After watching the local political fray between the Caucus and the Independents from the sidelines over the past few months, I feel compelled to reach out to you directly as the most recent “yourwinnetka.org” blast forces me to provide clarity on the issue that is facing the future of Winnetka home values. In response to the many friends who have urged me to cut though the verbiage; please take this note in the spirit it is intended as many voters still remain uncertain as to where the six candidates for office of Village Trustee truly stand on the vital issue of redeveloping our downtown business district to meet the needs of the 21st century.
As so many of you know, I have spent the past several years working with our team of highly accredited professionals to bring forth the vision for an enhanced, enlivened, and vibrant downtown with a thorough redevelopment at the corners of Elm and Lincoln streets commonly referred to as One Winnetka. To date, the team has weathered 13 public hearings and a private investment of approximately $14 million.
Whether you’re passionate about the need for a redeveloped and revitalized downtown or not, one should presume that for all their self-proclaimed “experience” that the Caucus Candidates know the difference between a subsidy and an investment:
- The Village of Winnetka is not subsidizing the developer of One Winnetka in any form or fashion; let alone to the tune of $7.8 million. The Village is, however, contemplating making a very significant commitment to the long-term viability of our business district by making an investment in public parking assets being built for commuters and retailers. These are assets the Village will own forever- not the developer. Because it is so desperately needed, we have offered to pay for half the cost. This is hardly the definition of a subsidy! As a local resident who is attracting approximately $80 million of private capital for an investment in our very “tired” downtown, it is highly concerning to idly stand by and watch the continued spreading of mistruths about the size and cost of this public/private joint venture designed to solve the most pressing challenges facing our downtown.
- To draw comparisons between the size of the Village budget and the size of our private investment is a complete political spin. Moreover, given the lack of any factual relevance to such claim, why would this group knowingly misstate that the actual project costs by over $20 million unless there is another agenda? These are not small details that can simply be overlooked. Is this who we really want to trust with a $60 million budget and the current changes facing Winnetka? This leads me to ask why the need to distort the truth? What is the real agenda? The reality is, and as the public record reflects, the majority of Caucus Candidates are not in favor of the proposed redevelopment of Elm and Lincoln Streets. These are not sophomoric and uniformed candidates- they are seasoned Village politicos using an approximate $80 million PRIVATE investment as a vehicle to scare the constituency in order to get elected. We have seen the results of their past tenures. They bring no new ideas or vision to the forefront, only decades-old rhetoric and fear of change.
The officials whom we elect on March 15, 2016 will have a significant role in the economic and social relevance of Winnetka and the revitalization of our downtown. With that, it is critical that we embrace our civic responsibility and listen very carefully to what each candidate is really saying as they spend the 5 days before the election campaigning for our votes.
Here is what I believe to be true about the Independent Candidates:
- The current Independent Slate is experienced and includes candidates who have admirably served our community in the past and have tried to rectify decades of “a failed political process” that has left business owners and residents with inadequate parking, limited retail offerings, and a downtown business district in decline.
- A pedestrian-friendly downtown will bring activity and much needed tax revenue that will keep our property taxes in check. As the towns that surround us continue to upgrade their cultural, retail, and social offerings – Winnetka is falling behind. As property owners and residents who choose to live in Winnetka for its charm, proximity to Chicago and the lakefront, as well as our good schools, we should be supporting Village Trustee Candidates who are committed to increasing Winnetka’s tax base.
While we may not agree on all issues, what should be most important to all of us is the integrity of the elected officials that possess an unflappable commitment to the long-term betterment of our Village. This is our chance to take a stand for the future of Winnetka, while we are all young enough to enjoy it, by voting for the Independent Slate of Candidates for Village Council. The Independent Slate of Candidates is forward-thinking and wants to install a new electoral system that will liberate us from the “old-guard” way of thinking and will allow our Village officials to focus on improving services and fostering economic vitality.
We all love Winnetka. Let’s vote for prosperity. Please pass this along to all voters you feel truly care about Winnetka.
David M. Trandel