for Wilmette Village Trustee
Thank you for your support on
Election Day, April 6th
Vote early at the Centennial Ice Rink
from March 22 to April 5
I’m honored to have served our Village for two years as a Trustee and am eager to continue to contribute. This has been a very challenging year for us all, including our local government and the Board. I’m extraordinarily proud of what the Board has accomplished, however, much remains to be done. The experience and judgment of our Board will be critical to our future success.
I’ve served on the Village Board since 2019 and prior to that, on our Plan and Transportation Commissions for a total of ten years. We’ve lived in Wilmette for almost four decades and our three children all attended the District 39 schools and New Trier. Three of our grandchildren live and go to school in Wilmette (Harper and the Wilmette Community Nursery School) and one daughter is a special ed teacher at Romona. Besides my Village service, I’m also on the Board and a former Treasurer of The Family Service Center, a Wilmette-based counseling organization. I’m Of Counsel to a downtown law firm, where I was the Chair of its banking and finance practice. My wife, Amy, has been a long-time Adult Services librarian at the Wilmette Public Library and now plans and presents remote author events, including the Library’s One Book, Everybody Reads program.
Our Board’s Accomplishments
Much was accomplished by the Board during the past year, to name but a few:
Starting in the spring, we reviewed detailed financial models, tracking Village expenses and revenues including projections for recovery, so we could measure the economic effect of the pandemic monthly and adjust spending as needed.
Working collaboratively with the downtown merchants, we authorized the Central Avenue Reconstruction Project for which the Village received more than $5 million of grant funding to provide needed infrastructure and streetscape improvements to our downtown.
Control Over Development
Pending a detailed review as part of the recently-commenced Comprehensive Plan revision, we adopted a new zoning ordinance to require all downtown developments to go through the Planned Unit Development process, thereby ensuring proper vetting and input from the community, staff, and the Board.
Expense Reduction and Support for our Businesses
In response to the pandemic, we reduced Village expenses by $2 million by holding open vacant positions, reducing operating costs, deferring capital spending, etc., and also created three business assistance programs providing almost $500,000 to local Wilmette businesses, including our restaurants.
The Village will soon receive a $1.6 million payment from Optima earmarked for affordable housing. We’ll work with Community Partners for Affordable Housing to develop a self-sustaining program that works for all and our new Housing Commission will contribute directly to our review of the Village’s Affordable Housing Plan and advise on all aspects of our housing program. Never in the history of the Village has there been such funding and commitment to real results for affordable housing!
Boards and Commissions
Most recently, we undertook a detailed review of all our Boards and Commissions, resulting in the reinvigoration of the Housing and Human Relations Commissions, with strong membership, new and expanded missions and purposes, and greater transparency in the Board recruitment and selection process. These two Commissions will contribute significantly to making Wilmette an open and welcoming community.
With careful financial planning, we moved forward with the Neighborhood Storage Improvement Project, successfully completed construction at the Community Playfield on time and within budget and authorized construction at Hibbard Park, to begin this winter and spring. This project is below budget and once completed, will provide significant flood protection to 98% of the homes west of Ridge Road.
Aaa Bond Rating
The Village’s strong financial position allowed us to maintain our Aaa Moody’s bond rating, resulting in significantly lower financing costs for two bond issuances. Moody’s cited the Village’s management and detailed monthly analysis of the COVID-19 impact for its very favorable rating.
While there were many successes over the past year, significant challenges remain:
Covid-19 in 2021
COVID-19 will continue to adversely affect Village revenues in 2021, especially sales tax and permits. Some of this may be addressed by conservative budgeting, but we’ll need to adjust our priorities and spending as the situation requires. Experience here will make a difference.
Spending for public debt obligations and long-term capital needs for road improvements, storm water storage, water plant improvements and our antiquated police station will require careful, long-term financial planning to keep Wilmette a desirable and affordable community.
Recurring Revenues and
The Village Board will soon consider the Sustainability Plan prepared by the Environmental and Energy Commission. The Plan identifies environmental issues local to Wilmette and includes specific recommendations to address them, including climate, economic development, energy, land use, and municipal operations to name but a few. All the suggested solutions are beneficial and will contribute to a better Wilmette. Our challenge will be to choose what to do and when, which answers give us the greatest “bang for the buck.” We’ll need to be both proactive and practical for the greatest success.
We’ll shortly begin the revision of our Comprehensive Plan, the important “blue print” for determining the development and character of our Village for decades to come. Resident involvement through our Boards and Commissions will be essential to creating and preserving what we value in our town.
Recurring revenues such as sales tax, building permits, transfer taxes, etc. have stagnated or declined over the last several years, putting greater pressure on our property taxes. Again, careful budgeting, along with the willingness to address spending as necessary, are required. Economic Development will be essential to address this gap. Our approvals and permit process for new businesses must be as user friendly as possible and the Village’s Business Development Department must continue, and redouble, its efforts to communicate that Wilmette welcomes local business and investment.
Public safety pension funding will cost the Village more than $6 million in 2021 and this amount will increase annually for some time. The Board has adopted a 15-year rolling amortization schedule for the police and fire pensions which will, over time, stabilize our costs, however, ultimately the answer here requires pension reform from Springfield.
Our Future Is Strong
Despite our challenges and the uncertainties of the future, Wilmette remains a wonderful place to live, raise our families and retire. Our strong financial position, bond rating, and reserves allowed us to weather COVID-19 and 2020 without reduction of critical Village services. We began 2021 with operating reserves of almost $13 million, a commitment of over $2.4 million for road repair and maintaining other critical services, a 2021 budget that reflects no increases for sewer and water rates or refuse collection fees, and a reduction of the tax levy. Our storm water fee will increase only modestly, actually below the amount projected. Soon we’ll begin planning the Village’s sesquicentennial - the 150 year anniversary of the Village’s founding, which promises to be celebration of our history, achievements and our future. Stay tuned for that!
Although our strong financial position and our restaurants may be the envy of our neighbors, the real strength of Wilmette lies in the engagement and thoughtfulness of its residents. I sense a renewed appreciation for our neighbors and neighborhoods. Increased interest and participation in Village affairs, service on Boards and Commissions, and actions large and small show a genuine desire to help one another and a shared commitment to keep Wilmette a great place to call our home.
I need your help in this election. You can do so in many ways:
Tell your neighbors and friends of your support for me. Your choice really makes a difference!
Contact me for a yard sign. They will be more important than ever in getting the word out. I’ll be glad to deliver and set one (or more!) up for you.
Hold a Zoom meeting for neighbors and friends. We won’t be having candidate receptions this year, so any opportunity to “meet” more residents will be greatly appreciated.
Please let me know your likes and concerns in the Village, what we’re doing well and what to improve. I welcome your questions and comments. Please contact me at email@example.com.
Follow me on Instagram @peterforwilmette - I’ll share my thoughts about our Village and what’s great about Wilmette!
Vote for me when you can! Early voting begins on Monday, March 22 at the Centennial Ice Rink and Election Day is Tuesday, April 6.
We don’t elect our Trustees by district or geography and if reelected, I pledge to continue to be independent and will continue to serve the interests of the Village as a whole. Collaboration, humility, and an open mind are essential to finding practical, common-sense solutions for our future. I hope to continue to contribute to all that we cherish in Wilmette by serving on our Board for another term.