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John Walters: City Council Candidate [2009]

22 March 2009 RS 16 Comments

Elgin City Councilman John Walters at a candidates forum on March 16th, 2009 Elgin City Councilman John Walters at a candidates forum on March 16th, 2009 (Photo by The Elginite).

John Walters, an incumbent Elgin city councilman, is seeking reelection.

Mr. Walters, an attorney by profession, was appointed to the city council sometime in the mid 1980’s and has won every reelection bid since then. Along with Ed Schock and Bob Gilliam, he is one of the “permanent members” of the council majority that has been responsible for the direction the city has taken in the past two decades.

On the issue of the Grand Victoria casino, however, he departed from the majority, opposing it from the time it was first mooted to the final vote. Despite the estimates at that time that it would bring $14M a year into city coffers, Mr. Walters voted against the riverboat casino out of concern that it would lead to a gambling epidemic.

His social conservatism is not limited to gambling issues. As a member of the liquor commission he voted against granting a liquor license to The Mission, the downtown Elgin nightclub, when it first applied to open in 1997. The other liquor commission members, Marie Yearman and Kevin Kelly, however, overruled Mr. Walters and The Mission opened. It has since become a critical part of downtown Elgin nightlife and the DNA’s vision for a 24-hour city.

Mr. Walters also opposed a late-night weekend liquor license for The Prairie Rock microbrewery, while voting in favor of the $200,000 in incentives that allowed the place to open.

As a member of the liquor commission, he voted to yank the liquor license for the downtown Jazz club Anthony’s. A state panel overruled the decision, and eventually the bankrupted owners of the club sued the City of Elgin for fifteen million dollars.

He also opposed a package liquor sales license for a 7-Eleven, and in 1997, during the dot com boom, when somebody applied for a license to sell wine over the Internet, Mr. Walters opposed that as well.

In 2006, he, Bob Gilliam and Ed Schock, joined by Brenda Rodgers, reneged on a promise made to The Mission nightclub that they would remove a one-year time limit on the club’s ability to mix age groups. This was despite the fact that the owner of the club had complied with all of the demands that they had made a year earlier and that the police department had given them a thumbs up. The council and its decision, the owner said, “have destroyed my business, my life and my spirit.”

Mr. Walters voted to buy the Crocker Theater for $600,000, and he voted to demolish it. He voted for the incentives that were supposed to put a condominium tower in place of the Crocker, but the lot remains vacant to this day.

In the late 90’s, Ed Schock proposed the idea of a recreation center, and the council majority quickly signed on to it. There were concerns, of course, that the recreation center would become a money-losing venture. Mr. Walter’s response at the time was that it would pay for itself. “I look at Crystal Lake, they make so much money with theirs, they don’t know how to spend it all,” is what he told the Daily Herald in 1998.

Six years later, he told that same paper, “This was never going to be a money maker…It’s a gift for the community; it’s for the community.”

The final cost of the recreation center, dubbed The Centre, was $41,000,000, according to The Courier News. It operated in the red from the beginning, and continues to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars every year.

More recently, he voted for the $700,000 incentive package that brought the Chicago Bandits softball team to Elgin. The Bandits were later found to be involved in suspicious business deals with councilman Mike Powers. Mr. Powers had not only arranged to become a marketing consultant for the Bandits, but also moved into a home owned by one of the Bandits owners. Mr. Powers was forced to resign from the city council, but Mr. Walters, like his colleagues, remained supportive of the Bandits throughout the scandal.

In 2004, Mr. Walters voted to retain the law firm of Futterman & Howard CHTD to sue the U-46 school district on the issue of neighborhood schools. While the council eventually chose not to pursue the case, the lawyers never went away, found other plaintiffs and the lawsuit against U-46 is still in motion to this day. The same law firm sued the Rockford school district years earlier, costing that district $250,000,000.

On the issue of illegal immigration, Mr. Walters is on the side of illegal immigrants. He declined to answer a questionnaire prepared by the Association for Legal Americans (AFLA).

He has accepted money from the SEIU. According to AFLA, Mr. Walters has received at least $2,869 from the SEIU in the past four years. His current campaign finance filings are not available, but some of the large donors to his campaign in the previous cycle include Boncoskey Oil Company ($1000), Citizens for Ruth Munson ($400), Mackenzie Woods Development Co. (affiliated with Charles P. Miller) ($2000), Richard Rayner (Rayner Coverings Inc) ($1000), and Otto Engineering Co. ($200).

As a councilman, Mr. Walters is affable and ubiquitous. He says he is accessible to citizens, and his work and home phone numbers have always been listed in the phone book. He avoids, however, the Internet and email, and has no campaign website.

EDIT (3/22/08):
Mr. Walters put up a campaign website sometime between late February and today. I apologize for the inaccuracy.

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16 Responses to “John Walters: City Council Candidate [2009]”

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  1. Boxcar says:

    Is there anyone more ineffective, more out of touch, more void of ideas, opinions, initiatives and common sense than John Walters?

    Yet, he still gets re-elected. If he gets re-elected now, with two of the most solid challengers we have had in recent history, (Dunne and Prigge) I would demand a recount.

    Maybe he made it 21 years because voters did not know the challengers well enough or felt their lives in Elgin were good with or without him. Now, that is not the case. We DO know the challengers via a little invention called the Internet and sites like this one. FYI-Mr. Walters and his buddy Mr. Gilliam have no websites for this campaign-go figure. While Prigge, for one, not only has the best site of all candidates, he promised to keep it active during his tenure! We also know that Elgin citizens are not leading a good life. We are the victims of runaway illegal aliens polluting and draining our city’s resources and it’s image, increasing gang violence and over-crowding in our neighborhoods.

    We now have choices. Strong choices. A small business owner with deep Elgin roots and a fire department lieutenant and Veteran. Talk about leaders? Here are two strong leaders.

  2. Kurt says:

    I agree with Boxcar for the most part. We have both gang problems and illegal alien problems, but they must be dealt with separately! Gangs are not made up of illegal aliens only! If you look closely, the kids of illegal aliens ARE legal because our hospitals allowed it. Dig deeper though and you will see that there are also Asian gangs, Latino gangs, Black gangs, white gangs (yes white) and gangs that are mixed colors. The illegal aliens don’t want to be seen, it is smarter to blend in and hide in the woodwork.

    I do believe we need to revamp our councils thinking and the only good solution is to get everyone out there to vote, not 5,000 out of around 70,000 registered voters. How do you think we got Schock back in there! Vote for new blood, blood that keeps the whole city in mind, blood that worries more about infrastructure not beautification, blood that worries about our safety and well being not catering to people that break not only the cities laws but the Nations laws, and not blood that worries about just staying in office and passing more useless and targeted laws!

  3. Jerome says:

    While I have neither the time nor the energy to address all the inaccurate and/or misleading statements in this article, I would note that if either the author or any of the respondents checked Google (remember folks, Google is your friend), or any of Walters’ signs they would see that he does have a website - http://www.waltersforelgin.com

    I would encourage everyone here to actually research these positions rather than pay attention to what the moderator and respondents have to say. If you want to learn about what Walters or any of the candidates stands for go ahead and visit his website, or, as this profile notes, call or write him.

    • RS says:

      Thank you for the link, Jerome.

      Actually the site does not show up on the first page of Google for any combination of “John Walters Elgin” or “John Walters City Council.” Any of those searches brings up The Elginite.

    • RS says:

      Also, please point out anything that is inaccurate or misleading. Rather than relying on Google, I actually used the complete database of articles published in the Daily Herald and The Elgin Courier News in the past twenty plus years. If there are inaccuracies, I would be interested in them.

      Thank you.

  4. Boxcar says:

    I just read Mr. Walters’ website. No surprises, rather boring and, once again, completely void of ideas on how to solve our problems. His beliefs are generic and can be taken a variety of ways.

  5. Tina says:

    Boxcar, your not kidding! social agendas, the arts, sustainability, etc. No mention of overcrowding, gangs, drugs in the neighborhoods. This is why they think the way they do and why most of my neighborhoods are tired of them. One of my neighbors today mentioned, even if the two of them are not that bad, they have been in as old as she is! and thats to long. Prigge’s and Robins websites have much more substance than Walters. Did you all hear that Friday night two hispanic bars lit up. When I was first told by a spouse of one of the Elgin officers, I thought they both caught on fire. There were fights at both bars and other police departments showed up including Barrington! Why do we need to call for help from the Barrington police, this town has to straighten up!

  6. Dave says:

    Just to pick off a couple of the easy inaccuracies:

    1) Neither Walters (nor the council) never voted to retain Futterman and Howard. On the contrary, Walters was the deciding vote in preventing the city from joining the lawsuit. From the Daily Herald, July 15 2004 (found at isbe.net):

    “Councilman John Walters last week withdrew his support for the city paying Futterman and Howard up to $44,000 in pre-litigation costs. Four of six council members informally had supported hiring the law firm, and Walter’s change of heart meant the official vote set for Wednesday night’s city council meeting would have resulted in a rejection by tie.”

    To me, that sounds a lot like someone who’s prone to thoughtful consideration.

    2) My understanding is that the Anthony’s lawsuit went nowhere, meaning the city won the lawsuit. Moreover, the State (while ruling the commission was too harsh) imposed its own penalty on Anthony’s that involved the suspension of its license. It’s worth noting that this only happened after several fights, shootings, and the like occurred at establishment.

    3) Your statement regarding Walters being on the side of illegal immigrants is absurd. It’s not a “with us or against us” kind of thing here. One can disagree with AFLA’s motives without being pro illegal immigration.

    4) It sounds suspiciously like the author (RS or one of his friends) was the “someone” who wanted to start an internet wine business during the dot-com boom. Whoever it was, however, is irrelevant. What is more relevant is the fact that interstate wine sales directly to consumers have only been legal since 2005 (you’ll need to look up the Supreme Court case yourself). It’s hard to envision an internet wine business that could only ship to Illinois being particularly successful.

    Offhand, I don’t know whether there are any more inaccuracies in the article. I’m inclined to think that there are, considering the 4 I spotted so easily.

    • RS says:

      Well I don’t agree that the points you raised are inaccuracies, but you are welcome to disagree on those points.

      Regarding the Futterman lawsuit, to make it easier for everyone to see exactly what the facts were, in a blog post tomorrow, I will show several news excerpts from 2004, so people can make up their own mind about exactly how much responsibility, if any, John Walters bears for this lawsuit.

  7. Dave says:

    Sorry, that first point should say, “Neither Walters (nor the council) ever voted…”

  8. Jessica says:

    Thank you for all of this information. Can you please elaborate on “…reneged on a promise made to The Mission nightclub that they would remove a one-year time limit on the club’s ability to mix age groups.”

    I don’t understand. They took away a liquor license temporarily? The club shut down? They took away some sort of tax incentives or breaks? What was supposed to happen during the 1-year period, or after that limit?

  9. rm says:

    “To me, that sounds a lot like someone who’s prone to thoughtful consideration.”

    To me it sounds like a waffler having it both ways. Given the Futterman track record, a sound representative never would have indicated any interest in getting involved with them from the start.

    “Your statement regarding Walters being on the side of illegal immigrants is absurd. It’s not a “with us or against us” kind of thing here.”

    Oh? Another indication of Waffling Walters and his supporters wanting it both ways - with us and against us. And BTW, Dave, simply calling a position “absurd” doesn’t make it so nor does it show in any way how it is “inaccurate.”

    “What is more relevant is the fact that interstate wine sales directly to consumers have only been legal since 2005″

    Wrong. The Supreme Court’s decision held that states could not discriminate between in-state and out of state wineries in permitting direct shipments. Direct shipping existed in some states before the decision. The Court’s decision raised the potential to increase such shipments - or limit them - so long as the states did not discriminate.

    So much for three out Dave’s four “easy inaccuracies.”

  10. Boxcar says:


    Don’t go patting yourself on the back so fast. Walters IS for illegals polluting Elgin because he will not do anything to stop them. What you permit, you promote.

    He has hidden behind the “Federal issue only” skirt for years and has passively sat by and whined that ICE won’t get back to the city on their last request. That’s cowardly.

    I ask you and anyone else: Would you wait 15 months for someone to call or write you back when you have asked for help? I wouldn’t UNLESS I was not into needing the help in the first place. How abnout a follow-up letter? A phone call? I know, John, how about a sign of life from YOU! Anything.

    Another note: Walters declined to fill out the AFLA questionnaire YET attended their forum? WHY?

    Walters has no vision for the future, no plans, no nothing. At a recent televised meeting before a council meeting he said in his official capacity, he was “pissed” at something.

    “Pissed”?? Is that proper language for an official to use? What did his church friends say about that remark? Oh, Heaven forbid.

    John Walters has done N-O-T-H-I-N-G positive for this city. In fact, not only did he vote against the Grand Victoria, he said years later, that he would STILL vote “NO” after knowing how much money the boat brought us.

    Trust me, people see right through him at the forums. He has never said so many words in his role as a councilman as he is saying in this campaign. He is in real trouble because NOW he has solid competition.

    Ed Schock and Bob Gilliam will miss him.

  11. Mark says:

    Walters also at the forums recently has been walking out telling people with a smirk on his face that he came because he straightened out some misconceptions. However, after he leaves, when Prigge gets up to speak, people are nodding their heads in agreement and whispering with a smile. To me, that appears to show agreement, not misconceptions!

  12. Jon says:

    Nearly every time Mr. Walters makes a comment in an official capacity, he puncuates himself with a “witty” little comment. He cloaks himself in this wit so no one will see his “emporer’s new clothes.” He is devoid, as others see, of any ideas, and is just a space and a rubberstamp vote, going whichever way the wind blows. To his credit, he is a well of knowledge, but has proved over the decades that he has no idea how to utilize it. He needs to go.

  13. Diva says:

    He needs to go along with the other 2 rerunning. Warren is nothing but the same thing. We need to break up this boys club.