Candidates for the Lake County Board may face an identity crisis, but there is no lack of issues for them to debate.
Many people may not really know or understand the role of the Lake County Board, but three Democratic and two Republican candidates for District 13, which encompasses Lake Bluff, Gages Lake, Wildwood and parts of Gurnee, North Chicago and Waukegan, will be on the March 20 primary ballot.
The Democratic candidates include:
Robert Glueckert: A 30-year resident of Lake County. He is running for office for the first time. Is a private business owner. Lives in the furthest western part of District 13. He is looking to reduce taxes and bring in new business.
Anthony Soler: He bills himself as not a career politician. he has never run for an office and never held one. He has lived in Lake County most of his life. His is a Navy veteran and a Navy deep sea diver. He has worked as a firefighter/paramedic for the Waukegan Fire Department since 1997. He is stepping forward to offer voters a different choice than your typical cookie cutter politician.
Sandy Hart:The :ake Bluff resident will bring a strong background in community service and business. She worked at Kraft Foods for 14 years and oversaw a $4 million budget. She currently serves on the Lake Bluff Park District board and the Lake Forest Hospital women's board. She has three priorities: strengthening the business community and growing the job market; financial accountability and transparency, and preservation of open space policies.
The Republican candidates include:
Rick Lesser: The Lake Bluff resident is a small businessman and attorney. Lesser has been involved as a community leader for many years. He served as a trustee on the Lake Bluff Village board for the last eight years. Lesser has been president of six different organizations, including the Lake County Bar Association and Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Chamber of Commerce. He views government as a partner with business.
David Barkhausen: The Lake Bluff resident cites his strong record of accomplishment in holding prior public offices. He spent 16 years in the State legislature, 1981-1997. He served the Lake Bluff Village Board for eight years, six years as its finance chairman, and has bdeen Shields Township Clerk since 2005. He is familiar with all of the areas in District 13 since he represented it for at least 10 of the 16 years he was in the legislature.
The five candidates answered questions in the Feb. 19 candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters-Lake Forest/Lake Bluff Area (LWV) and Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Patch at Lake Bluff Elementary School. The questions were drawn from the LWV, Patch and audience members. Here is a cross-section of those questions and their responses.
- What should be done about Route 53, should it be extended and how would it be funded?
"The only way to fund Route 53 is through the Illinois Tollway Authority. That is the only agency with the funds and ability to get the job done. The road needs to be built. We have a daughter at the University of Iowa. When we drive on Interstate 88, you see lots of new buildings, lots of businesses operating there. We would have a similar development in Lake County if we could only build Route 53. Now the County Board cannot do that in itself. The county needs to continue to lobby the Illinois Tollway Authority and Springfield to get the road built. They have done a referendum and it showed great support."
"I am in favor of building the extension. 76 percent of voters voted yes for Highway 53. The Illinois Tollway Commission did form a group to ensure the highway is built in a way that relieves congestion and improves mobiilty. It does have to make sure it does not impact neighboring communities, the wetlands in the area and there are some organic farms that are right near that roadway. In terms of paying for it, I agree with Mr. Lesser that it has to be done through the Illinois Tollway Authority. But it will be expensive. Approxiamtely $2.2 billion, and additional land that needs to be purchased. I understand only 70 percent of the land has been purchased."
"This has been an issjue for 40 years. I voted for it when I was in the state legislature. There is currently a so-called Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee made up of county, building and environmental representatives under the Illinois Tollway Authority. They have five different alternative designs. So this is an ongoing issue, and those of us running for office and possibly getting elected need to be cognizant of what is being done and help to advance their work."
"I am in favor of Route 53 and the Illinois Tollway Authority essentially providing the funds. We can keep trying to bring down taxes and bring down the rate, but at same time, we need to bring new business here. One of the core basics that government brings to its residents is infrastructure, and one of those is improving the existing highway system."
"Route 53 needs to be built with Illinois Tollway Authority funds. It will take cars off the existing roads that we are using right now. There is no other way to go north and south but Interstate 94 and Route 41. When Route 53 is built, there will be some relief. The Lake County Board has little or no impact on that; all we can do is put pressure on the people who make those decisions.
- What should be done with the Fort Sheridan Golf Course. Should a golf course be built, and how would it be funded.
"Not in favor of it. While there is a concern about liability or lawsuits that may come about as a result of that, whether it’s from individual homeowners or the government that has deeded the property to us, I don’t think we will lose that property. I don’t think the Army is going to take it back. To add a golf course to that property at this particular time would turn around not only lessen the amount of business going to the three county courses that are being subsided and effect private courses as well. We should turn the property into a forest preserve area."
"The deed says the property shall be a golf course and recreational open space in accordance with the Ft. Sheridan Joint Planning Commission Concept Plan dated in September of 1994. So I went back and looked it up. That is an 18-hole golf course that they jointly agreed it should be. This is legally binding. This land was given to Lake County for free. The county was willing to pay $10 million for it and it’s valued at well over $50 million. We need to find a way to bid it out. If you look at it as a $50 million piece of property for free to the county, we need to find a way to build it."
"The number of rounds of golf played every year in this area have been consistently dropping over the past decade. The golf course makes absolutely no sense as a practical matter. The county did promise to do this. But like a lot of promises that are made if they can’t be kept, then people should be compensated for that. I don’t think the Army wants the land back. I don’t think they will take it back. The people who bought homes there, their homes are not worth any less for not having the golf course and instead having open lands there. The property is worth the same thing. They are not being harmed by this. I think it should not be built. It would be bad for the other county golf courses, the Lake Bluff Golf Course, Lake Forest’s Deerpath and Highland Park’s Sun Valley golf courses."
"I was selected to participate in the Ft. Sheridan Advisory Committee. I already voted against putting a golf course there. I do feel for the homeowners that live there, and I will say it was not 100 percent of the homeowners that wanted a golf course. But for those who did purchase their land hoping that would be the case, they did not lose any value. In fact, research shows open space can actually add more value to an area home than a golf course. Most importantly to me, I believe that land is invaluable and unique. It is 258 acres of land right on Lake Michigan. It adds incredible value to the residents and visitors of Lake County."
"I agree with three of the four prior speakers. I have been on record opposing the golf course and have been active lobbying Lake County board members to oppose it."
- How would you ensure that the zoning, road maintenance and similar needs of unincorporated areas are met?
"The county controls the zoning in the unincorporated areas. Our district includes a large area of unincorporated Lake County, particularly in the Gages Lake/Wildwood areas. It’s critical to update our zoning code. It’s the Unified Development Ordinance. It reads like it’s written in the 1950s as far as classifications of businesses. It forces businesses new uses to come in on bended knee to ask for special use permits rather than give them good classifications so a business can know, 'Yes, I have the right to operate my business in this area'. We have too few classifications and too antiquated classifications. We need to bring the UDO code into the 21st century. If we did that, we would find a lot of our businesses would expand and operate and we would have new businesses operating in area like Gages Lake."
"The more we can work with area businesses, whether they are in a municipality or in an unincorporated area, that’s very critical. Mr. Lesser brought up an excellent point that we should always be reviewing the rules and regulations that either help or hinder businesses from coming to the county. The unincorporated area is an excellent area for opportunities for business. We need to do everything possible to bring more businesses to Lake County and retain them."
"The significant unincorporated areas that we seek to represent, The Arden Shore subdivisions just north of Lake Bluff and the very large areas in Wildwood and Gages Lake are really completely residential. The issues we need to be mindful of are adequate law enforcement, putting an emphasis on patrolling by the sheriff’s office; enforce the nuisance ordinance - the creative new way to handle nuisance complaints through an administrative procedure rather than requiring people to go to court. Implement it so it truly serves the residents there; assist with creation and operation of neighborhood watch programs through cooperation with the sheriff’s office – and water supply – as a legislator I helped to create the Central Lake County Water District that extended Lake Michigan water to Lake Bluff for the first time and to the unincorporated areas."
"I live in one of the unincorporated areas on the far west end of the 13th District. I live just on the north side of Route 120 where it narrows down to 2 lanes. I experience on a daily basis a half hour to a 45-minute wait between the light at Hunt Club and Route 120, and that first light on Mill Street after Route 120 is narrowed to 2 lanes. I sympathize with the people in Woodland Meadows, which is the subdivision just north of there, that is now receiving traffic off of Hunt Club Road, cutting through that subdivision to get over to Mill Street to avoid that 20-30 minute backup. One of my first priorities to see where and whom we talk to in the state to get that issue resolved."
"That whole corridor on 120 going west from Almond Road is a bottleneck. It needs to be four lanes. It’s not fair to everyone who lives west of there. It’s the very farthest west point of District 13. Needs to be addressed immediately. On a county level, there should be less red tape. If someone wants to get a building permit, it doesn’t need to take as long as it does. We still need to follow rules and regulations and do things safety. But when government gets too big, so prohibitive to do building and business in he county, why would anyone want to do that."
- What should be done with Winchester House, close it, repair it or build a new one?
"We need to be looking to the future. Right now, we may believe there are enough beds at other nursing homes. With projections of baby boomers retiring and needing care, we need to make sure we have enough beds for them. Those other private facilities will be filling up with people who can pay a little more than our Medicaid patients. I am in favor of keeping it."
"I believe the evidence shows and the prior leadership of the Lake County Health Department even though it was muted at the time, believes that the capacity in private nursing homes is adequate for the population generally and particularly Medicaid dependent patients. I question whether the taxpayers should have to spend $40 million on a brand new facility under those circumstances. And I don’t think there is another candidate in the race that is taking that position."
"I support building a new Winchester House, and I support the County board’s decision to hire an outside contractor to provide the services there."
"I think we need to take care of our elderly community. It’s a fact that Lake County and America is getting older. As a paramedic, I go into these private nursing homes. You are comparing apples to oranges when it comes to Winchester House. The Lake County Board voted 21-1 to build it. The money is there."
"Winchester House has been providing care since 1947 for our community. I think it is an important part of the community. It is self funding. It has not been costing the taxpayers money. There are just not enough Medicaid beds in this county. Until that happens, I would not want to see, especially in this recession, elderly people thrown out with nowhere to go. As long as it can be kept self-funding, then we should keep it."