Phelps Wins “Framing the Issues” Campaign

When Crystal Lake mayoral challenger Lori Phelps sent out her first press release, my reaction was that it focused too much on getting a hospital for Crystal Lake.

Being an anti-tax guy, I would have put more emphasis on how Mayor Aaron Shepley had led the charge to put lots and lots of valuable commercial into Tax Increment Financing districts.

Had it been my campaign, I would have continued to tag him with the “TIF Tax Hiker” label, because most assuredly all of our taxes will increase as the school, park and other tax districts shift the burden of what they lose in the three TIF districts to the rest of us.

If you doubt that, here’s what District 47 School Superintendent Ron Miller told the Crystal Lake City Council in answer to a question from Ellen Brady Mueller:

“District 47 is going to get its tax money,” he answered. He said that freezing any part of the tax base would lead to a higher tax rate to raise the real estate tax component of the $72 million budget.

“It’s a tax shift. Our job is to point that out.”

He predicted a $9 million shift over the 23-year lives of the three TIF districts.

I would have been critical of Shepley’s welcoming of the Gay Games’ takeover of Crystal Lake on a premier mid-July weekend day.

But Phelps had a different agenda.

Her primary goal is bringing a hospital to Crystal Lake.

She truly believes that Crystal Lake needs a hospital and that her former favorite for mayor, Aaron Shepley did less (much less, maybe) than he should to bring Mercy Hospital to Crystal Lake.

Then, Mercy announces it will try again.

By then, Shepley it’s right before the election and Shepley expresses his support, but says it’s not an issue.

No matter that he continues to be a vice president of Centegra, which would see much of it business drawn off should a hospital be approved for Crystal Lake.

So, knowing how important the “framing of the issues” part of the campaign, I am pretty amazed that Phelps won that part of the campaign.

How do I know?

The first indication was the headline on the Chicago Tribune article about the race.

Take a look at the front page of the Northwest Herald today.

And, remember that the Northwest Herald endorsed Shepley.

The summary of the Crystal Lake mayor’s campaign reads,

Big Mayor’s Race

In Crystal Lake, McHenry County’s biggest town, Mayor Aaron Shepley is being challenged by Lori Phelps, a former Shepley supporter who has criticized Shepley because of his job with Centegra Health System. Phelps said she believed Shepley would stand in the way of renewed interest by Mercy Health System to build a hospital in Crystal Lake.

Without doubt Shepley has won the sign war part of the campaign, especially with developers.

He is the favorite.

He’ll probably win unless Phelps has identified her supporters and has enough volunteers to get them to the polls. (Differential turnout is the name of the game in elections.)

But, what happens four years from now if Shepley wins and Crystal Lake doesn’t have a hospital and, say, Centegra has built a hospital in Huntley.

Might Shepley be vulnerable to the same issue?

I’m sure he will be hoping the issue goes away.

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