Meet the Candidate: Dave Weidenfeld
Editor's note --This is the ninth in a series of profiles of candidates for Buffalo Grove Village Board positions. Profiles of candidates running for Village President will be posted starting Tuesday. All candidates received the same questionnaire. Their answers appear verbatim without any added editorial comments or interpretation. This is done so readers can read direct answers from each candidate. Profiles will be posted in alphabetical order.
--- Stan Zoller, Content Coordinator, Buffalo Grove News and Information.
Village Board Trustee
How long have you lived in Buffalo Grove?
Please provide brief background information.
I started practicing law in Illinois in 1977. I spent almost five years in the Lake County State’s Attorney’s office, primarily focusing on civil matters and representing various elected officials. I also handled virtually all of the office’s matters in federal Court, including the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Subsequent to that I worked in various roles at McDonald’s Corporation for 24 years, initially managing litigation matters and eventually becoming Managing Counsel for Global Technology acquisitions. After McDonald’s I became the Vice President for Business Management at ACS (subsequently Xerox Business Services), where I managed a staff of approximately 150 people around the world who focused on acquiring technology for internal use and external use for clients.
Have you served on a village committee or commission before? If yes, which one and how long did you serve?
Village Trustee from 2015 to the present.
What other civic activities, if any, have you been involved with?
OMNI Youth Services 1985 to the present. Served on the Board of Directors from 1985 to 1993 and since then on the Board of Ambassadors. Chaired the annual benefit four times. Member of the Remy Bumppo Theater Company Board of Directors for seven years. Served three years as the Board Secretary. Current volunteer at Young at Heart Senior Pet Rescue. Selected as a Guardian for a Vietnam Veteran for a Lake County Honor Flight.
Why are you running for a Village Board position?
I believe that I played a significant part in changing the Village Board from a reactive body to a proactive body that defines goals and needs before making decisions. Bringing Woodman’s to Buffalo Grove is an example of the benefit of this approach. For decades anyone driving along Deerfield Parkway saw a “Coming Soon—Berenesa Plaza” sign and a large vacant piece of property. Instead of continuing to wait, the Board convened a meeting at Woodman’s in Wisconsin and met with Phil Woodman to talk about opening in Buffalo Grove. Mr. Woodman indicated that this was the first time a town had come to meet with him in this manner. When the ground-breaking in Buffalo Grove occurred Mr. Woodman cited the Village’s effort to come to Wisconsin as a factor in his decision to open in Buffalo Grove. I also drove the effort to include real citizen engagement as an integral part of the decision-making process on major Village initiatives. This has translated into hundreds of Buffalo Grove residents participating in drafting the vision and plans for both the Lake Cook Corridor and, more recently, the Prairie View area. I want to do what I can to ensure that these changes become part of the Village’s standard operating approach.
In general, what do you see as the most pressing issues facing Buffalo Grove?
There are a number of critical issues facing Buffalo Grove. The most obvious one is the dire financial situation of the State of Illinois and the impact that it is likely to have on Buffalo Grove and other units of local government throughout the State. The Sate’s ongoing failure to properly fund pension systems places continual pressure on it to divert local revenues to solve its self-created problems. This makes it increasingly difficult for municipalities to maintain infrastructure and provide basic services as they have to divert very large sums just to keep pace with the underfunding of the pensions. The second major issue is the maintenance of the water and sewer infrastructure. For years Buffalo Grove did not charge a sufficient fee for water that would have enabled it to build a reserve to pay for that maintenance. Over the last couple of years, a stormwater management fee has been implemented to begin to build that reserve and water rates now reflect actual costs to the Village.
There has been considerable discussion for years about economic development in the village. What kind of economic development (retail, commercial, industrial) do you think should be a priority and why?
As I’ve said numerous times, economic development encompasses everything contributes to the overall economic health and well-being of Buffalo Grove. Given that, I do not believe that any one approach (retail vs. commercial vs. industrial) should be prioritized over another because they are all essential to Buffalo’s Grove’s economic health. Instead, we should look at all of them on an ongoing basis and plan on growing all of them. These efforts will likely bear fruit at different times, but that does not mean we should lose focus on those areas that take longer. As various efforts come to fruition (Woodman’s, various new tenants in the Industrial area, development south of Woodman’s) they will by necessity receive more immediate attention to ensure that they get completed and succeed. At the same time, we have to keep up efforts in other parts of the Village to do what we can to help those areas grow and succeed.
Which business development plan do you think should be a priority? Lake-Cook Road corridor, Dundee Road, Milwaukee Avenue or the Prairie View concept?
The four examples cited will likely proceed at different paces. The Village has sufficient staff to focus on each one of them in the timeframe that is needed, so I do not believe that any of them should be ignored because another area has a more immediate need. For example, the Village has just begun the process of updating its Comprehensive Plan. As part of that effort specific focus will directed toward both the Dundee Road and Milwaukee Avenue sub-areas. The process will include significant opportunity for the community to participate and contribute to the end result. While the process does not preclude redevelopment from occurring prior to the completion of the process (such as is occurring in the area on Milwaukee Avenue adjacent to Woodman’s) it is essential to the success of the Comprehensive Plan process that the Village not decide on a final overall strategy before all the facts and data are in. In regard to Lake Cook and Prairie View, those plans are either complete or on the verge of being finalized so more immediate attention is needed. Some progress has already been made on the Lake Cook Corridor with the planned redevelopment of the NCH property on Lake Cook between 83 and Weiland. The Prairie View concept looks to be the smallest in scale so it may produce more immediate results.
How do you think the village should encourage redevelopment of existing retail areas that are struggling?
Updating the Comprehensive Plan will provide some direction. We learned a lot from the Lake Cook study that is applicable across the entire Village. The Village was basically built as developments and strip malls, and what we learned in the Lake Cook process told us that strip malls have a tendency to place the actual business so far from the road (literally separated from the road by a sea of parking spaces) that the business itself has limited visibility and is thus less able to attract customers. A lot of research was provided by our commercial real estate experts that we can use to work with local commercial/retail property owners (some of whom were involved in drafting the Lake Cook Corridor Plan by serving on the Steering Committee for the effort) to make sure that they can take advantage of that information.
Should the village limit development to preserve green space?
I think the preservation of green space is essential to maintaining the quality of life in Buffalo Grove. It so important to recognize that the Village’s ownership of green space is primarily limited to the two golf courses, both of which serve multiple purposes. In addition to providing visible green amongst housing and commercial areas, they provide recreational opportunities for residents and also attract visitors from outside of Buffalo Grove and importantly serve as flood control and/or water diversion areas. Anyone who has ever played golf at Arboretum has noticed that errant shots have an annoying tendency to roll right into the creeks that flow through most of it. That tendency also directs storm water away from the homes in the area of the course and into the same creeks. Likewise, at Buffalo Grove Golf Course heavy rains tend to produce a phenomenon commonly referred to as “Lake Buffalo Grove”. This again keeps water in an area that can absorb it or allow it to eventually flow into Buffalo Creek instead of ending up in the surrounding homes’ basements.
Some of our volunteer groups (commissions, committees) have seen shrinking membership. What would you do to engage the community on a broader scale? What would you do to encourage broader demographic participation?
There is no doubt in my mind that we have to do more to reach out to the community to broaden the membership on committees and commissions. The Board recognized this and made increased community engagement one of its goals for this year. Community Engagement itself means that the Village will develop and maintain connections to all segments of the community. Those connections will be the starting point for how we can build committee and commission membership to more closely resemble the community and provide everyone in the community with a sense of ownership of the overall health and wellbeing of the community.
There is a proposal to add a "Community Engagement Director" to the village staff. Do you think it is needed? Explain why or why not.
The Village has already adopted a goal of improving community engagement. The real question is how. There are two approaches that the Board is still debating. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Hiring an additional person provides the benefit of retaining knowledge and having someone dedicated to creating and maintaining relationships that are created. It also reduces the budget for projects within the Village that require community engagement to be successful. On the downside, a staff position is added, with all of the short- and long-term costs associated with doing that. Village staff has indicated that there is inadequate existing staff time available to manage this function. The alternative is to manage community engagement via consultants, to be done as projects come along that require community engagement. No long-term position is created and none of the short- and long-term costs associated with doing that are incurred. The downside to this approach is the difficulty in maintaining the knowledge and the relationships that may be created. It also means that given the existing staff limitations it will be difficult to achieve all of the defined tasks that are a part of community engagement. I do not believe that we can be successful by continuing to engage consultants to achieve our goals. We either need to rearrange staff workloads or hire someone. That decision needs to be made soon because I do believe that improved community engagement is essential.
Do you think the Village communicates well with residents? If not, how can it be improved?
I think that the Village is currently using every available avenue to communicate with residents, from mailing the Village News to everyone and also sending e-copies to anyone who asks for it, to post on social media, from Facebook to Nextdoor, to forwarding information to local groups such as the Chamber of Commerce for them to publicize. This approach also applies to every project of significance such as the Lake Cook Corridor Study and the Prairie View study and will be utilized in the Comprehensive Plan update process. Given the large turnout at the various sessions for Lake Cook and Prairie View this approach was successful. If other communications vehicles become available, we need to pursue them.
Final thoughts -- Add any information or comments about your candidacy.
I believe that I’ve been a significant contributor in changing how the Village does business in terms of being proactive instead of reactive in the area of economic development. I also believe that I have contributed greatly to the inclusion of substantial community engagement as part of the decision-making process on projects that will create the future of Buffalo Grove.
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