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Letter to the Editor: Morton Grove Village Mayor Addresses The Facts

Mayor Daniel Staackmann responds to recent statements on the topic of Village of Morton Grove's government.

Comment boards allow for open exchange of ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, what is written is all too often unfounded accusations or outright untruths. When those go unanswered, they can shape the reader’s perception and become their reality, which is harmful to everyone. In comments posted on Thursday, March 24,  Joe Brunner made several unfounded accusations that I must correct with fact and truth.

Accusation:”… spending over $6 million for just 20 affordable housing units...”

Fact:  If he is referring to the Essex Senior housing project, the TIF assistance will come in at under $3 million for over 80 units, nineteen of which are affordable units as determined not on federal poverty levels, but closer to Morton Grove level of poverty, thus making those units available to higher number of Morton Grove seniors. 

Accusation: “…doubling your garbage bill.”

Fact: How you pay for your garbage has changed, not the amount. The Village has just renewed the contract for waste hauling in Morton Grove and we were successful in retaining the same service level at the same cost of the last contract.

Before, the fees were embedded in your property tax bill; whereas now the fees are on your water bill. You see the fees now, so it seems higher, but the rate actually remains the same.

Accusation:  “…Mayor Staackmann’s hurtful policies.”

Fact: Asking to fill out a simple form stating your name and what you wish to comment on is no intrusion to anyone’s rights.  The correct spelling of your name is needed for the official minutes. And the time limit ensures that there will be time for everyone who wants to speak to have that opportunity at the meeting. No one has ever been denied the opportunity to address the village board. Village Board meetings are held to do official business and should be conducted as such with respect for the residents, the Board, and the business at hand.

Accusation: “… loss of Senior services.”

Fact: The service providers have changed, yet services have not been eliminated. The Village replaced a number of in-house services with outside providers. Staff was cut staff in the Family and Senior Services department to reduce expenditures, but senior services continue to be offered at our Civic Center. All senior programs and activities are offered through a partnership with a non-profit senior services organization at no cost to the village. Now, more seniors participate in higher quality programs than ever before. This organization also offers Escorted Transportation services in which volunteer drivers transport seniors to medical and dental appointments, at no cost to the Village. Health screenings and services are still provided by a private, local organization every weekday at the Civic Center, at no cost to the village. Furthermore, the Family and Senior Services department continues to offer senior services such as lending closet, RTA passes, taxi vouchers, handyman services, counseling, referrals, and more.

Over the last two years, the Board has had to make some very hard decisions while maintaining vital services. The Village is financed by revenue from property taxes, fees, fines, and sales tax, all of which are significantly lower due to the severe, global economic downturn. Morton Grove is certainly not isolated on its loss of revenue. Recognizing that the plight of the economy has hit its residents, the current Village Board has opted to reduce expenditures on non-vital services rather than keep raising taxes to maintain vital services.

I firmly believe that the first purpose of government is to protect the life, property, and health of it citizens. With keeping that mission, it has become necessary to cut back on some of the non-vital services that were once provided by our village. It may seem hurtful now but if it ensures the vitality of our Village until these hard financial times subside, it is something we all must endure.

Morton Grove has survived many changes and ordeals, and will continue to survive if we, the residents, work together though these changes. Together we can ensure the future of Morton Grove. After the election, I will be calling for a unity meeting of all candidates in this election and those who are concerned by the current issues facing our Village, schools, library, and park district, so all parties can meet to resolve their differences and begin the work ahead of us.

sherwin dubren March 30, 2011 at 12:20 AM
The current Action Party board has poured millions into TIF projects trying to induce businesses to build there. Many of these condo projects immediately failed or are on indefinite hold. The Essex project has only alloted 19 units for affordable housing. The vast majority of the proposed units will be sold at market value. The village has only scratched the surface of the problem of affordable housing in our area. The garbage issue is never displayed for what it really is. The Action Party did not want to increase the property taxes, so they removed that service cost from property taxes and created an entirely new tax for the garbage removal. They did not lower our property taxes by the amount of this reduction, so in effect, we were now paying extra for waste removal that was formerly covered by our property taxes. Caucus Party tried to reduce this 'extra' tax by subsidising part of the garbage service. This subsidy has been removed by the Action Party. The Action Party will do whatever possible to conceal any increase in property taxes by shuffling taxes over to other areas. Have you noticed how our water and sewer bills have gone up?
sherwin dubren March 30, 2011 at 12:20 AM
The mayor trys to portray senior services as normal. Removing the senior bus, eliminating the senior assistance on water usage, and the loss of the Village Nurse and Social Worker does not take into account the non-health related services they provided. The seniors are an easy target for village hall now, so I expect them to remove what little assistance is left. The mayor justifys this by pleading the tight budget and lack of resources, yet he finds money to go out and spend millions on a high tech water meter project that we certainly do not need now. I think he has miss-placed priorities.
Mark V. Matz March 30, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Once again Mr. Dubren is providing us his filtered commentary. We have a wonderful country that allows for vibrant discussions of opposing opinions no matter what that viewpoint is; an important right we all enjoy. But no matter what the Action Party or any of its elected officials undertake on behalf of the Morton Grove, Sherwin will oppose them regardless of how they benefit our community. That is his right and privilege. But other perspectives are that seniors are important, listened to and provided with services. The fees for garbage have not doubled, just how they are paid for have. Water bills are higher, but that is because Chicago has raised their rate, something over which the Village has no control. The senior housing facility approved was the correct one in scale and scope for us. It was not based on income levels that would have built a larger facility at Morton Grove taxpayer expense which very few from our town would have qualified to use. What that facility may have done was to bail out the previous Caucus administration's overpayment for the land and locked-in interest rate while bringing us a facility by those currently under investigation by the Chicago Tribune for abuse and neglect. Is this what we wanted here Sherwin? Interested citizens should re-read the Mayor's points above and contact him directly for answers to their questions. Most of all, I encourage everyone to vote for those truly taking "action" for Morton Grove on April 5.
David Lewis March 30, 2011 at 04:09 PM
Mr. Matz, The two new senior facilities that are coming to Morton Grove will also provide new job opportunities, something the Village would certainly benefit from.
Mark V. Matz March 30, 2011 at 04:24 PM
Thank you Mr. Lewis for pointing out about the job opportunities and the Alzheimer care facility that is being built as well. I noticed a posting today about a Work 'n Gear store moving into Lonore Plaza from their current site in Niles at Harlem & Dempster? Can you share something about that?
sherwin dubren March 30, 2011 at 04:47 PM
Boy, the nerve of me expressing my opinions in our democracy. What is this country coming to? What I said about the garbage tax is that it effectively made residents pay twice for the same service. Formerly, the garbage service was covered by our property taxes and after that removal, we were still paying the same level of property taxes and paying an additional amount directly to Grout to cover the cost. I think even Mr. Matz is capable of figuring that one out, or is he? The property Caucus bought would have made an excellent facility for affordable housing, if Action Party had not opposed it. Action Party was playing politics and did not want any facility that would give credit to the Caucus Party. That facility would have been run by the very experienced Alden Corporation and would have given the area significantly more affordable housing units that the current Essex facility. I urge residents to examine all the 'bragging rights' of the Action Party before giving them your vote. Overall, we have not seen any significant improvements in Morton Grove during their stewardship. It's time to get some independent voices on the village board, instead of their rubber stamp candidates.
Mark V. Matz March 30, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Please let me repeat what I said "We have a wonderful country that allows for vibrant discussions of opposing opinions no matter what that viewpoint is; an important right we all enjoy. But no matter what the Action Party or any of its elected officials undertake on behalf of the Morton Grove, Sherwin will oppose them regardless of how they benefit our community".
Dan Goldberg March 30, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Alden? Is this the same company in the stories from WGN and Chicago Tribune links about abused people dying in their facility? If so, perhaps we are lucky that they did not build a facility here in Morton Grove. http://www.wgntv.com/news/wgntv-state-to-close-nursing-home-mar4,0,498233.story http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-28/news/ct-met-nursing-home-deaths-20110328_1_floyd-schlossberg-alden-village-north-poor-care
David Lewis March 30, 2011 at 07:02 PM
Mr. Matz, The post regarding the Work 'n Gear store leaving Niles and relocating to Lonore Plaza in Morton Grove is correct. We welcome their staff and quality products to our community and encourage Morton Grove residents and business owners to patronize their store as well as other stores in our Village.
sherwin dubren March 30, 2011 at 09:30 PM
And regardless of what I say, Mr. Matz will be there to defend the Action Party. He's so consistent. I think the word 'abused' is a bit of hyperbole used here. I envisage abuse as deliberate subjection of pain and suffering to their residents. What I read is that there may have been negligence in the settings of alarms. These certainly must be difficult patients, so I think it is wrong to condemn their entire operation, based on this. Also, these are two different kinds of facilities. One is for senior residents and the other for juveniles. I am not trying to excuse what Alden did, but we read about much worse things going on in nursing facilities. The problem is wider spread than just Alden. They still have a very good reputation in this area, and I would not hesitate to recommend them.
Jennifer Alvarado March 30, 2011 at 09:48 PM
Sherwin, I´m suprised I haven´t heard anything about the increased cost in vehicle stickers, where our neighbors´ are significantly less costly then ours.
sherwin dubren March 30, 2011 at 11:01 PM
Seems like certain residents did see an increase in the vehicle sticker costs. It is another way the village is trying to extract more money out of us, hoping nobody will notice.
Mark V. Matz March 31, 2011 at 01:57 AM
Once again Mr. Dubren is mis-informed about his information (or is it that he his continuing to provide us with mis-information)? The only TIF money for condos was provided to the Woodlands complex which was sold out and today provides homes to hundred of tax paying residents. In another continuing error, the new senior housing complex by Essex will not be sold at market prices. Why? These are all rental units. This project's TIF assistance was based on data researched by professionals to quantify realistic numbers of who would qualify and use affordable senior housing, from Morton Grove's citizens. Why should our residents pay for housing they wouldn't ever be able to occupy? Perhaps Mr. Dubren can check facts the next time he tries to persuade us? But once again, no matter what the Action Party's elected officials undertake on behalf of Morton Grove, Sherwin will oppose them regardless of how they benefit our community. But that is his privilege.
Mark V. Matz March 31, 2011 at 04:05 AM
Ms. Alvarado, Perhaps one explanation for our stickers being slightly higher than in Skokie, Niles and Glenview might be Old Orchard, Golf Mill and The Glen. Morton Grove is a land-locked community without the economic engines of those major shopping malls generating tax revenue. But we still continue to provide the core services equal to that in any of those communities with our exemplary Fire, Police and Public Works as the costs to maintain the village continue to rise (just as in our own households). It is interesting how some continue to foster an "us" and "them" attitude about our Village Board. Perhaps they should be reminded that they too are all Morton Grove citizens sharing the same neighborhoods and services as we do. I hope this helps serve to answer some of your question.
sherwin dubren March 31, 2011 at 05:04 AM
Boy, Mr. Matz has an excuse for every problem. Now it is our wealthy neighboring suburbs that can keep their vehicle stickers cheaper. Maybe, if the village stopped spending money on fancying up Dempster, we might have some money left for the residents. I don't think their Dempster plan will be a big payback item. Making people go around looking for these off street parking lots is not an improvement. Investing in a multi-million dollar water meter system was not a pressing need. Has the village really tried hard enough to trim the fat out of the village government. I don't think so. I like the Caucus suggestion that the trustees and mayor give up their salaries. It will never happen while the Action Party has control. It will remain an us or them atmosphere while the village board has an absolute majority of seats on the village board. This is not a representative government, by any means.
Mark V. Matz March 31, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Explain = "make plain or comprehensible" vs. Excuse = "apologize for for an act causing offense". These definitions are the fundamental difference between Mr. Dubren's outlook and mine. I provide information and sources to research questions posed. My counterpart prefers a confrontational approach, that is his privilege. So to offer explanations and not excuses - our wealthier neighbors do have larger income streams to support their core services, so keeping stickers lower is easier to accomplish. Mr. Dubren's "thinking" Dempster won't be a success? Personally I prefer the opinions of professionals who's job it is to propose, plan and execute these projects. The need and economic benefit for new water meters was made clear in previous responses. Mr. Dubren should review these or contact the village directly for answers as anyone can do. As for trimming the fat, one has only to actually look at the budget or have attended/watched any of the budget hearings to know the figures. It's interesting that Sherwin didn't mention that while the Caucus Party was in power, they didn't object to accepting their small stipend? But some did accept larger sums of taxpayer money while working for Niles Township (and some still do). Forgive me if you've heard this; no matter what the Action Party or any of its elected officials undertake on behalf of the Morton Grove, Sherwin will oppose them regardless of how they benefit our community.
sherwin dubren March 31, 2011 at 06:10 PM
What Mr. Matz provides is excuses for the failures of the Action Party. The benefit I offer to the community is to overcome the propaganda and fluff that the Action Party continues to push on us. The so called experts that have our village in their hands are not always right. We paid millions to S. B. Friedman to advise us on the Leheigh Ferris TIF and it is still screwed up. What we see are big empty lots and unsold condos. I don't think this can all be explained by the bad economy. The last thing Mr. Matz wants to do is rock the boat. Thus, pointing out problems in the village he considers confrontational, while he lulls us complancency with his 'explanations'.
Mark V. Matz March 31, 2011 at 06:45 PM
No matter what the Action Party (or any of its elected officials) undertake on behalf of Morton Grove, Mr. Sherwin Dubren will oppose them regardless of how they benefit our community (and label any success a failure or disavow any opinion from any source that does not support his often weightless musings). May I ask what empty lots and unsold condos are being referred to specifically? I can point to one empty lot; the old Domicile property which was overpaid for by double costing the village a million dollars above market during Caucus' administration and to a company that did not relocate in our village. BTW, I wrote about Sherwin's style as being confrontational.
sherwin dubren March 31, 2011 at 11:55 PM
The lots I was refering to are easily visible from Dempster Street. It includes the site of the former Maxwell's and another restaurant that was just south of it. The reason the deal did not go through on the Domicile property was that it was never pursued once the Action Party took over. It was another case of the Action Party playing politics and turning away a truely dedicated facility for affordable senior housing. If my style is to reveal problems with Morton Grove, you can call it confrontational. I am not just trying to score points, but pointing out what the Action Party is not telling the residents. They can only point to a few questionable successes during their term, but the underlying realities are never mentioned, certainly not by Mr. Matz. I am very suspicious of people like him, who want us to believe everything is rosy and in their capable hands. That's the Action Party style and he defends them religiously.
sherwin dubren April 01, 2011 at 06:07 AM
Gee Pat. Thanks for the medical diagnosis. Do you accept medicare assignment? The facts are that you are not a supporter of affordable housing. I explained about Alden, but maybe you are not bothering to read previous postings. Alden could have brought the region over 80 senior affordable units. The Action Party killed that deal by stalling the voting and eventually letting it die out. This Action Party was ready to close down the Senior Center completely until someone showed up to throw them a lifeline. For them, the seniors are the first to be sacrificed. Both you and Mr. Matz need to go back and look at the history of this village. Action Party had neglected to keep up the payments on the police and fire pension funds for many years, trying to keep property taxes low and get re-elected. I sat in on the budget meetings at that time, and even some of the Action trustees thought that situation needed correcting. I know your motivations are more directed against Krier than any considerations about the health of this village, so your opinions are of no surprise.
Pat Craig April 01, 2011 at 11:39 AM
Sherwin, shame on you! Over the past yeas I have been involved in civic affairs in Morton Grove I have spoken truth to power no matter what crew happens to hold the power. A fact you were well aware of when we worked together during the campaigns of 2002 and 2004. I am well aware of the history of Morton Grove and the missteps and folly of politicians on all sides. Unlike you, I back my actions and opinions on fact and logic. I am not a doctor, I don't play one on television nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but if I did I would suggest that perhaps you re in need of a Cholinesterase inhibitor.

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