- Feb 20, 2017
Voters will head to the polls on April 4 to vote for open positions on the Village of Northbrook Board of Trustees. This year four candidates are running to fill three open Village Trustee seats currently held by Kathryn Ciesla, Mike Scolaro and Todd Heller. Trustees Scolaro and Heller are not seeking re-election.
The candidates include three candidates endorsed by the Northbrook Caucus: Kathryn Ciesla (incumbent), Muriel Collison, a member of the Northbrook Plan Commission, and Jason Han, a member of the Community Relations Commission; and independent candidate Scott Bush, a Northbrook firefighter and President of Bush Home Guardian Services. Current Village President Sandra Frum and Village Clerk Debra Ford, both endorsed by the Northbrook Caucus, are running unopposed.
For this article, candidates were asked to identify their expertise, to list their priorities on issues facing the community, and comment on their vision for the 125 acre Green Acres Country Club, the largest parcel of land to become available in Northbrook in over 30 years.
Kathryn Ciesla (Incumbent, Caucus Candidate)
An attorney with Ciesla/Bieler, Northfield, Kathryn was first elected to the Village board in 2009. She is a Northbrook native, the parent of two daughters and resides in East Northbrook.
Capitalizing on her eight years experience as a Village Trustee, her intimate knowledge of the Village’s finances and deep understanding of the issues at the forefront of the Village are the cornerstone of Kathryn Ciesla’s campaign. “Eight years ago, I ran on a campaign of transparency,” she comments. With many new systems in place that helped her achieve that goal “now my focus is finances, and continuing to provide fiscal leadership on the Administration and Finance Committee,” she adds. With the everchanging economy, maintaining sales and tax revenues are increasingly important.
Ciesla has worked to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the Village’s finances, operations and potential legislation in Springfield which could impact Northbrook’s fiscal interests. “We need to protect our revenue sources,” she adds. If re-elected she will ask that the Village President appoint her as Chair of the Administration and Finance Committee, one of the Village’s most important and powerful committees.
Ciesla lists facility and infrastructure improvements among her highest priorities. The Village is required to provide vital services in outdated facilities she points out. For example, the fleet maintenance garage, built more than 60 years ago, is ill equipped to accommodate the Village’s larger fire equipment. The Police Department jail and interrogation rooms are in desperate need of modernization. “These critical items are expensive, but we need to address them,” she states.
Downtown development, parking and streetscape improvements are also on Ceisla’s list of priorities.
Ciesla indicates she is open to considering any development proposals for the Green Acres site, but remains cognizant that re-zoning it to allow for development would significantly impact traffic, emergency services, storm water management and area neighborhoods. With a desire to protect green spaces, she envisions a development similar to Stonegate that includes reserved land for parks.
Muriel Collison (Caucus Candidate)
A principal of Collison Law Offices in Chicago, Muriel was appointed to the Northbrook Plan Commission in 2013. She is a lifelong Northbrook resident and parent of three children residing in Central Northbrook.
With her professional expertise in the field of Worker’s Compensation, her discipline as a trial attorney and her invaluable experience learning about the process of development as a Northbrook Plan Commissioner, Muriel hopes to continue to work to better Northbrook as a Village Trustee. Collison cites her skills as an attorney and managing her busy law firm as providing a foundation for tackling important Village issues.
A fourth-generation resident, “I want Northbrook to never lose its small town feel,” she states. Among her priorities is Northbrook’s downtown. A firm believer in bringing density to the downtown, Collison points to the Jacobs townhome project on Shermer as critical to supporting existing businesses and attracting new businesses. “I also believe if the Village expresses what we would like to have built in the downtown district, it may encourage development.” However, she would address the appearance of the downtown and how to make it more lively. Collison would consider limiting the percentage of non-retail businesses on the first floor of any building downtown. “The Village does not get sales taxes from businesses such as real estate offices, and new businesses that want to come to Northbrook have limited options,” she points out.
She is also concerned about downtown parking and has met with area businesses to discuss options. She cites a study showing that the fees charged for the Metra lot are the least expensive of any on the North Shore. Increasing the daily fee could bring additional dollars into the Village.
Any proposed development for Green Acres would need to take into consideration the impact on neighbors, schools and traffic, she states. She would look favorably toward an age restricted community.
Collison is also very passionate about Northbrook seniors and would like to look at initiatives to help seniors age in place.
Jason Han (Caucus Candidate)
Owner of a law firm in downtown Chicago focusing on employee rights, Jason has been a resident of Northbrook for 7 of the last 14 years. He has been a member of the Northbrook Community Relations Commission since 2015 and resides in Southeast Northbrook.
As a newer, younger resident of Northbrook, Jason hopes to bring diversity to the Village Board, to continue the wise stewardship of the Village leaders before him, and to be a bridge-builder between generations and newer Northbrook residents.
Citing statistics that 20% of Northbrook’s population is Asian, with the bulk of those Korean-American like him, Han believes that he would bring an inclusive perspective to the Village Board. For those Korean American residents, “I would help them connect to Village government by being someone who has their ear and shares their viewpoints and experience.”
Han cites his experience as a photojournalist for five years with the Pioneer Press and his current work as a litigation attorney with providing him a unique perspective. As an advocate for sustainability, outreach and affordable housing, he would also support more environmental initiatives, particularly related to development. “We can do more to promote vetted, dense growth to encourage livable spaces and sustainable small business ownership,” he notes.
Northbrook’s most pressing issues include maintaining its excellent water system and its infrastructure. Sustaining the current level of service while keeping costs low will be a priority, he adds. Challenges include the ongoing dysfunction in state government and slowing retail sales. Balancing the needs and serving the interests of the older residents, while attracting newer, younger families into the community will be another important priority. “I believe the board can serve both populations by encouraging our commissions and residents to figure out a way to integrate the two,” he states.
Long an admirer of Northbrook’s downtown, he would caution against any development that would jeopardize any sense of community.
Ideally, Han would like to preserve as much open space as possible on the Green Acres site. He would like to see a nature park, nature center or some recreational use on the site. Should that not be possible, he would work with any developer to encourage more open space.
Han notes that he has a deep respect for the role of Trustee and would strive for openness and transparency if elected.
Scott Bush (Independent Candidate)
A Northbrook firefighter/paramedic, Bush is also the owner of Bush Home Guardian Services and is responsible for the daily management of family owned A.D. Bush Concrete Construction. A Northbrook native, Bush has lived in Northbrook for 32 years. He is the father of four children and resides in Central Northbrook.
Bush has a strong desire to keep Northbrook a financially stable, family friendly community all while keeping a business-friendly approach. Bush states, “Northbrook is not the same little town I remember as a kid, and I would love to find a way to keep its small town charm.” Bush is increasingly concerned by the number of development projects approved over the past few years and feels like he would bring a fresh perspective to all the challenges that Northbrook will face in the future.
Bush acknowledges that there have been water pressure issues on the west side of town for many years now and feels that we need to make the infrastructure improvements to correct these issues without more tax increases.
With regard to Green Acres, Bush states “Ideally, I would love to see the front 9 of the golf course saved and taken over by the Park District or a private entity, and would love to see the YMCA take over the pool, club house, and tennis courts as well as build a new and updated facility there.” Bush feels the back 60 acres or so could be developed as an Ancient Tree style complex with a semi self-sustainability factor built in.
“I would love to see a more pro-active approach to development and seek out businesses that would mesh well with the fabric of Northbrook,” he says. “It is time for the board to not be so reactive to developers and be more proactive to create a future that would ensure Northbrook continues to thrive and stand apart from other communities.”