TORA – Ticket to Re-Election

The petitions for re-election are being circulated for Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley and Council members Cathy Ferguson, Ellen Brady Mueller and Brett Hopkins.

The festivities were problem in front of the building you see next to the play area.

And, just in time for the campaign, there is an election kick-off party that required the of spending well over $10 million. $14.37 million, according to the Northwest Herald.

As pointed out in 2005, there was a cheaper way, at least for Crystal Lake area residents.

There was no need for a Tax Increment Financing District to pay for turning Vulcan Lakes into Three Oaks Recreation Area.

Indeed the announcement that a TIF would be formed to finance the project was what stimulated me to start McHenry County Blog. $115 million would be available, said the city’s consultant. Bill Cellini’s group won the contract from the council to do the development, but backed away from it after his name coming up in the Tony Rezko trial.

TIFs are just a way to force everyone (yes, everyone in any overlapping tax district, and because of McHenry County government and the McHenry County Conservation District, that means all county resident) not living in the TIF to pay for it.

It’s a tax increase that the city council voted on all of us.

Oh, wait. That isn’t the way it’s being financed.

With the recession and the decimation of the commercial strip on the Vulcan Lake side of Route 14, the city couldn’t sell bonds to pay for the enormous cost of TORA.

Instead, a majority of the council (Jeff Thorsen being the exception) decided to
raise the city sales tax 75%. Part of the excuse was that the extra tax money was
needed to finance the development of Vulcan Lakes.

The TIF option just didn’t work out.

The huge tax hike was passed right after the RTA Sales Tax was hiked even a higher percentage.

From a political viewpoint, there have been little or no negative repercussions.

The Crystal Lake City Council decided to use this second way to export part of the cost of developing Vulcan Lakes to those who don’t live, but shop in Crystal Lake.

Now, Crystal Lake is in the recreation business.

And, so is the Park District.

There are probably other such illogical arrangements, but the one I have seen over the decades is in Springfield.

There the reason is patronage jobs. I don’t know if that is the motivation here or not.

There was another way to finance the project, although it certainly would not have been as lavish as the city council has allowed this to become.

Tall street lights line the roads. This one runs to the parking lot area from Main Street.

MCCD undoubtedly would not have spent, how much, hundreds of thousands of dollars on fancy street lights for a facility that closes at sunset.

That way was to convince the McHenry County Conservation District to take it over.

Had the council done so, our area would have finally gotten back some of the tens of millions of our tax dollars that has been redistributed north, northwest and west, like a kid slinging a bucket of water. The pockets of those in District 47 have ended up as empty as the bucket, another victim of Illinois’ having way too many local governmental units.

But control of the facility was the primary goal of city officials.

And maybe their names on a plaque. The edifice complex in action.

Bragging rights they have achieved include

  • having been instrumental in constructing the facility and
  • like Barack Obama, forcing the payment for it on their grandchildren.

Not to mention the ability to feature on their campaign literature what a great accomplishment opening the facility has been.

I couldn’t get close enough to take photos of the council members taking credit for the project without paying $5 for parking.

Not worth the price, so I’ll just run photos of the six council members who voted to raise the city sales tax 75%. There won’t be the same backdrop, but credit will go where it is due.

Mayor Aaron Shepley

Councilman Ralph Dawson

Councilwoman Cathy Ferguson

Former Councilman Dave Goss

Councilman Brett Hopkins

Councilwoman Ellen Brady Mueller

Shepley, Ferguson, Hopkins and Brady Mueller are up for election next spring. Expect to see TORA on their campaign literature…assuming they even have an opponent requiring them to print any.

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