Debate on Lakewood TIF Intense

The comment section under articles about Lakewood’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District and Paul Serwatka’s write-in campaign aimed directly at it is being hotly debated on McHenry County Blog.

Here is what appears under the article about Steve Wilson’s letter:

  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. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    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. Steven Reick

    Steven Reick

    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. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    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?


Here is what appears under the article containing Paul Serwatka’s post card:

  1. Don’t allow corrupt politicians to continue taking advantage of the community.

    Stop the corruption, vote for Paul Serwatka April 7, 2015.

  2. How dare you!

    Corrupt politician?

    I have given twelve years of my time for our Village. I am not corrupt.

    You owe us an apology.

  3. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    I don’t think the Village board is corrupt, Duncan.

    It’s worse than that: they’re righteous.

    They truly believe they are doing the right thing and other people just don’t understand.

    The problem with that attitude is that it is impervious to reasoning and evidence.

    I have learned two universal truths about local office holders in my thirty-five years in municipal finance.

    First, almost unanimously, they think most boards are full to stupid people doing stupid things.

    Second, almost unanimously, they think they’re different and special and they really know they’re doing the right thing!

    Sadly, the Lakewood board is a prime example.

    I’ve heard members say, “Oh, most TIFs are bad, but not this one — it’s different.”

    And I’ve heard them take this very optimistic attitude that if the SportsPlex doesn’t work out (and it seems like they themselves have serious doubts), well, once the TIF is in place, other businesses will just flock there immediately and all will be well!

    They have no concept that the area could sit vacant, half-developed, torn up, and the subject of lawsuits and foreclosure for many, many years.

    And when you bring up evidence to the contrary, they just ignore it — they flatly refuse to respond or to consider it, because they know in their hearts that what they’re doing is right for Lakewood.

    I am reminded of the of Justice Louis D. Brandeis in Olmstead v. United States:

    “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”

  4. I have seen no hint of corruption in my Lakewood Village government.

  5. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    I believe you, Gene.

    I don’t think you’re corrupt.

    Totally committed to making the government of Lakewood as big as possible, yes.

    But not corrupt.

  6. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    Actually, Gene, I take back what I said above.

    The process by which the Village Board approved the TIF was corrupt.

    The law was intended to insure that tax subsidies were used only in blighted areas where development was highly unlikely to occur otherwise, like the south side of Chicago.

    But YOU voted to call undeveloped land and a golf course “blighted”.

    I call that a corruption of the law.

    And YOU then voted to use a sham consultant to give a bought-and-paid-for opinion that “but for” the TIF, no development would occur at 47 & 176.

    That was a corruption of the law.

    YOU completely ignored all the evidence presented to the contrary, including three independent studies that show that Illinois TIF districts do NOT produce growth in excess of what would likely have occurred anyway.

    That was a corruption of the law.

    YOU voted to ignore all the evidence that the SportsPlex is a weak project and undeserving of a subsidy.

    That was a corruption of the law.

    So, do I think you’re on the take?


    Do I think you’ll bend the law when it suits you?

    Well, you’ve proven that.

    I repeat Justice Louis D. Brandeis opinion from Olmstead v. United States:

    “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”

  7. I think the world has come into a time of moral deficit.

    Too many believe that just because something is legal, that it is right.

    Similarly, they believe that all things wrong must be made criminal. I

    ts hard for me to understand how the TIF and sportsplex benefit the Lakewood village and County as a whole.

    I’d also add, whenever you hear someone say “Don’t worry, it will be paid for by someone else’s money”, remember that ALL government money is our money.

Here is what appears under the article containing Gary Sexson’s campaign literature:


  1. If the TIF is done, the write-in can’t stop that.

    If the SportsPlex is dead, the write-in can’t stop that.

    He has no issues as he is only running on two, now, non-issues.

    No reason remains to elect him.

  2. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    Key term: “currently dead”.

    Like a zombie, I expect the SportsPlex to magically live again — as soon as the election is over!

    Let’s see:

    * The board held a series of public meetings about the TIF and the SportsPlex.
    * At the meetings, the Board insisted the SportsPlex was a great project.
    * The Board issued a phony declaration the area for the SportsPlex is “blighted”
    * The Board paid for a sham opinion from a sham consultant that a TIF was needed.
    * The Board voted to create a $66 million TIF district for the SportsPlex

    And NOW, MAGICALLY, the project is “dead” and we should trust this Board to not make bad decisions regarding the TIF?

    I was born at night, but I wasn’t born last night.

  3. Steve Wilson

    Steve Wilson

    Ted, you are not telling the truth and you know it. There is still time to act.

    First, the Board could actually rescind their action and un-make the TIF district.

    Second, with taxpayer watchdogs like Paul Serwatka on the board, we have a chance no further stupid actions will be taken, like issuing $66 million in bonds.

    Without people like Paul, it’s Katy-bar-the-door business as usual.

    As for the SportsPlex, I have this funny feeling that the day after the election it will suddenly be “un-dead”.

    And as for there being no issues, Paul is running against the process, which was like the dirtiest Chicago-style politics. This board has proven they will bend and twist the law to suit their purposes. We need people like Paul on the board to watch out for the taxpayers.

  4. Erin Smith told us five years ago that the Sportsplex was a “done deal”.

    Obviously not true.

    Erin Smith had recently told a Lakewood resident that the Sportsplex was a “done deal” and that resident assumed that meant that land was already purchased by Sportsplex. (BTW, no land contracts have even been SIGNED according to the landholders!!)

    Obviously, again not true.

    And NOW Gary Sexson wants us to believe his statement that the Sportsplex is DEAD!

    AND Erin Smith says that when the Sportsplex presents their business plan, the board will take it “into consideration”!

    And you expect me to believe ANYONE on the current Lakewood board?

    Like Steve, I may have been born at night but certainly not last night.

  5. Mr. Smith(or should I say trustee Gary Sexson?) Referring to page 2 of the most recent, Spring 2015, Village newsletter, Village President Erin Smith, referring to the Sportsplex, states

    “Discussions are now underway between the developer and Village staff. Once staff believes that there is a redevelopment agreement that is in the best interests of the Village of Lakewood, it will be brought forward for consideration by the board of trustees.”

    I am told that Village President Smith has also since indicated that YOUR (I mean Gary Sexson’s)statement was in fact misleading and that in fact we do not YET have a redevelopment agreement in place, but, that one IS currently being worked on.

    I find it quite disturbing, Mr. Sexson (I mean Mr. Smith) how uncomfortable you become when a little light is shined upon you , and the fact that you resort to outright lying when you’re threatened speaks volumes as to your character.

    Paul Serwatka will bring truth and transparency to the Lakewood Village Board, so perhaps you SHOULD be nervous.

  6. Why was a tif necessary in order to put in a gas station?

    Was this gas station willing to site there without a tif?

    This is all discoverable.

    Here’s what is under the article containing Ken Santowski’s campaign piece:


    1. Steve Wilson

      Steve Wilson

      Ken, you voted to buy that property at 47 & 176, which is speculating in real estate with taxpayer money.

      You voted for the resolution to declare virgin property and a golf course to be “blighted”.

      You voted to hire a sham consultant for a sham study that said a TIF was needed.

      When I asked the Board at the public meeting how many TIFs the “consultant” had done, how many they had approved, and whether they had any evidence of the accuracy of their opinions, no one on the board knew — including YOU. (The answers were 50, 50 and “No”, meaning the consultant does exactly what he’s paid for — he approves every TIF and he has no evidence to support his opinion.)

      You have voted for the maximum property tax increase every year.

      “Carefully negotiate with potential developers”?

      You guys were ready to give $66 million in tax subsidies to get a project that is incredibly weak. T

      This wasn’t Microsoft or Amazon, it’s a bunch of people who’ve failed at other businesses, who want to start a business in an industry with a terrible track record, who have zero money in their project, and who have been turned down by every other government in the area.

      “Carefully negotiate”?

      Ken, I don’t think that’s a factual statement.

    2. If a viable commercial entity develops Rte 47 it should pay taxes and take its own risk.

      Who will be left to pay taxes when all the county is covered in tif?

      It is disgraceful when those in power abuse the privilege in order to steer OPMoney toward self-interest projects; but it is like stabbing citizens in the eye with a pencil to do it and characterize it as good governance.

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