Northbrook village government taking on broader agenda?
Some officials and residents say signs of a more partisan political environment in Northbrook were evident last week with the village board’s consent to reconsider last year’s vote to opt out of Cook County’s minimum wage ordinance.
On Nov. 13, the board told members of the Working Families Coalition, a local group of activists, that it would take up Cook County’s October 2016 ordinance in May if the General Assembly fails to approve a statewide increase before then. The board voted to opt out of the county minimum wage ordinance in May, 2017.
Trustee Jim Karagianis said that May was chosen not just to see if the General Assembly would act, but also because two new candidates for the board, who are almost certain to win election in April, will likely be more sympathetic to the increase.
“If that vote were taken now, I would vote against it again,” Karagianis told North Cook News. “It’s not that some of us are against the idea of a minimum wage increase, but it’s all about how it’s structured. I personally am against any minimum wage bill with a COLA [cost-of-living adjustment] attached.”
The Cook County ordinance bumps up the minimum wage in stages to $13 an hour by July 2020. The statewide minimum in Illinois is $8.25 an hour.
Karagianis, who has served 26 years as a trustee, was one of two incumbents who failed to get the backing of the Northbrook Caucus, whose slated candidates are almost assured of getting elected. Trustee A.C. Buehler III was the other.
Karagianis said that he was concerned that the new board would focus on a broader political and social agenda—issues he says should be addressed at the state or federal level.
“Village trustees aren’t that important,” he said. “They are there to take on zoning and other nuts and bolts involved in running a village government.”
Northbrook resident T.J. Brown, marketing and sales manager at Mohawk Mfg. & Supply Co., said he is alarmed by what he called a recent shift in the political direction of the village, reflected in Karagianis and Buehler not receiving the backing of the Caucus.
“It used to be a very nonpartisan process,” Brown said. “You didn’t even know the politics of people that received recommendations. They took care of village business and kept taxes at a reasonable level. Now the talk is about the minimum wage, affordable housing and gun control.”
Quick action next year in Springfield on a minimum wage increase may not be a sure thing, even with complete Democratic control there. Agreeing to a uniform minimum wage scale in a state with marked cost of living differences won’t be easy.