Long-time Wilmette resident Robin Baugher that she woud drop out of the upcoming Park District Board electoral race. Baugher had previously served two-terms as a commissioner for the board from 1987 to 1995, and decided this time around she'd rather focus on her position with the Lakefront Commission.
Aside from giving "new blood" candidates a chance to reinvigorate the board, Baugher listed numerous concerns regarding lakefront development that led to her withdrawal. Check out the candid conversation she had with Patch and feel free to weigh in on the lakefront issues in the comments below.
Patch: When did you decide to withdraw from the race and why?
Robin Baugher: One of the things that is the most important to me is to get put new voices on the board. That’s where I was at the beginning of this—I wanted to get new blood on the board, and was concerned that all the blood on the board was male. I did know that two of the incumbents were running again and two would not be running. I really wanted to see new blood on the board and I definitely wanted a woman on the board.
What puzzled me was that the park board didn’t have a representative on it from the Lakefront Commission, but I now think that may be a good idea. A board member who is also on the commission might impact the balance of views, it might have a chilling effect on the Lakefront Commission.
Patch: What will new people bring to the board?
Robin Baugher: A woman’s voice, and a young woman who has kids in the program. I think most of the men now are definitely older than Shelley Sheley. Gary Benz doesn’t have kids in the system right now, but he’s a very interesting and creative person. He comes from a financial background. He’s going to bring an unusual creative side to the board. Sheley has kids that are in just about everything that the park district does. She’s a quintessential soccer mom and she’s going to be great. The two new people are going to add new dimensions the board that’s been missing the past four years.
Patch: How has Wilmette changed in the years that you served the community?
Robin Baugher: The budget of the Park District has almost doubled since I left. It was around $12 to $13 million, and now it’s around $23 million. That’s amazing.
I believe the fee for service is like two-thirds of the budgets. The park district runs these programs that are so popular that they pay for themselves, and that’s incredible. The parks are second only to the schools in terms of a draw to move to Wilmette.
Patch: What do you hope to accomplish now that you can focus solely on the Lake Front Commission?
Robin Baugher: I’m hoping to be a source of information and a conduit for Wilmette residents’ views. I’m hoping to make the lake front plan a viable document that we can use going forward in the future. If you don’t have a comprehensive goal, what potentially could happen is that you get something done and you have to go backwards to fix it. For instance, the sewers in Gilson are in terrible shape. If you’re going rennovate walkways and don’t take care fo the sewers, then you’ve thrown our money way. I’m hoping to help answer a lot of the following questions.
- The Harbor lease (MWRD/Wilmette Harbor Association) is up next year, and MWRD may bid out the management contract. If management of the harbor changes hands, how will this impact an intricate decades-old system of parcelling out scarce boat slips which is sacred on the North Shore?
- Revetments (sunken barges with rip rap at the mouth of the harbor which hold the harbor and most of Gillson parkland in place) may need expensive repairs. We need more information about their condition. And who will pay for the upkeep?
- ADA compliance for beaches and pools in 2012 will get a whole lot stricter, and costs may go up dramatically.
- State of Illinois bureaucrats would like to add a whole new layer of regulation to Lake Michigan beaches (they are exempt from state oversight at present.)
- An international coalition is looking to store water in Michigan and Huron, potentially raising the water level 4" - 17"! How do we plan for rising (and falling) lake levels, sand and bluff erosion which has been largely absent from Wilmette beaches in the last decade?
- The south beach at Gillson remains a challenge: how to protect the stunning lake views for park patrons and control beach access.
- What is a good balance of activities for precious lakefront parkland (organized sports/open, passive green space/picnicking/special gardens/memorial trees/views and vistas)?
- What is Langdon's role in all this?
- Will we maintain the character of the lakefront and refrain from overbuilding and over-accessorizing these parks? Will our long-term plans nurture native species and wildlife, reduce water consumption, and avoid unnecessary paving, fencing, lighting, and non-biodegradable materials?
Baugher's name will remain on the ballot, which was printed before her withdrawal. Stay tuned to Patch for more election 2011 coverage.