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December [2011] open thread

1 December 2011 RS 37 Comments

Geese, Lords Park, Elgin IL Geese, Lords Park, Elgin IL (Photo by The Elginite).

Dcember open thread. Post what you want.

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37 Responses to “December [2011] open thread”

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  1. G says:

    Anyone been to the new Grove Central Station restaurant/bar in the old Mad Maggies spot?

    The complete lack of info on-line already has me a bit worried about their fate (they apparently had a soft opening months ago). I drove by last month, and part of the Mad Maggies signage was still up — makes me wonder how much effort they really put into changing the place up.

    • paul says:

      See today’s (Dec 06) DH.
      Evidently they failed to pay off the right City Official. The City has already shut them down for not making $10K repairs to an long time broken elevator on a 2 story building!!! Mad Maggies evidently paid off the right people! Does Medusa have an elevator? Elgin Public House?

      • G says:

        Crazy. Assuming that pic is recent, it still shows 3/4 of the Mad Maggies signage out front — not the best first impression for a new joint. But, I guess $s tight when you have to retroactively pay for elevators that haven’t been serviced by the previous few owners!

        • One Vote says:

          If I were a downtown business I wouldn’t do anything to the facade until the city offered to pony up half.
          It worked for the pizza joint across the street.

        • Anonymous says:

          I admire their optimistic futility. Opening up a bar/restaurant in that location, in this town, in this State, in this economy in defiance of an extremely stacked deck against them!
          And when they try to open the doors, the city slaps them around just for sport. Does Al’s Cafe have an elevator? Medusa? Elgin Public House?
          I seriously doubt they budgeted 10K for repairs on an unnecessary elevator.
          Someone didn’t get their palm greased. A couple hundred bucks in the right hands could have saved em $10k. Expensive lesson in the ways of the world in Elgin City.

          • paul says:

            Was downtown the Wed. night. Saw no Mad Maggie signage.
            The only thing missing from downtown are tumble weeds. The worse it has looked in a 40 year long decline. Mad Maggie space is shuttered. Red Bar is shuttered. Long time Mexican clothing store is shuttered. Keeny’s is shuttered. Puesta Del Sole is shuttered (building for sale). Prairie Rock space is shuttered. On the plus side a low income housing is being contructed on the old Sears/ECC site which will precipitate the need for expansion of social services, drug dealers, liquor stores, dive bars, and higher taxes; thank Prigge, Kaptain and the other 5 for the GREAT job they are doing.

  2. One Vote says:

    The Courier said Kaptain said…”Still, Elgin needs to be reaching out to developing economies, including China and South American companies, who might be looking to place manufacturing in the U.S., he said.”
    From:Mayor touts city’s amenities, says Elgin should try to attract firms from China, S. America By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News December 6, 2011

    Did Mayor Kaptain really say that?

  3. Chuck Keysor says:

    In talking to various downtown business owners, I have recently been given examples of how brilliantly our City thinks and works.

    An retired school teacher on E. Chicago Street, has recently established three really nice antiques stores grouped near the Public House. He has been fighting Elgin’s zoning commission. It seems they don’t want to have someone selling previously used products along E. Chicago Street! They would rather have a string of empty store fronts. What a shame, as these are really nice clean stores with good inventory.

    A few months back, the Elgin Technology Center wrangled a deal to get high-speed Internet access, for free, (or for really cheap). When applying for a permit, the City said they would not allow this, unless the Internet provider would also install the highspeed Internet in other buildings downtown also! Maybe this has been resolved by now, but how crazy!

    A barber on E. Chicago Street told me he had to fight Elgin City Hall to keep his barber pole! The City decided that having signs that project creates a bad image! Can you imagine a barber having to fight to keep his very modest, completely in good repair barber pole????

    A business on State Street was ordered by the City to cut a hole in their parking lot, and put in dirt so that plants could be put in. The business fought this, and finally lost. They cut a hole in their black top and put in dirt. But no one ever planted any plants.

    The last story was not recent, while the first two are. And I am not sure when the barber pole issue came about. But all show significant problems in the thinking that goes on in City Hall. Specifically, they want to micro-manage everything to the point of absurdidty. We wouldn’t need so many people and so much payroll money if City Hall didn’t have to concern itself with all these issues, that are not their business in the first place.

    Chuck

    • One Vote says:

      Bureaucrats and business don’t mix. Ed Schock used to commandeer the business development process and grease the skids for those he wanted and liked. The rest were relegated to the Dexter Court staff and were never heard from again.
      It is a mixed bag of support and regulation these days, even for the darling projects. The new tenants of Mad Maggie’s don’t know what to think these days. Are they friend or foe?

    • Clarence Hayward says:

      Chuck,

      I appreciate this and all you keep us informed on.

  4. RS says:

    http://elgin.bocajump.com/Articles/riverside-drive-promenade-funding-clears-large-hurdle

    Their two-level Chooch’s Pizzeria, 64 S. Grove Ave., is in a building sandwiched between South Grove Avenue on the east and Riverside Drive on the west. A patio area also is planned on the building’s west side, which faces the Fox River. Part of their preparations has been to make use of the city’s façade improvement plan. While most businesses seek a grant for once façade, the Buttiros applied for and received funding assistance for facades in both the front and rear of the building.

    • paul says:

      Maybe the city could grant a few bucks to the individuals who have been trying to open at the former Mad Maggies location now for about the past 4 months. The latest snag is they need $10K to fix the elevator to no-where that’s been broken for many many years. But they might be to much competition for chooch’s!
      Pay to play!
      As long as you pay, they’ll pay for you to play!

  5. RS says:

    i deleted the list of banned IP addresses. that’s right, all bans have been lifted.

    happy christmas

    • Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:

      RS, If I am assuming you had some people that you had to ban for one reason or another then I salute you for being a much bigger person than Mike Bailey is at bocajump. When he banned me he stated at a later time I could have the ban lifted but has denied my multiple requests to be a poster again at bocajump. I am doing all I can do to encourage the city to not spend anymore of our tax payer money subsidizing bocajump’s revenue stream and consequently Mike Bailey.

      Merry Christmas

  6. anonyous says:

    CH, you should know that Mike Bailey is not worth writing about. Why do you think the C-N fired him? He has no following in this city. I don’t even him a member of the media. Just consider the source.

  7. One Vote says:

    It’s difficult to tell from the Courier article, but I think the Elgin fathers (or are the mothers?) passed a budget calling for:
    -$13/month additional cost for trash collection
    -an increase in the city sales tax (that’ll boost business in town)
    -some sort of utility tax
    -curbside leaf collection will now cost $24 (whether you used it or not)
    -a 3% booze tax in bars and restaurants
    -the senior citizen spiff is gone
    -layoffs to the tune of $1.7 million (Is it just me, or does anyone else think the city has a twisted sense of shared sacrifice?)

    Prigge was the only “no” vote.

  8. Terry Gavin says:

    A very sad day for Elgin’s citizen’s & business’. The largest tax increase in the city’s history passed at a time when we’re facing the worst economy of our lifetimes!

    RS you’re summary of the budget are quite accurate as well as your list of new taxes & fees. The only thing I’ll add to it is that all business’ as well as not for profit’s will be paying far more then the average homeowner. Those increases in business taxes will mostly be pushed on to their customers, cause fewer hires or they might even close their doors.

    The city’s promise of lowering our property taxes 25% over 5 years is an empty promise & cannot be trusted. Even if the city tries to lower out portion of city tax other taxing bodies, i.e. U-46, will step in & raise their levy thus pushing our property taxes back up again. In fact from ALL of the meetings I attended the spin I was hearing was that the city would decrease it’s dependence on property taxes by 25% not necessarily lower our rate 25%.

    Last but not least the ending of the Senior Citizen Property Tax Rebate was never formally voted on by the city council. It appears that decision was made in private since NO formal action has been taken to end it. I called out for an answer to that question last night not once but twice before Stegall spoke on that issue.

    Yes people this is a VERY sad day for Elgin because it will cause more harm then good. The only people Mayor Kaptain & 5 of his council mates listened to were those who showed up for ONE meeting demanding in the case of the “Arts” & those asking as did the “not for profits” for tax dollars to keep on coming. While those groups got an increase in funding “We the Taxpayers” got the bill/shaft! Much more fallout to come of this but enough for now.

  9. Perturbed says:

    Elgin council amends personnel policy; last senior rebates in limbo

    By Mike Danahey mdanahey@stmedianetwork.com December 27, 2011 4:38PM

    Updated: December 27, 2011 4:48PM

    ELGIN — In a rare post-Christmas/pre-New Year’s Day meeting, the city council Tuesday amended the city’s personnel policies relating to current 400 or so employees who are taking part in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund.

    The council also talked about a pending employee salary survey and ways to offset the end of the senior citizen property tax rebate program,

    Corporation Counsel William Cogley led the brief session, which came about due to an upcoming change in state law designed to address pension spiking. That’s a practice in which employees use means to build what counts as salary at the end of their careers, allowing them to collect larger amounts in retirement than what typically might be expected.

    The amendment states that is the policy of the city not to include any of a nine-point list of items as part of an employee’s earnings for the 12 months that would be used to determine someone’s final rate of earnings.

    Those include increases in vacation time; increases in accrued vacation time; increases in sick leave earned; payments from the city made from selling back accrued vacation or sick time; changes to insurance benefits; step pay raises; Consumer Price Index-related pay raises; merit bonuses; and payments made for use of a personal vehicle for work purposes.

    Cogley noted that although about 400 city employees take part in the very solvent IMRF pension plan, the measure discussed Tuesday would likely impact few of them, and that it is usually unlikely that an employee would get step and cost-of-living increases at the end of his or her career.

    Plus, a new state law says the city would be responsible for covering the pension obligation for any employees hired next year or beyond who are taking part in the IMRF and whose pay increases are above the CPI or more than 6 percent their final year on the job.

    The amendment passed unanimously, with Councilmen Robert Gilliam and John Prigge absent from the meeting.

    The discussion led Mayor Dave Kaptain to mention that he will ask city staff in January to put together a request for proposals for an independent firm to conduct a salary survey of Elgin, comparing what the city pays with what other employers pay for a given job.

    The council also will hold a retreat later in January, and Kaptain noted that one of the topics up for discussion will be other options for assisting seniors in the wake of the city canceling its property tax rebate program for senior homeowners. The program — in place since 1997 — was funded by Grand Victoria Casino revenue.

    In 2010, the city set aside about $825,000 for the program, which provided rebates to about 3,600 qualifying homeowners age 65 or older who filed an application with the county in which they live. Homeowners received $200; those living in mobile homes got $35.

    City policy states that the program would remain in effect as long as Elgin receives at least $13.275 million from the casino in a calendar year. With the recession’s lingering effects and a new casino now open in Des Plaines, city staff has projected Elgin’s casino revenue will dip to about $12.54 million annually in 2012 and beyond, thus negating the program.

    It is still to be determined if that bottom will be hit in 2011. The council is expected to learn in January if that happened, or if one final round of rebate checks will be sent out before the program is canceled.

  10. cruexxxx says:

    Perturbed-

    Thank you for posting this! This brings me to ask this question. How is Rich Dunne exempt from conflict of interest on votes that directly effect him and his paycheck from the fire department? Voting on the city budget seemed to be a big conflict especially when you take into consideration that he is on the cultural arts committee and they received a big raise in subsidies. This vote seems like another appearance of conflict. Am I off the planet with this?

    • Perturbed says:

      Elgin exempts current employees from new pension law

      By Kate Thayer TribLocal reporter Today at 12:21 p.m.

      Elgin officials voted to exempt current employees from a change in pension payouts that could cost the city more money – even if officials say the scenarios that apply are highly unlikely.

      A new law limits pay increases in final years of service for government employees that draw their pensions from the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. The law takes aim at controversial pay increases for government workers in their last four years of employment – which typically calculates their annual pension.

      The law says that if an employee receives a pay increase higher than 6 percent or the consumer price index, the employer must make up the difference in their pension payouts, instead of drawing that money from the IMRF fund, said Bill Cogley, Elgin’s corporation counsel.

      But, municipalities can exempt all employees hired before Jan. 1, 2012, and continue to handle their pensions as they have in the past.

      In a special meeting Tuesday afternoon, the City Council voted to exempt employees even though officials said they’ve never had significant pay increases in employees’ final years.

      Cogley said he advised officials to take up the issue as a precautionary measure in case a retiring employee happens to be owed significant vacation time, pushing them over the new law’s limits.

      Tish Powell, who voted for the measure, praised the new law that ceases so-called “pension spiking.”

      “It looks really bad…and doesn’t build public trust,” she said of the practice.

      During Tuesday’s discussion, Mayor David Kaptain said he will ask the City Council to begin a salary study of all employees in the new year. Next month, officials will look into hiring a firm outside Elgin – and perhaps outside the state – to compare what Elgin pays its employees with other, similar communities across the country.

      That study could include not only salaries, but other forms of compensation, like vehicles, Kaptain said.

      The study is a result of resident inquiries in the wake of the newly-passed 2012 budget which included tax increases, he said. Plus, the city hasn’t done such a study in several years.

      “If we don’t do this (the criticism) will never go away,” he said.

      • Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:

        Businesses are feeling this economy and so are taxpayers. A person’s job this 2012 in many cases will not yield the total benefits it did in 2011. We need to do the same thing in city government. The city’s benefit package should reflect a cutting back of benefits especially since us tax payers are getting taxed in so many more ways. Power to the voters. Vote out the politicians who will not cut costs. If you are the head of a household who keeps up on local issues you can multiply the power of your vote by advising your family who does not have time for the issues on how they should vote. Then drive them to the polls with the sheet of who to vote for.

        Be sure to have your away at college family voters get an absentee ballot.

  11. One Vote says:

    Kaptain is now playing the other side of the fence. He’s justifying himself and running for cover over the end of the senior citizen bonuses.
    Just look at him. Let’s do an independent survey to justify public sector salaries. Let’s find some other way to pander to the senior citizens now we’ve ended the bonuses.
    Yep, a little backpedaling. And it’ll all cost money. The budget was a shell game to begin with, shifting costs around without really cutting heads. And now he’s going to put it back with some creative program.
    The politicians will never learn.
    As for Dunne, he should probably recuse himself from any collective bargaining discussions, not just the firemen.

  12. Anonymous says:

    We’re is this retreat taking place and who is paying for it?

  13. Anonymous says:

    Were is this retreat taking place and who is paying for it?

  14. cruexxxx says:

    Perturbed-

    “Tish Powell, who voted for the measure, praised the new law that ceases so-called “pension spiking.” “It looks really bad…and doesn’t build public trust,” she said of the practice.

    That’s hilarious because these are very strange words coming from Powell. She has no qualifications to speak about trust when it was Powell who dumped on the police department’s trust with unproven claims of racism. I cannot help thinking she is a just a seat-warmer without a clue.

    • One Vote says:

      Didn’t Powell once work for the city?
      Any idea how many people on the council fed at the public trough?
      I think that’s the Obama problem. From minority student to public-interest lawyer to Springfield to Washington…such a resume leads one to think in terms of grandiose government programs rather than private enterprise.

  15. b4real says:

    They are playing both side of the issue and think we are all fools and will go for this. They already did a pay analysis form the budget task force, or did we forget, they concluded from their own study that they were being paid accordingly and in line with the other cities they chose to compare. Now Mayor Kaptain wants an outside study, that ship has sailed. If the new study says we need to cut pay will they do it, NO.
    We changed the head of the beast and kept the entire body intact, what kind of change is that? What leader takes power from an opponent and then keeps the entire staff to run things as usual. We must vote the followers out of office and put someone in that is not timid to make the tough decisions. 2013 will be here soon, we must all remember the BS we were served by this group.

    • Terry Gavin says:

      By asking for a study from a consultant we the tax payers will pay for something we already know. That we pay to much in salary & benefits for to many upper management types.

      We elected a new Mayor but the city is being run out of the city manager’s office, plain & simple. The fact is that without a strong city council to direct policy to the city manager this is what you get. In the real leader today in this city council on the majority side is none other the Councilman Gilliam. If you watch council meetings closely & listen to the discussions he speaks the least but the final votes goes the way he wants them to go. Prime example was the budget proposal to cut funding for the not-for-profits, Bob objected & at the very next meeting not only was the funding NOT cut it was INCREASED. Just one example of what’s going on down at city hall.

      The Mayor as well as the city manager were bound & determined to raise our taxes. They got what they wanted with a 6-1 vote. No property tax reduction & more spending thus hurting the private sector economy even further.

      This people is why elections have consequences but truthfully what choices were we given in the end? This last election like most of them since 2000 we’ve had very few conservatives to pick from with the exception of 2009.

      • Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:

        Supersize your voting power in the next council election. Do you have a passion to see conservatives get elected to the council? If you have a family with other voters in it and they are too busy to make up their own minds on who to vote for in local elections then you can multiply the effect of your vote by coaching them to vote as you want.

        I have my vote and my wife’s and my son’s for local elections. Supersize your local vote as it is cholesterol free.

        Because our council elections are at large it is important if you are a challenger to tell all your voter supporters to only vote for you because if they vote for the other votes on the council chances are they will vote for a well known incumbent name they are familiar with and these incumbents benefit more and more as their are many challengers. The next thing you know the incumbents get the most votes and once again get reelected. Councilman Gilliam has probably benefited the most from this situation since he has been in so many elections.

        • One Vote says:

          The trouble is the 900 city workers and their families. There are 48,415 registered voters in Elgin.
          Kaptain won with 3,925.
          Powell got in with only 2,971.
          (Totals include the Cook County portion of Elgin.)
          There is great potential but in practice the libs and the public sector workers can easily overwhelm the rest of us.
          And they’ve been “supersizing” a lot longer than we have.

  16. Terry Gavin says:

    The problem here folks is plain & simple voter apathy! Though OV has a valid point about city employees the fact is this last Mayoral election ONLY got 14% of the registered voters out. What that tells me is that the vast majority of Elgin voters didn’t see much difference between Kaptain & Schock.

    Back in the 1999’s Mayoral election we had about 10,000 votes cast out of around 40,000 registered or about 25%. Schock won that election by about 1%. I lost my seat with around 5,000 votes. That was a VERY competitive election with two very different philosphies of what the role of government should be here in Elgin. After that election we had a drought of candidates with next to no real challenge to Schock’s reign till 2009 & then finally his defeat in 2011. Most city voters have noticed that there’s been a shortage of really good candidates to run here & Schock always was prepping his next council candidate to always have his majority.

    The key to the next two election cycles is to run strong conservatives & VOTER turn out. You must also not forget that the U-46 political machine/leadership is very liberal & has been helping people like Gilliam, Schock & until I beat him in 1995 Dan Fox in office to help their liberal goals. We need voters to turn out again to beat back the progressive agenda!

    HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone here on elginite! Let’s hope we can get back to Constitutional government & save our great nation!

  17. cruexxxx says:

    Terry-

    2012 is going to be a hard year for us lowly taxpayers in Elgin. Voters made a big mistake in 2011. I see that now with Moeller and Powell. Major failures as voices of taxpayers. But tell me, where does one go to get good candidates? Why would a conservative-minded person want to get involved with the current council being what it is?

  18. Terry Gavin says:

    cruexx,

    You’re very right about 2012 being a hard year for us taxpayers. I’d add to that now that the city manager & council have opened the door with all of these new taxes & we hear about another deficit next year they will most likely raise those taxes even higher.

    As for why someone conservative or for that matter anyone want to run for this council I can only speak to what motivated me back in the early 90’s, I couldn’t speak to anyone else’s motives. I decided to run for a couple of reasons 1) a strong Mayoral candidate named Kevin Kelly asked me to, 2) I had been mentoring under then conservative Councilwoman Marie Yearman & she encouraged me to run again. But the BIGGEST reason I ran as a conservative is that I saw that we could make a real difference in the lives of the citizens of Elgin. After winning that election we set about rolling back taxes, reducing unneccessary regulations on business’ & people, making our streets safer & rebuilding our infastructure.

    Somewhere along the line liberal long time council members Gilliam & Schock along with John Walters decided they would stop us with help from their friends in the print media along with a small group of activists. From my perspective many who liked the staus quo were afraid of a strong Mayor with conservative support so Kelly was personally attacked over his so called “style” by our local print media. The rest is as they say history.

    It’s easy for anyone to run for council it’s much tougher winning, especially since our city went from majority conservative voters to majority liberals. How else can you explain Sen. Noland’s win in November 2010!