Steve Willson Writes Letter for Paul Serwatka’s Lakewood Village Write-in Campaign

A letter I got recently from Steve Willson, a resident of Lakewood who is a bond analyst:

Steve Wilson

Steve Wilson

My name is Steve Willson.

Perhaps you’ve read some of my letters and guest editorials in the Herald about local government waste, something I know about because I’ve been in the municipal finance business for 35 years.

I’m writing to you today about another risky and wasteful government project, Lakewood’s $66 million Tax Increment Financing.

I’m asking you to fight it by writing in Paul Serwatka for Lakewood Trustee on April 7.

Last year the Village Board bought a big piece of land at 47 & 176. They call this “economic development”; I call it speculating in real estate with the taxpayers’ money.

Now, even as they raise our property taxes, they’ve offered a $66 million property tax subsidy to a risky project called the “SportsPlex”.

And let there be no doubt, the SportsPlex is risky.

Similar ventures have gone bankrupt all over the country.

This specific project was identified by two U.S. senators as one of the biggest boondoggles in the country.

The principals have a history of business failure and they have no money in this deal: none; ZERO.

They’ve failed for five years to get this project going and the only people who think it will succeed are… our Village trustees.

And the way the Village Board went about setting up the Tax Increment Finance or “TIF” district for the SportsPlex smacks of Chicago-style politics at its worst. Here are the facts: 

The law says that TIFs are only supposed to be used for “blighted” areas.

So the trustees declared the Crystal Woods Golf Course, which would be destroyed to make way for the SportsPlex, to be “blighted”.

The law also requires proof that “but for” a TIF, development would not occur, something one of the trustees said they knew wasn’t true.

So what did they do?

They paid a “consultant” to give them the opinion they wanted – a consultant who has a 100% record of approving TIFs despite admitting they have no evidence that the TIFs they approved actually met the law’s requirements.

This is exactly what the Board did when they bought RedTail.

The process was, to put it politely, tainted.

With interest, the TIF will take over $100 million from our schools.

And when the SportsPlex fails, we will all pay higher taxes to maintain and patrol the infrastructure that will be built for the SportsPlex, and pay higher fees for water and sewer.

If you think the Village should NOT speculate in real estate with our money, if you think they have no business offering giant tax subsidies to risky start-ups while they raise our property taxes every year, then don’t waste your vote on any of the incumbents.

Instead, write in Paul Serwatka on April 7.

We only need 400 votes to send a message to the board to kill the TIF and to quit raising our taxes.

Your vote could literally make the difference.


Steve Willson Writes Letter for Paul Serwatka’s Lakewood Village Write-in Campaign — 10 Comments

  1. SportsPlex is risky.

    I agree.

    Restaurants are risky.

    By that line of reasoning Lakewood should have never permitted Lou Malnati’s into the Village.

    This is still American where entrepreneurs can make risky investments.

    It will be the purchasers of the bonds (Not the Village) that will take the loss if the SportPlex goes down in flames.

    If the SportsPlex does fail that property can easily be re-purposed.

    Unlike Motorola in Harvard, a soccer field is easy to plow over.

    Take $100 million from our schools?

    All the money that is currently going to schools will continue to go to the schools.


    It will only impact schools IF there is significant residential development in the TIF district.

    The TIF is aimed at commercial development.

    Additionally, District 200 (the school district affected) did not object to the TIF knowing all the plans.

    Somehow Mr. Wilson knows better than the school district.

    Mr. Wilson is also wrong about the $66 Million.

    Yes, some of the increment will go to the SportsPlex.

    Municipalities offer incentives to business all the time.

    Mr. Wilson inaccurately paints the picture that ALL TIF revenue will go to the Sportsplex.

    The Village will receive TIF funds as well.

    I cannot support a candidate that is running a negative campaign and spreading fear and uncertainty.

    I will be supporting Lakewood’s current trustees.

  2. Two of our most important crusaders, in the fight for change in McHenry County government and the crusade against corruption.

    Paul Swertka and Steve Willson.

    Sure hope, the people are listening to two of their greatest advocates.

    Please cast your vote for change on April 7, 2015.

    Every vote and every election in the Great State of Illinois is creating change for the people.

    We can overcome.

    A great big thanks goes out to Paul Swertka and Steve Wilson for being the voice of the people.

  3. Ted, you have ignored all the evidence against this financing and its legality. You can hardly do that and claim your arguments are sufficient.

    Like the Village Board, you ignored three independent studies of Illinois TIF districts that show definitively that TIFs do NOT result in development that would not have occurred anyway.

    You ignore the blatant misuse of the statute to declare raw land and a golf course “blighted”.

    You ignore the use of a sham opinion from a sham consultant to claim that, “technically”, this financing meets the letter of the law, even if not the intent. (And to a bureaucrat, “technically correct” is the best kind of correct.)

    You ignore the weak history of the two principals for this project and the fact that every other government in this area has refused them.

    You ignore the fact that the principals have not been able to raise money for five years. You ignore the fact that they have no equity in this deal — no skin in the game. You ignore their history of business failure.

    Then you go on the (personal) attack, as if anger and insult were a substitute for logic and evidence.

    In short, you have not rebutted a single argument of mine.

    In contrast, I’m about to look at your points one by one and show exactly where you’re wrong.

    “This is still America where entrepreneurs can make risky investments.”

    Ted, it is the job of entrepreneurs to make risky investments. It is NOT the job of local government to offer deep subsidies to risky businesses and take taxes away from our schools.

    “If the SportsPlex fails, that property can easily be re-purposed.”

    Oh, if only that were true! Sadly, I’ve been through a number of workouts (none of them, by the way, that I recommended) and it is RARELY that clean and easy. I’ve seen deals crater half way through development with the raw land torn up by earth moving equipment, and then sit like that for years caught up in suits.

    Ask Algonquin how quickly Riverside Square was fixed. How do you know we won’t have that happen here when the SportsPlex fails?

    “All the money that is currently going to the schools will continue to go to the schools.”

    The truth and nothing but the truth, Ted — but not the whole truth, and you know it.

    This financing will lock any increase in taxes away from the schools for 23 years. Do you really think that this board can see 23 years into the future? I don’t. If they’re that good, they should run a hedge fund — with people who CHOOSE to invest with them, not with taxpayer money.

    It is much more likely that if the Village doesn’t do this financing then in five years or ten years development will come to that corner. And, in that case, more taxes would flow to the schools for all those remaining years instead of being locked up, as they will be if this TIF financing is done.

    “District 200 (the school district affected) did not object to the TIF knowing all the plans.”

    When I was in high school, I took a class in logic and we had to learn all the “formal fallacies” — errors in reasoning. This particular error is called “appeal to authority”. Ted, an argument is not right or wrong based on who argues it, it is right or wrong based on the logic and evidence that support it.

    But, as long as you mention it, yes, I am disappointed that District 200 did not object. They let their taxpayers down.

    “Somehow Mr. Wilson knows better than the school district.”

    Now this is the opposite fallacy of the one noted above. Its formal name is “argument ad hominem”, or “argument against the man”. This is where someone says a position is wrong because the person who advances it isn’t sufficiently qualified. Usually, as you do here, Ted, the argument is in the form of a snippy personal attack without evidence.

    But, as I noted above, an argument is right or wrong based on the evidence, not on who advances it.

    Even if he has 35 years of experience as an investment banker, a bond analyst, a portfolio manager, and as an elected official.

    So, Ted, I will not be voting for the status quo. I will not be voting for people who raise our taxes while offering big subsidies to a bad business. I will not be voting for people who abuse the intent of the law by calling a beautiful golf course “blighted” or claim a sham opinion from a “consultant” constitutes proof while they ignore all the contrary evidence.

    No, I will write in Paul Serwatka.

  4. District 200 did not submit an opinion.

    They have expressed they are exploring legal options to protect their taxpayers.

    One option is to challenge the merits of the tif in court. We all know the shaky basis of its “blight” and ” but for ” claims.

    Another option is to petition for a (school) redistricting of the tif area.

    Notwithstanding the tactical annexation in another school district, it makes sense for Lakewood tif school children to attend schools to which Lakewood taxpayers currently pay all taxes.

    If D200 fails to act to protect its citizens, there is a private group with standing to challenge the legality of the Lakewood tif..

    Whether or not that suit succeeds, the property owners within the tif district have standing to petition for detachment from D200, and inclusion into the school district currently serving Lakewood.

  5. I don’t live in Lakewood, but lived on Pleasant Valley Rd. where this Sportsplex was shot down 5 yrs. or so ago.

    Now it’s reared it’s ugly head again.

    This would be a quite the REFERENDUM on the current board of Lakewood who thinks this process is just fine.

    I never remember seeing so many write-ins!

    I guess this is the citizenry saying they’re fed up!

    I would also suggest supporting Sascha Chadwick as write in for Mayor of Crystal Lake!!

  6. When the Sports Plex was first proposed, I was asked by several people who had been approached as potential investors to examine it before they bought in.

    I came to the conclusion that it was a bad investment, and I’ve seen nothing in the intervening period that would change my mind.

    The fact that we recently learned that McHenry County is the only collar county to suffer a population decline over the past 4 years makes it even less likely that the project would succeed.

    The people who enacted this TIF had to (or should have) known that the demographics were working against them on this project.

    What, then was their Plan B? What other motivations underlie this action?

    The TIF process has become a blunt instrument, and does little more than confuse what should be a straightforward economic analysis on the merits of any proposed development.

    It tilts the table in favor of developers and municipalities whose time frame is usually much shorter than the project being proposed.

    If a deal can’t work without a subsidy, it has no business going forward.

    Paul’s willingness to stand in front of this runaway train and yell “Stop!” deserves the support of everyone who wants to see sustainable growth in this county without government stepping in to pick winners and losers.

  7. Well put, Steve Reick.

    I, too, saw the business plan for the SportsPlex two years ago and it didn’t take me long to decide that it was a loser.

    Ted Smith — Ted, are you still there?

    I’m waiting for your reply to my post.

    I assume you are either going to use logic and evidence to rebut each of my points, one by one, or you are going to concede the weight of the evidence is on my side.

    Ted, are you still there?


  8. ‘Ted” your comment is risky! (as in you risk revealing your stupidity)

    Unless I’m the one that is uninformed and Lou Malnati’s got a TIF to build their place in Lakewood your statement defies all logic!

    Do let me know.

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