Webinar: Creating Great Communities Through Public Involvement

Webinar: “Creating Great Communities Through Public Involvement”
Date: Thursday July 03, 2014 & Thursday July 17, 2014
Time: 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM CDT
Cost: FREE (Advanced online registration required)


The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) presents a two-part Thursday webinar series exploring how to create more livable communities through public involvement:

Part I: “Organizational Models for Public Involvement” (July 03)
Part II: “How to Create and Run Effective Advisory and Advocacy Groups” (July 17)

Ongoing, sustainable and effective public involvement is one of the cornerstones of creating a great community.

Part I will explain why public involvement is necessary, identify the types of public involvement, and review organizational models and opportunities for public involvement. Attendees will learn specific institutional changes they can make to better involve the public in all projects and programs, thereby creating better communities for walking and bicycling.

Part II will explain why and how to create and run effective advisory and advocacy groups. Attendees will learn detailed techniques for recruiting members, maintaining active participation, effecting change, and creating positive working relationships between the public and governmental agencies. Advocates and local governmental officials will find this webinar beneficial.

Free online registration for Part I HERE
Other PBIC Webinar series HERE

Posted in Bicycling, Community, Meeting / Webinar, Planning, Walkability | Leave a comment

Form-based vs Use-based code Example 1

[We’re going to look at a circumstance in neighboring Antioch IL as an opportunity to learn why using the CORRECT “Code” for planning and building a village is so important!]

If you’ve lived in this area for any amount of time, you’ve been north of Round Lake Beach a few miles and made it up to/through Antioch. Fairly simple layout, with a nice traditional “downtown” all of a block long, with mixed residential and commercial all around, gradually building-up the closer one gets to the center of the village.

[Photo Credit: Google Street View]

[Photo Credit: Google Street View]

Some challenges/opportunities as well, depending on how they’re handled… things like a railroad line through the village (same as us), and a lake to deal with (same as us).

Should you wander behind “Main Street” to the west, you’ll quickly find your old friend: “sprawl” (photo below). Big-ol’ parking lots, single-story jiffy-built shopping center with a lifespan of only a few decades (compared to a century or more for the downtown structures).

Even though the Antioch Shopping Center is right across the road in two directions from residential areas, it makes no effort to invite pedestrians with safe sidewalks, to function on a “human scale”, to be multi-purpose or multi-user, to integrate in the environment, use the vertical dimension…nada. Completely out-of-character with the rest of the area. Basically it’s a shopping center just “plonked” down in the heart of the village (very much like what we had happen here in RLB, except ours is much larger).

Click on the image to see the sprawl even bigger!

Click on the image to see the sprawl even bigger!

It becomes even more apparent when you view the area from above. You can look to the far-right of the photo to see the varied, multi-story structures, useable sidewalks, on-street parking to buffer pedestrians from traffic, etc., along Main Street for comparison:

It's easy to see where the cars should go... but what is there for people to do here BESIDES spend money?

It’s easy to see where the cars should go… but what is there for people to do here BESIDES spend money?

So why do we mention all that, and what does that have to do with Round Lake Beach?

The folks in Antioch have known for some time now that this dichotomy was not a good “fit” for their village in the long-run, so they partnered with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning-CMAP (which is the official IL state entity dealing with land-use and transportation issues for Chicago AND the counties surrounding it).

Over the last few years, all the “stake-holders” have been providing input towards creating a new plan to bring Antioch and its environs more in line with both common sense and the emerging realities of the 21st century (which isn’t quite what we expected it to be).

The “Village of Antioch Lifestyle Corridor Plan” [.pdf / Adobe] is the end result. We’re not going into it in this post (we highly recommend that YOU do though) except to extract one teeny little part (Pages 50 and 52):

Concept Plan for Orchard Plaza in Antioch IL. [Image Credit: CMAP's "Lifestyle Corridor Plan" for Antioch IL]

Concept Plan for Orchard Plaza in Antioch IL. [Image Credit: CMAP’s “Lifestyle Corridor Plan” for Antioch IL]

This is the same space! A little more interesting perhaps? More multi-user? Provides greater connectivity in that part of the village? More tax-paying businesses with less parking lot to pave and plow (and process storm-water runoff from)? With places to sit and gather and meet and greet and talk and eat (basically reasons to STAY)? Shade, landscaping, and multi-story structures forming natural outdoor “rooms” on a “human scale”? A rousing “YES!” to all of them.

It gets better: since this area is within a half-mile of the Antioch Metra station, it’s a “no brainer” to add some residential density, for Antiochians (Antiochites? Antiochers?) who can easily walk or bike to the Metra station, benefitting from a planning concept called “Transit Oriented Development”.

Well, one day, in the hopefully not TOO distant future, we (the residents, village officials, and our business and property owners) are going to realize (aka: “forced to acknowledge” for the stubborn ones) that the land under all of our asphalt and strip malls is producing only a meager return-on-investment (ROI), and that all those acres are meanwhile producing or offering NONE of the other benefits of a more traditional-format market place/downtown… and that it will finally be time to do something about it.

Posted in Bicycling, Community, Downtown, Planning, Seniors, Walkability | Leave a comment

About Hardee’s Bike Rack…

[ The Round Lake Bicycle Club asked if we could post this on their behalf, since they don’t have their website/blog up and running yet. This is a very relatable topic, so of course we said “Yes!” ]

The new RLB Hardee's. The bike rack is on the far side  of the entrance doors shown in the right of the picture.

The new RLB Hardee’s. The bike rack is on the far side of the entrance doors shown in the right of the picture. Photo Credit: Round Lake Area News

The Short of It: We evaluated the bike rack at the new RLB Hardee’s. It’s… not so good.

The Long of it: So when we heard that the old A&W/Long John Silver’s was going to be converted to a Hardee’s, we made sure to send a rep to the Planning & Zoning Commission meeting where the Hardee’s folks would make their pitch to the village, so that we could make OUR pitch at the same time… for a bike rack! Not only for us locals;   RLB is the only downtown which will have the Millennium Trail pass through… the cyclists using it will research “bike friendly” establishments in advance and expect to use them!

Whether they saw the sense in it, or we guilted them into it, the Zoning Commission saw fit to make the addition of a bike rack part of their acceptance of the Hardee’s proposal. The Hardee’s rep wasn’t too keen on the idea, citing over 50 locations in their region and only ONE spot with a bike rack.

Here’s where (in hindsight) it fell apart. “BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU ASK FOR… YOU JUST MIGHT GET IT!” We were so happy to finally get an “OK, we’ll do it.” that we didn’t think to stipulate that it had to be a good or useable bike rack according to current standards.

Fast-forward to now. Over the last few days, several members of the local cycling community, including some of our members, made their way over to the soon-to-open Hardee’s to give the bike rack there a “test drive”. The reports that made it back to us were so unfavorable that we went out specifically to evaluate the rack, as objectively as possible. Here’s what we found:

Empty Rack

Not much to it, is there?

Now in evaluating bike racks, the cycling community often gives either a simple “Pass” or “Fail” based on one absolutely undesirable characteristic: “Is it a wheel-bender?”
Does it hold the bike with at least TWO different points of support, or does it hold the bike up ENTIRELY by PART of a wheel?

Up ’til about the mid-70’s. most bike frames were made of steel, and the wheel rims were wide and fairly thick. Bike racks of the time reflected this ruggedness; bikes were supported by their front wheels only, but usually survived.

Wheel Bender Rack

A modern bike. but it illustrates the idea well.

Unfortunately, many planners and government officials think that these old-style “playground” or “school” bike racks (which were common when they were kids back in the 70’s) are still suitable for today’s bicycles.

Today’s bike wheels, being usually narrower, lighter-weight, and thinner, can be bent over like a potato chip. We regard this as a “bad thing”:

Bent Bike Wheel

Wheel Bender C

A Trek “Mountain Track” bike in a “wheel bender”. Yup, the front wheel is bent, even though the wheel is thicker and stronger than a “road” bike.

Other factors besides wheel-bending include points of support, bike rack capacity, space between bikes, security/locking options, location/convenience (not just for the cyclists, but pedestrians and customers), and more. So lets take a look.


First thing we did was to confirm that, yes, this is a “wheel bender”! You can clearly see that with the bottom of the wheel held by the rack, the weight of the bike is pulling the top half of the wheel to the left. Unless you ride up with a BMX/Mountain Bike, you stand a fair chance of bending a wheel, whether holding the front OR rear wheel.

That said… if you have a kick-stand, this become slightly more useable. A kick-stand is meant to have the bike leaning however, and each station is designed to hold the wheel vertical, so the bike has to be “cocked” or angled as if turning to allow the kick-stand to actually touch the pavement. For a full bike rack of 2-point supported bikes:

3 bikes

Notice that in this example, every bike has a kickstand (’cause that’s how we roll”)! A significant percentage of modern bikes do not come with kickstands, especially bikes designed for kids/teens. If you’ve ever visited a convenience store or fast-food restaurant and seen a pile of bikes lying on the sidewalk in front of, or leaning against the wall, you can understand.

Photo Credit: Reimagine Round Lake Beach

Photo Credit: Reimagine Round Lake Beach

Other issues include the space between bikes, which as shown here, could all be adult/full size. Between the left and center stations is only 18½” inches; from the center to the right is 21½”. Optimum spacing for bikes, from center to center is at least 24″ to prevent handle bars and cables from conflicting, to provide access to bags and accessories, and to allow access to locks/cables without knocking-over adjacent bikes (which is very easy to do with this rack).

3 Bikes again

Note the handlebars all fighting for the same space… that’s another problem with this type of rack.

Notice how close to the wall the front of the rack comes. Getting access to your bike lock can be problematic if you have the middle rack, you have to squeeze in next to the cigarette butt can for the left, and on the right you can find yourself standing in the wet mulch/mud depending on recent weather. Not fun.

The security aspect is lacking too. With an optimum situation, a bike rack can support locking at least one wheel AND THE FRAME to the rack. With a very high value bike, you pop-off the front wheel, and lock it along with the rear wheel; it can all be done with one D-lock or cable if need be.

With this rack however, using the preferred “D”-lock, the only thing you can lock to the rack in the front tire! Since most bikes now come with a quick-release mechanism for each tire, you can still quickly lose a bike.

– You may say that chances of a bike theft right outside the front door are slim, but thefts of all kinds happen in broad daylight, surrounded by people, every day. Just act like you belong there and no one will question you. It’s pretty easy to get a front wheel for a $400-$500 bike that you got for free!

Locked Wheel

We looked at the convenience/safety factor. Was this bike rack, loaded with adult bikes, going to cause an access problem?

Side View

Looks OK from here. How about its proximity to the door… too close?

Front View

Looks tolerable, as long as no bikes are leaning over.

Another issue we have is where any extra bikes might park without blocking access for eat-in customers. Drop ’em in the mulch? There’s not a lot of extra sidewalk, and the three stations can fill up quickly.

Lesson Learned #1: Be precise! We presumed that in this day-and-age, with the rising popularity of cycling, and with what we figured was a desire by Hardee’s to appeal to a wider range of customers, that OF COURSE they’d put in a “good” bike rack. It looks like what we got was the cheapest, smallest, kid-bike-sized rack they could find (we presume not maliciously), but since there were no defined requirements… why not?

Lesson Learned #2: We need to get moving on presenting suitable Bike Parking statutes to the local governments for consideration and incorporation into their ordinances. That way, all future installations will be bike-friendly, secure, safe, accessible, convenient, etc.

Lesson Learned #3: Cultural Awareness. There has not been a strong, centralized cycling community here. Things which are very important to local bicyclists are completely “off the radar” of the average resident. We need to be consistent in spreading awareness, for safety, for the local economy, and for our share of parking & street-space with bike lanes.

– Here’s the kicker: If this bike rack ends up not being used, it can be removed. “See, we tried it and no one used it!”  Lets not let that happen! A great way to fix this is to have a steady supply of cycling customers who “overload” the rack and justifies expansion. When that happens, we can work on getting a retrofit for a “bike friendly” type of rack.

The newer "Wave" bike racks are just as nasty and unsupportive!

The newer “Wave” bike racks are just as nasty and unsupportive!


"Inverted U" bike racks provide two points-of-support for each bike, support locking the bike securely, AND hold 2 bikes per "U", one on each side. Multi "U" strips are available where only 4 attachment points to the pavement are used, just like the current Hardee's bike rack.

“Inverted U” bike racks provide two points-of-support for each bike, support locking the bike securely, AND hold 2 bikes per “U”, one on each side. Multi “U” strips are available where only 4 attachment points to the pavement are used, just like the current Hardee’s bike rack.

Some starting resources we can use to educate our retailers, business owners, and village officials include:

Posted in Bicycling, Millennium Trail, Planning | Leave a comment

Guerrilla Gardening – 1

Weeks with weather like we’re having now are considered AWESOME by those of us who practice a type of Tactical Urbanism called “Guerrilla Gardening“. This involves private individuals and small groups taking action to covertly re-green and add value to spaces and places in a community by planting fruiting shrubs, flowers, or herbs… as much as possible with plants native to the area, and usually with secondary purposes such as medicinal or pollinator-attractors.

"Heaven-sent" weather for Guerrilla Gardeners!

“Heaven-sent” weather for Guerrilla Gardeners!

Sometimes it is as simple as lobbing some “seed bombs” (a mix of compost, seeds for local wildflowers, and clay) onto a vacant lot, median, or endless lawn in an industrial/corporate park. Adds color, variety, and supports pollinators.

Seed Bomb Dispenser

Other times it increases the productivity of ornamental-only fruit trees (like “flowering pears”) by grafting branches from fruiting varieties. As disconnected as we’ve becoming by “zoning” food production away from our homes, this can be a great way (and sometimes the only way) to give suburban kids some connection to where fruit really comes from.

Guerrilla Grafter

What we especially like is “Edible Landscaping” with perennials like berries. A dozen thorn-less blackberry or raspberry starts easily fit in a shoulder bag. Taking a walk or bike ride around the villages to scout-out good spots; what looks like someone stopping to tie their shoes is really a quick scoop with a hand trowel, planting the start along with a handful of compost, a firming of the soil with a footstep, and the “walk” resumes.

In a year or two, kids playing in that corner of the park or walking to school, or a family gathering to watch fireworks, or cycling around the village, or commuters waiting for their train make the happy discovery of a handful of fresh berries.

Handfuls of berries

When the pendulum swings some more in the current direction, as we come down from the “high” of excess consumerism and waste and return more to a “middle ground”, we’ll see more actions like these become common (and sometimes incorporated into code).

Food has to come from somewhere… why not our own community? Our own lots?

Forest Garden Layers

Posted in Bicycling, Children, Local Food Production, Resilience | Leave a comment

Online Conversation: “Putting Technology to Work in Building Community”

Online Conversation: “Putting Technology to Work in Building Community”
Who: Peter Block and John McKnight, authors of “The Abundant Community”
When: Tues, May 13, Noon – 1PM Central.
– FREE –

Peter, John and guest Ed Everett (strategist at nextdoor.com) will talk for about a half hour on how technology and social media can bring neighbors closer together (in person as well as cyberspace) and strengthen community ties. Then they’ll open-up the conversation for questions and comments from listeners.

Link to Event Page w/details

Past conversations are archived and available for listening/download at your convenience.

“We are discovering that it takes a village to do more than raise a child; it is the key to a satisfying life. It turns out we need our neighbors and a community to produce jobs, be healthy, protect the land, and care for the elderly and those on the margin.

Each neighborhood has people with the gifts and talents needed to provide for our prosperity and peace of mind. We ALL have gifts to offer, even the most seemingly marginal among us.”

Additional Links:

Book: “The Abundant Community

Posted in Community, Meeting / Webinar | Leave a comment

Why are OUR parades “Bike Free”?

Some of our group went up to Antioch with our kids last weekend to watch the Easter Parade through town, followed by lots of kid-friendly, post-parade activity at Williams Park at the end of the route.

2014 Antioch Easter Parade
One of the parade entries was Cub Scout Pack 190, obviously bicycle based.

Cubs Scouts representin' their pack to the townspeople of Antioch.

Cubs Scouts representin’ their pack to the townspeople of Antioch.

What a contrast, to actually ALLOW parade participants… on bicycles… better yet, little participants on little bicycles… on a state highway (Rt. 83).

2014 Antioch Easter Parade Cub Scouts 2
For desert, the parade route stayed “Closed to cars” (even though the parade was over!) while everyone piled into the street, followed the last official float, and WALKED to the park.

This is just the tail-end of the procession of towns-people. We were so in-awe of the participation we were watching we almost forgot to take pictures of it!

This is just the tail-end of the procession of towns-people. We were so in-awe of the participation we were watching we almost forgot to take pictures of it!

The next time any of us (or any of YOU) is representing a group which wants to participate in a RL-area parade with a bike entry and catches any flak about how “Bicycle entries are not allowed because they are unsafe”… stand your ground and don’t take any cr@p.

Point that (presumably) well-meaning desk-jockey towards this post, then politely ask that functionary what Antioch (Pop. ~14,000) has clearly figured out that we in the Round Lake area villages (Pop. ~60,000) haven’t yet.

While they are trying to punt with talk of “…but our insurance…” and “It was decided many years ago…”, take note if the entry form even lists Bicycles as a type of entry (’cause it probably won’t).

Community parades are one of the most participatory and visible forms of civic participation. Any bias in “allowing” floats/entries should be in favor of the participants, with the organizers having the burden-of-proof as to why any entry should not be allowed!

Posted in Bicycling, Children, Community | Leave a comment

Webinar: Putting the Mettle to the Pedal – Ideas for Promoting Bicycling

Webinar: “Putting the Mettle to the Pedal – Ideas for Promoting Bicycling”
Date: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Time: 1:00PM – 2:00PM Central
Cost: Free (Advance Registration Required HERE


The National Center for Safe Routes to School is pleased to offer the next webinar in its ongoing series of making our streets and communities better, safer places for our children to walk and bike to school:

“Last year’s Bike to School Day sizzled and this year we’re expecting even greater participation [Wed, May 7th 2014!]. Hear about how schools are successfully using events and other creative ways to get students, parents and schools into the saddle.

 Bike to School DayThis webinar will feature two schools and a basket of ideas. One program will share its secrets for keeping its seven year old bike promotion program fresh and sustained, including event themes and bicycling field trips. The second presentation will talk about how they are engaging 6th grade students in teaching bike safety and the key partners that have catapulted excitement for bicycling to new heights.

This is the first of four webinars in 2014 that will be presented by the National Center for Safe Routes to School.”

Free online registration HERE
Archive of previous SRTS webinars HERE
2014 “Bike to School Day” website HERE

Posted in Bicycling, Children, Community, Meeting / Webinar | Leave a comment

Why “Reimagine” Round Lake Beach?

Why is it “Reimagine” Round Lake Beach?

Many reasons, most of which we’ve covered in this blog, and on our Facebook page, over the last year… but here’s one more.

From Leigh Gallagher, author of “The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving“:

“For the first time in nearly a hundred years, the rate of urban population growth has outpaced suburban growth, reversing a trend that held steady for every decade since the invention of the automobile. Demand for large single-family homes that characterize our “modern” suburbs is dwindling.

The housing crisis of recent years has concealed something deeper and more profound happening to what we have come to know as American suburbia. Simply speaking, more and more Americans don’t want to live there anymore.

We are moving from location, location, location in terms of the most important factor to access, access, access.”

Our village officials have seen the symptoms of what’s happening, and are trying to get a clearer picture in order to make better-informed decisions, as described in this article by the Daily Herald:

Lack of single-family home investment concerns Round Lake Beach officials

“Village leaders want to get a better understanding of the big-picture impact of the economic downturn on the local housing market and what strategies might be available to quell an emerging trend.

“We appear to be in a phase or mode of not a lot of reinvestment going into our single-family housing stock,” said John Wildenberg, economic development director.

“We’re looking for a pretty thorough investigation of the conditions here — what’s really going on, what are the impediments and is there anything the village can do?”

For some perspective, here are RLB homes for sale as of April 5th, 2014 according to real-estate site Zillow.com:

RLB residential properties "For Sale" according to Zillow.com for April 05, 2014

RLB residential properties “For Sale” according to Zillow.com for April 05, 2014

… and here are the homes that have been “Foreclosed” or are in “Pre-Foreclosure” proceedings:

ScreenHunter_83 Apr. 05 10.12

You can see that there are more properties in Foreclosure than simply “For Sale”. This is indicative of a related issue: potential buyers seek to make a good investment for their families, in a safe neighborhood, etc. The sheer number of properties in a troubled status signals some mighty troubling conditions, encouraging home-buyers to look elsewhere.

A key point in the success or failure of the village admin efforts in trying to analyze this is  WHAT exactly it is they are trying to decide, and what pre-set ideas will they use to “filter” the findings to make them fit into their world-view. Will they look at:

– how to make the “old ways” work, how to stay with the rules and world-view they know so we (they) can avoid dealing with uncomfortable (and oftern unpopular) “change, or…

– how to deal with the fact that “the future isn’t all it was cracked up to be”, exacerbated by our civic infrastructure which doesn’t support its people well when the going gets tough, and where many of the old rules don’t work (or apply) any more.

The “replacement” generations slowly replacing the Baby Boomers in power want (and expect) more of (and in) their communities. They’re also purchasing homes (if at all) later in life… yet they’re the one we’re counting on to purchase our single-family homes so we can retire and move down to Arizona

Which way will we go?

Additional Resources:
Time Magazine: The End of the Suburbs

Posted in Community, Economics, Planning | 2 Comments

Sunday Small-Business Blues

So this is the first “nice” weekend of spring (after that extra-nasty winter), and we were out and about today like good American consumers, spending money here, and planning to spend money later there. (That IS what we’re supposed to do, isn’t it? Must “stimulate the economy” and all that…)

We were returning from Antioch (’cause who doesn’t like Antioch?) when we passed the Sweetwater Crossing shopping center. Something about it caught our collective eye, so we stopped and took this picture in the middle of a GORGEOUS Sunday afternoon.

Compared to the almost bustling downtown we had just left, and the packed Walmart parking lot we just passed at Monaville Road, things seemed rather… quiet… at this cluster of storefronts.

Busy Sweetwater Crossing commerce on a Sunday afternoon!
Busy Sweetwater Crossing commerce on a Sunday afternoon!

 The Home Depot parking lot across the street was also PACKED, and the roads were filled with cars full of area residents trying to cure the “Cabin Fever” of a very long, arduous winter.

Why so few here? Admitedly not EVERY one of these businesses has Sunday hours, but several do. The cars you see don’t belong to customers; they’re owned by the business owners / employees trying to stay productive while waiting for customers to serve.

100% occupancy at Sweetwater Crossing! That's a GOOD thing... right?
100% occupancy at Sweetwater Crossing! That’s a GOOD thing… right?

 Why is basically no one making use of these local small businesses in particular on a day which seems designed for people to be out shopping, with other shopping venues (“Big Box stores and walkable downtowns) enjoying a steady flow of customers.

Turns out that the “strip mall” format is NOT supportive of small businesses, or at least not many of them. For example, you’re NOT going to just happen to stroll by the eatery there and be drawn-in by the sound of people enjoying themselves at the cozy “Bistro” seating outside, or by the aroma wafting out as you pass. If you’re in this (optimistically-designated) “shopping center” at all, you’re coming in for ONE business, you’ll park directly in front, do your business, and leave.

Unlike a multi-user “downtown” or any other decent shopping/market area, there is no “stickiness” to a strip mall. There is no reason to visit for pleasure, and no reason to stay if something did happen to draw you in. There’s no outside seating, no shade, no public art, no touchable history, no trees/greenery, no ameneties like water fountains, no “gathering place”, no natural “venue” for performers… and certainly no people for which to perform. So nothing to keep you, and very little to draw you in in the first place.

In fact, if local residents DID try to use all that unused space, they’d get booted-away for “Trespassing”, the property manager would be worried about insurance and “incidents” (and lawsuits) on their property, and some business owners would actually (be in left-field enough to) complain that the activity outside their stores is “driving away customers”.

Have you ever heard the expression The bigger a crowd gets, the more people show up for it“? Turns out that one of the best ways to attract people is the presence of OTHER PEOPLE… and THAT simply does not happen in a strip mall!

We have many small businesses of the type which would THRIVE with a storefront right up to the sidewalk, able to tempt passers-by with window displays or the sight of happy customers inside, the tempting smells and sounds emitting from within, seating outside for customers to wait for their friends or just watch the world go by, etc. They WOULD thrive given the proper venue, which RLB unfortunately cannot offer.

Here’s the zany part: From the perspective of the Village, everything is just fine with this situation. There are ZERO VACANCIES on this property, which means every “unit” has a business sign out front, a business occupant with a license, and is paying taxes. After all, what more can be done? The property is zoned for commercial use, and that’s what we’ve got!

Our poor civic infrastructure really does make a significant negative impact on our local business community, not just our residents. Until we can offer an additional type of “place” (a market place, a downtown, or both) for businesses to operate, we place a serious barrier on our ability to have a robust, diversified business community.

If we really want locally-owned, small and start-up businesses, we HAVE to offer them the environment in which they can succeed. If we don’t, we lose those businesses (and their tax revenue) to neighboring communities, and maintain the reputation as not being a great place to start up shop.

Posted in Business, Downtown, Economics, Planning, Resilience, Walkability | Leave a comment

About those jobs…

While we’re waiting for the economy to “rebound” (ain’t gonna happen, but that’s another post), it is important to really understand that a lot of the well-paying, benefits-providing jobs that existed before the recession just aren’t coming back. More and more of the “middle class” are finding it increasingly difficult to find work in their professions.


As if that’s not bad enough, there will still be a significant loss of even more jobs over the next decade as technology continues to replace many of the practices and processes which kept us employed.


According to an AP analysis of the changing job market:

The AP found that almost all the jobs disappearing are in industries that pay middle-class wages, ranging from $38,000 to $68,000. Jobs that form the backbone of the middle class in developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia.

In the United States, half of the 7.5 million jobs lost during the Great Recession paid middle-class wages, and the numbers are even more grim in the 17 European countries that use the euro as their currency. A total of 7.6 million midpay jobs disappeared in those countries from January 2008 through last June.

Those jobs are being replaced in many cases by machines and software that can do the same work better and cheaper.

The jobs they are being replaced with will pay absolutely miserable salaries… at least based on the needs of an average 2-car, house in the suburbs with a 30-year mortgage family. This is due in large part to the projected increase in service-sector jobs.


Jobs are disappearing not only for the “middle class”, but ALL income levels. Check out this excellent (and disheartening) graph by MIT researcher Andrew McAfee:


From his piece “The Great Decoupling of the US Economy“:

“We’ve been experiencing a long, slow decoupling between “output and productivity” (Blue & Grey) and “jobs and wages” (Red & Green). For more than three decades after the end of World War II all four of these measures went up together.

In the early 1980s the picture started to change for the average American worker. There were still a lot of jobs available, but they started to pay less well. Median household income became decoupled from the other three stats and grew more slowly than they did. By the time of the 2001 recession, median income was lagging behind pretty badly.

… digital technologies have been able to do routine work for a while now. This allows them to substitute for less-skilled and -educated workers, and puts a lot of downward pressure on the median wage. As computers and robots get more and more powerful while simultaneously getting cheaper and more widespread this phenomenon spreads, to the point where economically rational employers prefer buying more technology over hiring more workers.

I don’t see the four lines in the graph above re-converging any time soon.”

Of expected “new job growth for the near future, take a look at the annual salaries associated with the jobs in the chart below (showing most new jobs available) and see how well you can support your self or your family:

For more detail, you can read the article: “How Technology is Destroying Jobs“.


RLB isn’t in the position to land a “large” employer; we depend on companies around us. From that perspective, Lake County loses at least a couple of companies a year to WI, thanks to aggressive, consistent, and obviously tempting offerings by WI state and local officials, commercial property holders and partner financiers. Of course, Illinois has a rather unfavorable business climate, which has helped motivate potential employers to relocate to more favorable climes.

THAT is a BIG part of why we keep going on about “resilience“, about “not having all our eggs in one basket” as far as our local economic model is concerned, and why an interconnected, multi-user infrastructure is so important, why we need our own aggressive plan to not only attract existing businesses here but create conditions favorable to small and new-business start-ups and home-based businesses.


According to the AAA, the average cost in 2013 to own a sedan was over $9,000! At least one car in a 2-car family is often used for commuting to work from the suburbs; with fewer jobs, fewer breadwinners, and 2nd-cars for long-commutes less necessary… physically-accessible in-town jobs will be especially important. IN-TOWN jobs. “New Economy” jobs. “Sharing Economy” Jobs. Jobs of the type which didn’t exist before. 


Current rules, ordinances, and “mindsets” are unprepared to handle these new types of jobs, nor can they easily deal with the structural and policy changes in residences and neighborhoods that would allow our residents to do more with their own homes to  significantly reduce expenses and cost-of-living… essential with fewer “traditional” jobs around.

“Let’s get a move on!”



Posted in Business, Economics, Planning | Leave a comment