Barrington Hills, Illinois
Bachelor's Degree, Economics, Lake Forest College
Master's Degree, MBA - Finance , Illinois Benedictine College
Juris Doctor, Law, IIT Kent College of Law
Attorney, Self Employed - Stieper Law Offices Ltd
John , 14
On the Record
What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?
As a practicing attorney for 20+ years in matters of professional liability, corporate law and real estate, including land use and zoning; I have a working knowledge and the professional experience to handle the complex needs of the Village. I served as a member of the Barrington Hills Plan Commission for 8 years, including as Chairman. While on the Plan Commission, I participated in the re-draft of the Village’s comprehensive plan. As a member of the plan commission, I became versed with the Village Code and came to respect the history of our unique Village. My government service provided me an understanding of how Barrington Hills’ government works and where it can be improved. I have volunteered my time and experience to serve with several area groups, including the Cub Scouts, vestry member of St. Mark’s Church, Barrington Hills, and as a member of the Board of Trustees for the Barrington Area Conservation Trust (“BACT”). The BACT is a nonprofit organization working with Barrington municipalities and private land owners on preserving open spaces through conveyances, dedications and easements. Since my candidacy for Trustee in 2011, I have remained an active and vigilent supporter of various issues in Barrington Hills. As example, I was successful in my complaint filed with the Attorney General against the Village Board alleging violations of the Open meetings Act.
What are your top two or three priorities if elected?
Reduce Village Spending: In these difficult economic times, we must find meaningful ways to decrease government size and spending by concentrating efforts only on necessary government. My primary objective as Trustee will be to work to dramatically reduce the Village’s spending. Instead of assuming costs as a baseline from year to year, Village departments and Trustee committees must question past practices and consider re-bidding outside services to different professionals and suppliers. Areas of improvement include legal spending and President travel and expenses. Restore Honest Government: Increase transparency in Village government making sure there is strict adherence to the Illinois Sunshine laws. Public comment at Board meetings should come first on the agenda and current rules governing public comment should be rescinded. Information available on line should be increased to include vendor contracts, professional fee arrangements, itemized invoices, checks issued by the Village as well as legal pleadings involving the Village filed in court. I will recommend a Code of Ethics for elected and appointed officials. Protect our Open Spaces: The unique character of our Village is in our open spaces and minimum 5 acre zoning. I will utilize my legal experience to protect this and represent the balance of all of our equestrian, residential, agriculture and parks interests.
Would you support freezing your taxing district’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?
I support reducing the levy to reflect decreased property values. Barrington Hills’ property taxes have spiraled in recent years. Per Capita;($1,618), Barrington Hills is the highest taxed municipality of any suburb. Barrington Hills’ property taxes are more than 3 times South Barrington ($563 per resident). For 2013, Barrington Hills will collect $6.8 Million in property taxes. This is more than 2 1/2 times the $2.7 Million collected in 2001. This increase correlates with most real estate tax bills in Barrington Hills which have doubled during this same period. To put the Village’s spending in recent years in perspective, Long Grove, which is the same geographical size as Barrington Hills with 2,500 more residents, spends $5 Million less per year on Village government. The total annual budget for Long Grove is $2,383,000 compared to $8,281,305 for Barrington Hills. Last year, Barrington Hills spent $824,840 ($550 per household) for attorneys compared to $62,500 ($31.25 per household) in Long Grove. Barrington Hills’ expenditure on legal fees almost equals Elgin. While, the Village of Barrington Hills has been collecting record sums of property tax revenue, the Village’s police pension fund is underfunded by $6.8 Million. With these high property taxes, no wonder why landowners situated on our borders (who legally qualify) are tempted and do disconnect from the Village.
What one decision by the village board do you most disagree with and why?
The Village Board’s decision to approve a larger budget for 2013, without any serious dialogue among themselves or explanation to the public how they can justify increased expenditures in these most difficult economic times. Our Village Board in recent years has lost all objectivity, independence and desire to question the “status quo” of recent times of excessive budgeting and proliferate spending by Village government. Further, the Board continues the negligent practice of routinely approving monthly government expenditures without discussion or even reviewing itemized billing statements relating to variable costs. In particular, the Board fails to adequately scrutinize itemized billing statements from attorneys and other hired professionals. The Village could hire 2-3 attorneys’\' full time and still not exhaust the amount of money they budget each year for legal fees. We must also investigate the underfunded police pension fund and understand the impact those decisions will have on our future. Even though the disconnection, zoning and other major land use litigation are well behind the Village, incredibly, budgeted amounts and actual expenditure for attorneys has relatively stayed the same. In summary, the Board has not taken an agressive stance on spending and have appointed Trustees to committees with little to no experience to serve in financial management roles.
What was the biggest accomplishment of the board in the past year?
The Village’s on-going commitment of partnering with the Barrington Area Conservation Trust (“BACT”) and private landowners in the implementation of various roadside easements either recorded or in the process of being developed throughout the Village. By partnering with the BACT on this project, the Village is carrying out one of its primary functions of preserving open spaces into the future by protecting the natural beauty of our most scenic and potentially vulnerable country roadsides. By obtaining the legal status of “Heritage Corridor” for these Village roadsides, it will be more difficult for IDOT or other governmental bodies having jurisdiction to disrupt the natural scenic beauty of these corridors by means of road widening or other construction improvements. While the BACT assumes the major role of negotiating these easements with landowners and making sure legal documents are properly prepared, recorded and maintained, these roadside easements cannot legally exist unless the Village signs on and assumes contingent responsibility for maintenance in the event the BACT fails in this duty or ceases to exist. This is a rare example, but one which should definately be noted, of pre-emptive action taken by the Village Board in conjunction with the BACT of protecting the unique character of the Village before it is too late at minimal or no cost to tax payers.
Why should voters elect you to office?
The primary reason I am running for Village Trustee is to represent the entire Village as an independent representative free of team politics and special interest cronyism. As Trustee, I will coalesce with other Board Members only around ideas and actions which best serve the needs of all our unique community interests. In recent years, the monolithic make-up of the Board has lost all independence polarizing our once harmonious Village into a state of contention with neighbors fighting neighbors. Confidence by residents in our elected officials has been diminished or lost entirely. I will not favor certain groups or ignore local and state laws. My successful election will be the first step in returning harmony to Barrington Hills. I will be a faithful steward to our unique traditions and open spaces balancing the interests of equestrian, residential, agriculture and the parks community. I will work hard to dramatically reduce spending. I recognize the severe downturn in the economy and the effect it has had on many families in our Village. It has been reported Village debt has increased to a record $3.5 million in 2012 and the Village’s Police Pension is underfunded by $6.3 million. Our Property taxes are the highest of any of the 83 suburbs in Northern Illinois paying for, in part, excessive spending by the Village expected this year to exceed $8 million. This must stop
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