During the last Woodstock City Council election, Scott Gessert ran for City Council.
He didn’t succeed, but has retained an interest in city affairs, especially the special U.S. Census.
Gessert has called on residents who don’t want the City of Woodstock to become a Home Rule City, which would allow the City Council to raise taxes and fees not now authorized by State law, to refuse to be counted.
[Read Woodstock’s government’s pitch for being counted here.]
Here is a statement he recently made.
Scott Gessert on Woodstock’s Special Census
I’m making our community aware of the option that has not otherwise been presented.
It’s OK to refuse to be counted in the Special Census in Woodstock this spring.
The City of Woodstock wants to gain more funds as our population increases, and that sounds reasonable on the surface. But when you review the opportunities and actions of our city council upon arriving at the Special Census, it shows contempt for us, the taxpayers.
My response is to talk to neighbors and empower them to make our community stronger.
Participation in a Special Census is voluntary, according to the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office.
You don’t have to answer questions unless you want to do so.
Home Rule can be achieved by a referendum at no cost to taxpayers.
Our city council took steps to work around the need for that approval.
Instead the mayor and city council approved a payment of $89,362 to the United States Census Bureau to push a Special Census on the people who live here, in an effort to gain more revenue and Home Rule Authority.
City Hall has the home court advantage and, as my second grade son would say, they didn’t think they could win, so they took their ball and went home.
By presenting a real option to refuse to participate in the Special Census, I’m giving the ball back to the taxpayers. Each household can decide how to play it.
I just want people to know they have an option.
This comes down to an issue of trust and our city council has not demonstrated trust in the way they pushed for the Special Census.
I’m saying the compelling reason for the Special Census is for City Hall to gain Home Rule Authority, and the compelling reason to gain Home Rule Authority is to impose more taxes and fees on us.
Woodstock’s property tax rate is 4.6% and that’s more than double other McHenry county municipalities.
Our city council reminds us that they have not taken an inflationary tax increase for five consecutive years.
Because our tax rate is already sky high, but no member of our city council has suggested tax cut or reduced spending. In the meantime we can see our city’s rapid decline in terms of road maintenance, sewer maintenance, and the mass departure of manufacturing and the jobs that go with it.
Taxpayers must remain skeptical about how our critical needs will be funded.
If the city’s interest is gaining more money at any cost then that is a concern for me as a taxpayer.
The city could have placed Home Rule Authority on a referendum at no cost, but instead forced the issue as a Special Census at the taxpayers’ expense.
That’s not a demonstration of trust. And municipalities with Home Rule Authority have far greater authority to pass ordinances impacting the community in terms of generating revenue.
So ask yourself, do I trust this city council with more authority? I expect the more public funds we allow them to access, the more they will spend on projects we don’t critically need like lobbyists, artificial turf and copper domes.
I see evidence of corruption when I read the City Council minutes for January 19, 2016 stating the approval of a contract with Joyce Nardulli for ‘Intergovernmental and Legislative Advocacy Professional Services.’
That description is not on her business card, she calls herself a lobbyist. And the city pays her $60,000 a year to represent us as a lobbyist in Springfield.
City Council approved a ‘donation’ of $100,000 to Woodstock High School in a joint campaign to gift the installation of artificial turf on the existing football field. D200 Board of Education declined to accept the costly upgrade.
The mayor agreed to accept the Old Courthouse as a ‘donation’ to the city, then the city paid $110,000 to actually acquire it.
Additional expenses cannot be avoided now that the city is responsible for bringing the property up to code.
It cost an additional $50,000 – $90,000 to upgrade to copper and that’s just the beginning of this project that is estimated to cost $4.7 million to bring the building in line with the city’s expectations.
What about taxpayer’s expectations?
The city projected $432,500 for the entire roofing project and we actually paid more than $775,000.
I expect we’ll keep making upgrades until the voters say enough is enough.
Unfortunately, we’re living with a poorly functioning democracy due to low voter participation because so many of us – with good reason – have lost faith in the honesty of our representatives in government.
Not that we need a report, but the Federal Judicial District of Northern IL reports more corruption convictions than any of the country’s 92 other judicial districts. (Source: University of Illinois at Chicago Dept of Political Science)
Woodstock is not immune to Illinois culture of corruption just because we’re not Chicago, or simply because we’re the charming town 200 miles away from Springfield.
The mechanisms for corruption such as hidden governance, sweetheart deals and nepotism exist in our city, too.
There’s good evidence that people are simply moving out of Woodstock and McHenry County to escape the rudely high taxes. My neighbor, Jerry, is a disabled veteran who moved to Woodstock to get away from the Home Rule Authority they ‘achieved’ in McHenry.
They didn’t raise his property taxes, but the City of McHenry promptly created a new kind of tax on water meters and required him to pay $10,000 for the cost of a new meter in his home.
Jerry tells me if Woodstock gets Home Rule, he’ll be moving out of town.
So my question is does this city council represent us?
If not, why should we be obligated to answer questions about our households for them to use to ensnare us in new fees and taxes?
The answer is obvious.
I don’t answer questions.