Making Democracy Work

State of the Village of Wilmette

State of the Village Dinner 2015

On Thursday, October 15,2015 LWV members and members of the larger Wilmette community came together to hear from Village leaders at the biennial State of the Village dinner. After a buffet dinner catered by The Noodle in Wilmette, each of the six Presidents of the elected government boards in Wilmette spoke.

Bob Bielinski, President of the Village Board, discussed the role of the Village as a "service provider," and focused on municipal services, economic development, and the state of the Village's finances. Mr. Bielinski talked about the difficulties the Village faces with uncertainty in the State's finances, but touted the development the Village has seen in all of its commercial areas in the past few years.

John Olvany, President of the Wilmette Park District Board of Commissioners, began by reading from an editorial written by the League of Voters last spring that called upon members of the community to bring civility back into the public realm. Mr. Olvany went on to emphasize all that the Park District does in the community, from recreational programs to maintaining the parks. The Park District is sending a community survey out in the next few weeks, and Mr. Olvany requested that everyone fill out and return this survey so that the Park District can start to gather information to help revise the plan for the beachfront in a manner that better represents the community's wishes.

Kathleen O'Laughlin, President of the Library Board of Trustees, described facility improvements that are ongoing to update the Library's aging physical plant. Ms. O'Laughlin described the high number of users the library continues to see as indicative of its continued relevance in the community and stated that the primary goal of the Library is to continue to provide the same high level of services and events as in the past.

Representatives of the three school districts spoke next. Jeffrey Greengoss, President of the District 37 Board of Education, presented an upbeat picture of the state of finances in the District and an optimistic assessment of ongoing teacher negotiations. Alice Schaff, President of the District 39 Board of Education, presented information on the new learning commons in the District as well as plans to improve the libraries in all of the schools and increase the use of technology throughout the curriculum. Mac Harris, President of District 203's Board of Education, focused primarily on the ongoing major renovation of the New Trier East campus, indicating that while currently running over budget, the Board anticipates bringing the project in on-time and on-budget. He also talked about upcoming personnel changes District 203 is facing including the retirement of Superintendent Linda Yonke in 2017.

After the speakers concluded their remarks, they took questions from the audience screened by League members. These questions ranged from an inquiry about the likelihood of full-day kindergarten in District 39 to a question about the Village's handling of the Ford property on Green Bay Road. Both attendees and speakers remarked upon it being a valuable information sharing experience, and the only opportunity members of the community have to hear from all six Boards in the Village at the same event.

The State of the Village dinner was videotaped by the Village. Click here to see the video