong about any obsolescence of those signatures on the RNA petition. A unifying point for all the people who signed that petition, whenever they signed it, was and is that they were and are opposed to an "Interpretive Center" -- an unnecessary building on the beach of any size intended for class rooms, parties, rentals, etc., as well as any overbuilding on Rosewood.  The people who signed those petitions continue to be supportive of the admirable job the RNA has been doing of looking out for the best interests of all HP residents when it is clear that the HPPD isn’t.   

The HPPD can’t stick its head in the Rosewood Beach sand and pretend that the 1000+ people who signed the RNA petition and who oppose the beach house don’t really mean it anymore.  We did, we do.

The HPPD has all the signatures, phone numbers and, likely, e-mails for all signatures on the petition.  They certainly haven’t contacted me to determine whether I am still opposed to a Interpretive Center on the beach.  Whether it is 4000 sq. ft. or 1900 sq. ft., whether you call it the Interpretive Center or the beach house, my signature on the petition is still good as are all the rest (and, if there is an exception to that rule, it would be just that, an exception).  If we need a referendum concerning the beach house, bring it on!

We can assume that Ms. McElroy issued her letter with review and authorization by Scott Meyers, the President of the HPPD Board ofCommissioners.  Perhaps even full Board approval for such a sensitive issue was required. Or, if Ms. McElroy sent it on her own, shame on her!  In any event, let's hold the responsible people accountable.

Many in HP may not be familiar with your Park Board. In addition to Mr. Meyers, the Board of Park Commissioners include Cal Bernstein, Lori Flores Weisskopf, Elaine Waxman and Brian Kaplan.  Remember these names because they will likely be presented again for another election to the HPPD or elsewhere in the City or County.  Hold them accountable for their votes on the Rosewood Beach Project.  Remember that one of the best HP City Councilmen (ever!) lost an election in 2009 by only 10 votes.  Remember these names. Your 1000+ votes count.  Hold your Park Board Commissioners accountable for how they treat you, your neighbors, your Park District and your funds.  They are elected by us, and it is our job to ensure that the right people sit in the seats -- people who can be good stewards of our tax dollars.

Whether you are glad or not about the plan's approval, please remember there are a few issues that go beyond the decision: 

  • The HPPD has shown 1000+ residents extraordinary and lasting disrespect
  • The process has been lacking in transparency
  • The HPPD has been intransigent about the beach house from the outset, causing extreme divisiveness in the community and, as a result,
  • There has been entirely too much focus on the Beach House, leaving the very real environmental issues concerning the habitat restoration and engineering project for the shoreline left largely unattended by all.

Shameful conduct by the HPPD.  

(This blog was originally posted on August 23, 2102 at downthedraininhp)

*Regarding the alleged Interpretive Center, really, it appears that it was always intended to be more of a beach house for residents to rent for parties than a center to learn about the beach environment, because, after all, if you want to learn about the beach environment, you’re not sitting inside a building on the beach! This, of course, raises all sorts of questions about the good faith of the HPPD in dealing with residents and the government grantors.  At the first HPPD open meeting there were several people passionately supportive about the ability to bring students to the beach's "Interpretive Center", as if that were the primary purpose, and it isn’t.  The primary purpose is rentals.  Likely one of the reasons the HPPD finally flopped the sham name to the "Beach House."

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 02:03 AM
"Does every spending or policy decision have to be approved by a referendum?" - surely not, I don't think it'd be appropriate to have a referendum to decide what kind of plastic cups to buy for the recreation center. But where I believe referendums are proper are for multi-million dollar optional facilities such as the Rosewood Beach project/IC. Recall that the PD held a referendum on this issue back about 30 years ago - it failed miserably. In 2008 the PD had a referendum question asking to exceed the tax levy cap - 12,000 people told them no. In 2011 - we kicked out the Board for the costly pension fiasco, and ostensibly for their hubris in even proposing that 4,000 sq ft monstrosity at Rosewood. So now here we are in 2012 - the PD is flush with OUR MONEY in the reserve fund, and rather than spending it on future needs for renovating and maintaining facilities, they've got it burning a hole in their pocket and are spending some of it on a project that the Public has said multiple times that they don't want. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: We give them TOO MUCH money. We need to give them just enough money to operate the District, and force them to come to us with every decision that requires adding a new facility. They've proven time and again that they can't be trusted. And it's time to replace them - again.
David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Mel, I made the initial comparison of the square footage of the IC to houses in HP as context for the size of the facility. I intended for the average citizen to be able to understand just how big the facility was proposed to be. Saying "Ummm, it's 80x70x80" doesn't compute for some persons. Saying "hey, this is going to be bigger than many houses in Highland Park" gives them a reference point they're familiar with...
Dan Jenks August 30, 2012 at 03:27 AM
David, the comparison of a single family home's size to the IC's size is "strange" - it's kind of like saying that Centennial Park is 200 times the size of the average homeowner's lot. I guess the implication is that we should downsize Centennial Park because of its size..........
Dan Jenks August 30, 2012 at 03:36 AM
David, you and the RNA make for strange bedfellows - they are purportedly okay with spending money ($4+ million) on the boardwalk, beach restoration and even the IC (if it isnt' on Rosewood) - you aren't okay with any of it. Does this difference in viewpoints ever seem incongruous to you? And how can you be a member of an organization that supports this much wasteful spending?
David Greenberg August 30, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Dan, not everyone was OK with every part of the plan. Just about everyone (myself included) agrees that permanent restrooms are needed, and as the issues were discussed persons (including myself) agreed to compromise - too bad the Park District didn't compromise - even in the face of 1100 petitioners asking them to do so. I would like to see some sand, and restrooms at the Beach. I don't really think a concession stand is needed, but if it were of the proper design, it could be used to teach older kids some needed business skills - they don't need to run deep fryers or anything dangerous - just regular ole pre-packed "beach fare" - but perhaps they could run it in conjunction with the Youth Committee's HIRE! program (which I participated in once upon a time...). I'm opposed to an IC because it's not necessary, and we don't need another facility to maintain, operate, and subsidize. I'm no fan of spending tons of money on these projects either - $850K for a boardwalk, hundreds of thousands for concession stand, etc. I'd rather see a different plan which isn't in the cadillac style of building, and which costs less. I've never claimed to be a fan of the Army Corps proposal - there's too many issues that go along with that as well.


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