When it comes to potholes, flooding and water main breaks, Bob Israel is an expert.
The candidate for Northbrook’s board of trustees is a civil engineer and has been a member of the village's Stormwater Management Commission for the past decade.
“Most of the board members are in banking or lawyers or some other facet than civil engineering,” he said. “My background specifically brings to the board an added dimension.”
Israel, who has never run for office before, is running along with incumbents James Karagianis and A.C. Buehler III in uncontested races for three spots on the village board. All three candidates were recommended by the Northbrook Caucus last fall.
Israel is a longtime veteran of the village's political scene. In addition to his service on the Stormwater Management Commission, Israel also served on the bicycle task force and the comprehensive plan commission, which recently disbanded after the village board passed Northbrook’s .
Israel’s public works and infrastructure expertise comes from his job as an engineer with Mactec Engineering and Consulting, where his projects have included work on the major highways in the region, O’Hare airport, parts of the Metra commuter train system and, recently, a design for new Navy housing at Fort Sheridan.
“Part of my graduate work was working on what’s called a pavement feedback system, which was a way of trying to figure out when is the best time to actually invest in infrastructure,” Israel said. “Basically, it’s like a car—if you have a car, there are certain things you should do along the way to make sure it has a long life.”
As a trustee, Israel says he wants to put this philosophy into action, guiding the village to make repairs before they’re absolutely necessary. While he says Northbrook is doing a good job maintaining its infrastructure at this point, “some tweaking and a little bit of expertise will help us do better.”
On the Issues
Overall, Israel said he feels very positively about the way trustees have handled the major issues facing the village, such as the budget, pensions and economic development.
“I think the people on the board have done a wonderful job, a commendable job to this point,” he said. “I think the village is currently run very well.”
Specifically, he praised the hard look the village took at the budget last year, when there were some reductions in staff and consolidation in purchasing. He also said the village was in good shape when it came to funding pensions.
“I’m actually kind of proud to be in Northbrook with their current level of funding,” he said.
While spurring economic development downtown has long been an issue for trustees, Israel said he liked the current comprehensive plan, which allows for more mixed-use development and taller building in the area. Beyond that, he said, he didn’t think there was much more the board could do to revitalize the area.
“Change in those areas is a combination of the village and the current owner, and until the current owners decide that it’s in their best interest to make changes, I don’t see that much happening, frankly,” he said.
While it may not be on par with the village budget or economic development, Israel did have a strong opinion on one controversy that inflamed residents over the past year: the issue of front yard veggie gardens. When a neighbor complained about the appearance of one woman’s front yard vegetable garden, Northbrook officials held several public hearings before they issued an outline of a village code that allows such plots.
“I have a garden,” Israel said. “I happen to have a corner lot. Effectively, my garden is on my side lot, so I had a garden out there. I was glad to see the village take it up as an issue and deal with it in what I thought was a very considered and measured way.
"You know, it kind of makes me happy to be part of a village that would take this up,” he added.
Outside of Politics
Beyond his service to the village, Israel is involved in several other activities in the area. He belongs to in Northbrook and has served on the board there as well as on the executive committee of the men’s club. He is also a member of the committee authoring the Illinois Department of Transportation's Illinois-Livable and Sustainable Transportation Rating System and Guide, a guidance document for more sustainable design and construction practices in the state.
Israel, who grew up in Chicago, has a twin daughter and son, both of whom are seniors at Glenbrook North High School. His son plays in the marching band and his daughter is on the flag team.
He said that when he and his family chose to move to Northbrook 13 years ago, they were immediately welcomed into the community.
“We arrived on Dec. 22, and we were invited to the neighbor’s New Year’s Eve parties pretty instantaneously,” he said. “It’s really been a wonderful, wonderful place for my family and for my kids to grow up.”