Highland Park residents invited to sound off
Highland Park officials listen as Jeff Stern talks about concerns during one of the eight neighborhood meetings being held in various venues around the city. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Residents will have an opportunity to share their concerns with representatives of the city and other governments during one of four remaining neighborhood meetings, all in Highland Park.
Meetings have been scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, at Ravinia Elementary School, 763 Dean Ave.; 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16, at the Ravines condominium complex in the Fort Sheridan neighborhood, 3535 Patten Road; 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Highland Park Library, 494 Laurel Ave.; and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Sherwood School, 1900 Stratford Road.
Updated: October 12, 2012 3:26PM
HIGHLAND PARK — Officials of Highland Park have invited citizens to air any questions or beefs they have concerning local government during a series of neighborhood meetings.
The most often-heard complaint so far? Bad driving behavior.
During a neighborhood meeting last week, one of eight planned across the city, resident Susan Schwartz lamented that too few drivers actually yield to pedestrians, though state law requires it.
She spoke of the prevalence of cell phone use by drivers, and suggested the community embrace a campaign soliciting signed pledges from drivers that they won’t text while driving. Such a campaign ideally would be spearheaded by high school students.
“I can’t tell you how many times a day I am walking and I see a driver using the phone,” she said. “Everyone is in a hurry, even if they are a block away from where they are going,” she said.
City officials have been getting an earful about bad driving behavior in Highland Park while conducting a series of neighborhood meetings across the city.
“I hear a lot about (cell phone use while driving), although our law prohibits use of hand-held cell phones,” said council member Anthony Blumberg. He’s also heard lots of complaints about illegal U-turns, rolling stops at stop signs and sharp left turns across traffic to enter a parking space.
The Highland Park Police Department stepped up enforcement of those violations during the weekend of the Taste of Highland Park and the Port Clinton Art Festival in August due to the high volume of pedestrians and bicyclists in the downtown area.
“Everybody is aware of the law, but tends to operate as if it does not apply to them,” he said.
One man in attendance said the cell phone conversation itself is distracting, even if the driver is using a hands-free device.
Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering said driving behavior is a concern citizens have been raising now for some time. She noted that City Manager David Knapp, newly hired from California, has been brushed by vehicles on three occasions while crossing the street in downtown Highland Park.
Council member Paul Frank said a statewide ban on the use of handheld cell phones would be preferable to piecemeal, local legislation. “The more towns taht enforce this, the better,” he said. Rotering later noted that State Rep. Karen May, D-58, who is leaving office in January, has introduced legislation calling for a statewide ban without success.
The casual exchange marked the third in a series of neighborhood meetings planned by the City of Highland Park. School, park district, township and county representatives also have been in attendance as well as legislative representatives.
“We want to bring the opportunity for people to participate in government to their neighborhoods,” said Rotering, noting the residents in attendance decide what issues they wish to bring up.
During the Oct. 3 meeting, resident Ian Ianokov suggested closing sections of downtown to motor traffic and creating a pedestrian mall, which would encourage more foot traffic and promote a healthier, more relaxed lifestyle.
Council members also have been fanning out into the community in pairs to lend an ear to residents about city budget issues.
“They ring doorbells, see who is home, and who wants to tell (the city) about their budget concerns,” said Rotering. “Again, it is recognizing that people are busy, but do want to have some say in what is going on. These are decisions that affect them.”