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