Meet the Candidate: Les Ottenheimer
This is the third in a series of profiles of the five candidates for the three trustee positions on the Buffalo Grove Village Board. All candidates were sent the same questions. The answers are exactly as they were submitted. Profiles are being presented in alphabetical order. Candidate Andrew Stein’s profile will be posted tomorrow.
How long have you lived in Buffalo Grove?
I have lived in Buffalo Grove for 35 years.
Please provide brief biographical information
Graduated Munster Indiana High School
Graduated Indiana University with BS in Public and Environmental Affairs
Graduated Indiana University School of Law JD
Practicing attorney and principal of Ottenheimer Law Group, LLC located in Buffalo Grove
Married—3 grown children
Are you affiliated with any political party? If so, to what extent are you being supported by that party?
Buffalo Grove municipal elections are nonpartisan and as such I am running as an independent.
What civic activities, if any, have you been involved with?
I served as a Board Member and ultimately the President of the United Way of Wheeling-Buffalo Grove (prior to its merger).
Why are you running for the Village Board?
It has been an honor to serve you as your Village Trustee. I have seen our community grow from a sleepy village to a large Chicago suburb. I am running to represent you because I want to make sure I finished what I started. Municipal Governments impact our constituents for a more frequently and more positively than either State of Federal governments, and secondly our residents can have far more influence at the local level that they ever will and the state and federal level Residents also have more influence over local government. Municipal governments are closest to our constituents. You may me see meeting at local restaurant or shopping in local stores.
They’d see local leaders out in the community and they talk to us. They can directly reach out to express their problems frustrations and positives with the village During my tenure in office I have focused on three areas: Economic Development—Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency Economic Development: The goal of economic development is to enhance the quality of life for the residents of Buffalo Grove.
To accomplish this a process should be developed and implemented that has many facets—including developing goals or objectives for economic growth and developing a plan to create new economic opportunities by attracting creating retaining and expanding jobs and enhancing income and revenue for our community Buffalo Grove recognizes and understands these issues because during my tenure as village trustee the village has developed and implemented a plan to bring jobs and increased income to our village with the goal of improving the standard of living and the quality of life to residents of Buffalo Grove Economic Development: We now have a plan to build a real downtown along the Lake Cook Corridor Woodmans and the Shoppes of buffalo grove —a new retail development which has brought, in addition to Woodmans 7-9 new businesses and 1.5 million in tax revenues to the Village. (43,000 square feet of retail). Redevelopment of Town Center—plans to redevelop the entire town center are evolving Rebuild the Dundee Road Corridor business district—Business have left this part of the community and there are now 2-3 businesses interested in the vacant car dealership lots Infrastructure.
The village has implemented the largest Infrastructure Modernization Capital Improvement project in t village history—175 million. AT NO COST TO TAXPAYERS Business retention program—have significantly increased the industrial tax base by bringing in approximately 3 million in tax revenues —Connexion, Hines, Thermflow Business IT Source. Fiscal Responsibility. Fiscal responsibility is essential to creating a better, stronger, more prosperous Village for now and the next generation. Facing fiscal challenges all help put the village on a path to lasting prosperity and a rise in the standard of living During my tenure as trustee: Reduce property taxes— We were able to freeze the Village portion of property taxes this year and will continue to do so Balanced Budget. Every term since I have been trustee Maintain adequate reserves—especially now with covid—no drop in core services or any increase in taxes—despite pandemic AAA bond Rating Awards for Budgeting and Municipal Finance Programs to help struggling business Outsourcing village services to save money BG Delivers; A new website which is about to be launched which connects all business and residents.
TRANSPARENCY Public officials should ever be mindful of the fact that the money they have to spend on their communities comes directly from their citizens through tax dollars Residents have a right to know how their local officials intend To use their funds The more Buffalo Grove can provide in the way of transparency the more it increases trust honesty and integrity in government The benefit of providing as much information to the public as possible is that it gives them an opportunity to think about decisions the board has made and provided valuable feedback to them.
Accomplishments: Creation of a Citizens Engagement committee Institution of E news— Development of a Resident academy All board meetings are televised/ live streaming New and improved village website. Easier to navigate and many useful links Open door policy.
Have you served on a village committee or commission before? If yes, which one and how long did you serve and in what capacity?
I first became active in Buffalo Grove when I submitted my talent bank application and was selected to serve on the Buffalo Grove Days Committee which I did for 2 years. When an opening became available on the Plan Commission (now known as the Planning and Zoning Commission) I was selected and served on the commission for 15 years, 10 of which I served as it’s chair.
How well do you think the Village has responded to the pandemic? Please explain your answer
The Village responded swiftly and decisively when the Pandemic hit. Village staff mobilized immediately and started ordering hand sanitizer other PPP equipment for the front-line workers and first responder (fire and police). The Village staff, in conjunction with the trustees quickly looked at the 2021 budget to make estimates on losses of revenues and spent weeks readjusting and realigning the budget and setting new priorities. Due to the fact that the Village is fiscally strong, with very adequate reserves, there were no cuts in any core services to residents—fire, police, snow plowing garbage and the like.
What ideas to you have to support businesses in Buffalo Grove that are suffering because of the pandemic?
Businesses have suffered greatly in Buffalo Grove. It is vital to keep our businesses alive and thriving because they provide employment, tax revenue and options for residents. There is a balance which must be struck between helping businesses and maintaining the village’s strong fiscal policy. The village has helped in a small way by reducing liquor license fees and video gaming license fees. The Village has implemented and is about to launch B G Delivers, a web site linking businesses and residents whereby the businesses can promote themselves and the residents will have easy access to all the business in Buffalo Grove.
Which business development plan do you think should be a priority? Lake-Cook Road corridor, Dundee Road, Milwaukee Avenue or the Prairie View concept? Please explain your priorities
The Lake Cook Road Corridor would be the Village's top priority. I view that as the "gateway" to Buffalo Grove. The Village commissioned very in depth study with much public involvement and the plan got very positive reviews--even from the residents and because of the resident's suggestions. The Dundee Road corridor is close to being resolved with new businesses locating on the former car dealership lots and Milwaukee avenue corridor off to a great start. The Village needs to listen to and take the advice of experts to attract the right type of businesses in addition, I have learned that it is the market which drives what businesses come to the Village. Lastly, history has shown that business attracts business--so the more business the Village brings in, the more businesses will follow.
Do you think the village should continue using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to entice economic development?
If done properly an administered appropriately, TIF districts can be very effective. TIFs are based on the diversion of the tax revenue increases, but over time, the redevelopment is expected to result in a more robust tax base for the Village. The tax gains are due to increased value in the property around a development in addition to the potential for job growth and sales tax revenue. TIFs can be instrumental in revitalizing declining areas and help spur new development in areas. Because of the TIF, Buffalo Grove will have an incentive for businesses to locate to Buffalo Grove. The purpose of the current TIF is to spur development along the Lake Cook Road Corridor.
How do you think the village should encourage redevelopment of existing retail areas that are struggling?
With the explosion of businesses in the village —Woodmans and the Shoppes of Buffalo Grove (44,000 square feet of retail) more retail will be attracted to the Village. Business attacks business. And due to the Village’s massive ($175 million) Infrastructure Modernization Capital Project Improvement Project, the new infrastructure will also attract new business. In addition, some of these strip malls are outdated and the village needs to provide incentives to developers to redevelop their properties —including mixed use development. The village must respect the market realities and balance flexibility with long term vision. It is also important to obtain public input such as holding planning meetings with the residents whose input can be very valuable. Further, the market will dictate what comes to the Village. The Village just needs to be on the lookout for possible new businesses, as well as continuing its ongoing efforts to generate new businesses.
Some of our volunteer groups (commissions, committees) have seen shrinking membership. What would you do to engage the community on a broader scale? Do you think the “Engage BG” initiative is an effective program to get residents involved? What would you do to encourage broader demographic participation?
The Village does have a difficult time attacking residents to volunteer their time to the village. As such the creation of the Citizens Engagement Committee was formed. While in its infant stages, if successful more residents will become involved. The Village is becoming more and more diverse and as such the village needs to reach out to each and every demographic and community. The Village needs to provide more social media other than its web site and ED-News. There would be an all-out push by the village to get all involved. Communication is key.
Do you think the Village communicates well with residents? If not, how can it be improved?
When it comes to Village communications with the residents, it is a mixed bag. Some residents applaud how well the Village is doing with its new web site and e-news. Others feel there is not enough information and the information which is delivered needs should be clearer. If re-elected, I will ensure the Village has the most efficient and accurate communication with the residents. I would have at least 2 sets of eyes review all communications before they are released. The renewed website should also be a huge help.