What Makes a Community Great?


[This is the first in a series of posts about community “greatness”.]

A couple of months back I saw a Facebook (FB) group created that boldly declared – “Let’s Make (insert hometown name) Great Again”!  Needless to say, I could not resist.  After years of work in local government the one “absolute truth” I have learned is that community quality is subjective.

Another truth is that no two (2) communities are the same.  Rather there is a wide range of characteristics that defines each and every community.  I think we would all agree that a community is not “great” if it has extreme poverty, high crime, underfunded schools and absent local leadership.

What is Great?

But let’s look at what makes a community “Great”, “Awesome”, (“insert your own adjective”).  Different age, income and yes (I dare say it) political perspective affects how a person views their community.  For example, a young couple with family plans will most likely put a premium on school and education quality.  Retirees and seniors, who are most likely on some level of “fixed” income, will be concerned about how much it will “cost” to live in their community of choice.  Since, here in Illinois, most of your property tax dollar go to schools (approximately 60 to 80 percent depending upon where you live), retirees and seniors may not be as concerned about funding “excellent” schools.  Not that they don’t value them it is just a practical matter of financial concern.  I realize I am painting with a “broad” brush, and there are exceptions to my generalization.  But I am describing observations I have made over the years which are general in nature.

As I stated above political perspective plays a role as well.  What do I mean by this?  What I have seen is that some citizens want varying degrees of governmental intervention in their community.  For example, in some communities elected officials, residents and businesses support the idea of strict property maintenance codes and aggressive enforcement of those codes.

The conflict is that it costs tax dollars to enforce aggressively codes.  Some folks don’t want the government telling them how to maintain their property.  Others feel that if you don’t keep the community and its neighborhoods looking nice and well-kept it will diminish their property values and ultimately drive families and “invested” folks away.  Ultimately I think there needs to be a balance in this area.  What I mean is that code enforcement is important to maintain a certain base level of community appearance.  Care needs to be given as to how much enforcement costs and some effort to measure the effectiveness of enforcement is needed as well.  Equally important, in my mind, is that compassion needs to be given to those who cannot afford to “wholesale” property improvements.

Next Time: “Community Feel”.


[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]
© Ronald R. Searl. 2016

To Spray or Not to Spray – That is the question?????

is (1)Recently I was reading a FB group posting that criticized a Chicago area community for its lack of mosquito spraying (adulticiding). I could not resist. I bit.

After managing a community mosquito abatement program for more than 30 years I felt a need to inject some facts and information into the discussion.  I explained that many Chicago area communities have moved away from abatement programs that emphasize chemical truck spraying to ones that attack the threat at the larvae stage – called larviciding. There are several important elements to this which are beyond the discussion of this post.

There are a couple of primary reasons that truck spraying is no longer emphasized.   First, spraying chemicals into the atmosphere is not environmentally friendly.    Many folks my age recount running behind the spray trucks, as kids, playing in the chemical mist…  Was this healthy?  According to World Health Organization study titled “Pesticides and Their Application” Sixth Edition 2006 (page 11)” all pesticides are toxic to some degree to humans.  However, at the dosage levels used for mosquito control, the risk of ill effects is not great.  But like many environmental factors some people are more apt to different levels of chemical sensitivity than others. Second adulticide chemicals are only airborne for a short time and therefore lose effectiveness rather quickly.   Spray will kill mosquitoes that it comes in contact with but does not “hang” long enough in the air for continual protection.

If you live in a rural area where your community does not abut jurisdictions that also have well thought out and effectively designed abatement programs the nuisance problem is more likely.    There is also the greater potential of mosquito transmitted diseases health risk, Ironically the “floodwater” mosquito is the one that is most noticed by the public as it is a frequent and aggressive bitter.  The vector mosquito is the type that is more dangerous as it tends to carry diseases like West Nile Virus or Encephalitis.

The vector mosquitoes usually appear in the latter part of the summer when is hot and dry- August and September in the Midwest – but can be found earlier too. The best protection against mosquitoes is insect repellent applied as personal protection.  The Illinois Department Public Health recommends insect repellent with between 10 to 25 percent DEET.  DEET was developed in 1946 by the US Army to protect personnel in insect infested areas.

So the the question that one must ask is not: Should we spray or not spray?  The question one should ask is “spray” what?

The answer is clearly “spray” – insect repellent with DEET as “personal protection”.  It is your best line of defense against nuisance and disease vectors!



[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]
© Ronald R. Searl. 2015

Weather or Whether to or Not?

As typically can happen in Chicago- the last few days have fluctuated between warm sunny and cool, drizzly rain.   Sometimes the rain has been a little more intense.  While thinking about the weather it struck me that, back in my younger days of golf passion, I realized something interesting.  I found out that I usually shot better rounds on overcast days with moisture in the air and drizzling all around me- then on hot and sunny days.   I have to admit it bummed me out the first few times the weather was not gorgeous when I took to the links.  My naivety led me to believe that I could not enjoy myself without warm sunshine.

I don’t remember the specific moment I decided to risk weather play, but I remember discovering that the cooler wet weather helped my endurance during the round.  I also remember that I could, for some unexplained reason, see the ball better when addressing a shot and hitting it more cleanly and crisply than other golf rounds.

So what is the point of this explanation?  Certainly not to discuss golf.  Rather to challenge the reader to step out of your comfort zone and accept the possibilities instead of fearing the improbabilities.

The real question to ask is not about the weather, but whether or not you are going to step out of your comfort zone and try something that pushes your boundaries.

Your boundary breaker (B-Breaker) could be something in your personal life – as simple as trying a new food that is good for you but was never appealing.  Or starting an exercise program that you found appalling but once you get it going, you may see benefits never imagined.

Our your B-Breaker could also be something in your business or professional life.  For example, try developing a new product or service line that may seem marginal from a numbers standpoint.  You and your team have looked at the data, done the analysis, but it just does not look like a winner.  But consider there may be something that you have overlooked.  Something you did not anticipate.  There almost always is something you do not expect.

Remember the only constant in life is change.  Embrace change and try to challenge your comfort boundaries.  You might be surprised.


[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]
© Ronald R. Searl. 2015

Growing up Plano….

Plano, Illinois Logo

Plano, Illinois Logo

As you can imagine, if you are of my generation, growing up in Plano, Il during the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s was a wonderful experience.  At least now looking back it seems that way.  Time has a way of doing that sort of thing.  Time will take the dull, mundane and boring and through the magic of nostalgia- becomes happy and pleasing memories.  I admit as I grew up and moved through my 20’s and began to work in the west Chicago suburbs I missed the more simple times, fewer people, less traffic- slower pace.  I missed the ability to drive 20 miles in 20 minutes.  In the suburbs, 5 mile drives took 20 to 30 minutes.

Growing up in Plano, at a time when the population was about 4,700, (now the population is greater than 10,000) you did not necessarily know everyone in the community, but you knew family names.  One of the things I learned to value quickly in the suburbs is a certain anonymity because of the sheer greater number of people.  Another thing of value in suburbia is access to “things”.   Stores galore!   I am not one who enjoys shopping but the amount of retail, and the brand name store density is something that I quickly grew to enjoy.

And so it is, or so it has become a suburbanite……..something I never thought possible.



[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]
© Ronald R. Searl. 2015

Train Kept A-Rollin

Westmont "Tube" Train Station.

Westmont “Tube” Train Station. Circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Railroads have served an important purpose in this country and have been known to make or break opportunities for communities based upon track locations by the railroad companies.   Westmont, Illinois  is no exception to this rule.  The Burlington Northern (BN) Railroad (now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe -BNSF) has been a great benefit to the community.  In the early days of the community the railroad brought new residents to the area where they constructed their new homes while continuing to work full time jobs in the City (Chicago) to earn enough money to finish their dream living quarters.

Before that the Westmont area, known as Gregg’s Milk Station (the railroad stop designation) was ideally suited on the highest point of the BN tracks between Chicago and the Mississippi River.  After the Great Chicago Fire this fact combined with plentiful good clay soils for brick manufacturing meant that the railroad was used to transport rebuilding material into the City.

Today, the Westmont commuter stop on the METRA line into the City of Chicago is one of the busiest in the Western suburbs.

When I came to Westmont in 1982 the “ultra modern” tube style train station was over due for replacement.  While the design showed the “progressive” side, in keeping with the community’s long time slogan, it had to be retro fitted after, initial construction to “cap” the ends of the tubes.  Apparently the designers did not take into account that the prevailing winds tend to blow from West to East.  The wind tunnel affect had to be corrected and end walls were added.

The next problem that was identified with the design was the “plastic” panels were not easy to clean.  The many commuter and freight trains traveling daily through town created a “reddish” brake dust.  This made cleaning of the panels difficult.  Removal of the dust caused scratches that made it difficult to see through the panels.  Not very aesthetically attractive either.

So one of the projects I began to work on was a Federal Grant application to rebuild the station to return to a brick style (see photo to the right).

Old Commuter Train Station (circa 1970's)

Old Commuter Train Station (circa 1970’s)

Once the Federal Grant was secured the new station (picture below) was designed to sit on top of part of the foundation of the old Tube Station.  This saved taxpayers money.  The new station (the one we have today) was designed to have about 900 square feet for commercial retail.  For a variety reasons the space was initially used for other purposes.  At one time it housed the Village’s  Chamber of Commerce office, and when it was eventually vacated it had become cost prohibited to use for retail.  Building codes and Federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) made updating the space too expensive.

Westmont Train Station - Looking East

Westmont Train Station – Looking East

[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]
© Ronald R. Searl. 2015

RADC- On Windy City Live

This Wednesday, 3/18/2015, my wife – Susan Frick – will be in Chicago at the studios for Windy City Live (http://windycitylive.com/). Susan, Rush University Medical Center Disease Center (https://www.rush.edu/services/alzheimers-disease-center) staff members and some of their patients and families will be on the show to discuss living with Alzheimers Disease. The show airs live from 11:00am to Noon daily on ABC7Chicago.

They do amazing work at the Rush Alzheimers Disease Center (RADC) and I can’t be more proud of my wife’s work with families struggling with Younger Onset Alzeimers Disease.  See (http://www.without-warning.net/).  Or if you would like to support the Without Warning program (http://www.without-warning.net/support_us_today).

[The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and the author solely and not those of others or organizations that may be stated or inferred in the posting.]     © Ronald R. Searl. 2015

[amazon template=add to cart]

Searl-Cites and Ronald Searl Blogs have combined.

I have come to realize that retirement is more time consuming than I anticipated.  So much to do and little time to do it.  Therefore I have combined my two (2) blogs Searl-Cites and Ronald R. Searl into one personal blog. It was a bit overwhelming to decide what to post on which site.  I have a number of topics that I want to write about so I am implementing the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle.


(c) Copyright.  Ronald R. Searl 2015

Hi Neighbor- I Does this Warrant a Visit?

An interesting case was decided by the US Supreme Court recently. (Read: Carroll v. Carman ).  Apparently, at least in Pennsylvania, a police officer, if he is approaching a house, without a warrant, to do a “knock and talk” he must do so at the front door.   Don’t get me wrong I will be the first to stand up and defend individual rights and freedoms in our Country.  But in this case the officer approached and knocked on the Back Door.  Apparently a “no – no” without a warrant in PA.

How many of us approach a house and go to a door in the garage (because the garage door is open), because it appears to be the “door of main use” by the occupants.  But we are not “Arms” of the State.  We are not in a position to violate someones civil rights by knocking on this side door in garage (or a back door as a police officer may).   We are probably just friendly neighbors.  Maybe even bringing some pie or cookies.

Of course Police Officers have their jobs to do that does not involve “social calls.   But this ruling strikes me as odd to say the least.  Apparently in PA is also a legal right to have equal access to escape an approaching Police Officer by restricting his or her approach to the house without a warrant.

Given this logic maybe the State Legislature can simply pass a law requiring all new construction only have one entrance/exit – the front door.  Seems like a simple work around.  If the occupant still needs Constitutional protection for escape they have would have windows I presume.  Oh…I forgot the local Fire Departments may have some fire codes problems with this.  What to do …. What to do….

Apparently warrants in every case are the ONLY answer…..


(c) Copyright.  Ronald R. Searl 2014

Proudly powered by WordPress
Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.