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November open thread

3 November 2013 Elgin Illinois 67 Comments

Shop window, Elgin IL Shop window, Elgin IL (Photo by The Elginite).

Open thread for November 2013. Let’s have some nice conversations!

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67 Responses to “November open thread”

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  1. Tim says:

    Nightmare on Chicago street was great again this year. Very well decorated and good turn out, really something unique to set elgin up as a destination at least for one weekend a year. Hopefully the city keeps building momentum behind this event.

    • One Vote says:

      Here’s a idea to bring even more people to Elgin.
      Hide 30 packets of $1,000 each around town and tell people to come look for them. Finders-keepers.
      Besides, it would be a lot less work and less hassle for the rest of us.
      Seriously, Zombies don’t appeal to everyone. Neither do pub crawls.

    • RS says:

      I was kind of hoping it would be more “steampunk” as I thought that was the theme according to the marketing literature. If they wanted steampunk they could have tried to obtain some of the antique farming gear from the St. Charles park district’s Primrose Farm. That stuff really looks steampunk and could have been dressed up a bit to make it even more suitable for the occasion.

      Was there a theme last year? I was out of state last year so I missed it.

      I like the idea of themes though and I think that can be one way to get people to keep coming back each year. If the theme changes, then people would come to see the new props and decorations, and if they have a costume contest that requires conformance with the theme, then you can have a lot of people dressed up and it would be really cool. So instead of just zombies for example, how about making the theme like 1950’s or something, so that you can have zombies dressed in 50s attire. Or you could have all the villains and monsters from vintage horror movies. And there are lots of vintage cars in this area whose owners can be convinced to park downtown for the night.

      Or you could set it in the future. Have robots, terminator, star wars, etc (a killer clown circus theme would also be fun and scary). Whatever, but it would just be cool if it changed every year. Then I think it would be easier to market regionally, as even people in Chicago would want to come out if the theme was something they were really into. Just a thought.

    • RS says:

      Another thing about Nightmare this year is that I think it was a big mistake for them to say, “This is a ‘17 and older’ event.” That probably shaved attendance figures by a thousand or more.

      It was really unnecessary to say that. Kids enjoy the experience as much as adults and parents like having their kids with them for an event like this. And teenagers should be able to attend with their friends without being scared away by, “this is ‘17 and older’ event!”

      If the issue was risqué performances, then, well use the two stages to separate them. Save one stage for the strippers and pole dancers and the other one for Svengoolie. The parents will take their kids to the “family-friendly” stage. Problem solved.

      I don’t want to see the attendance figure stall like this. Essentially the number is the same as last year when it really should be growing. We should be aiming for 10,000 attendance within the next few years, and putting up restrictions is not going to help.

  2. Chuck Keysor says:

    One Vote, as I understand it, those who favor such expenditures don’t like to say that we lost $30,000. Instead, they say that we “invested” $30,000 in the event! Sheesh……. Chuck

    • RS says:

      Not sure where you guys are getting the $30K figure from. Have they released numbers more recently than this?

      http://couriernews.suntimes.com/news/23445676-418/numbers-looking-strong-for-last-weekends-elgin-nightmare.html

      In any case, events like this can have a loss in one year and turn a profit in another year. Taste of Chicago lost $1.3M in 2012 and swung to a profit in 2013.

      Still, even with a loss I think it can be considered an investment as it brings people from out of town (or other parts of town) and acquaints them with the selection of businesses we have on Chicago Street and the rest of downtown. I for one had not been down there in the evening for a while and noticed new businesses and buildings. I thought downtown Elgin looked great! The Artspace building is occupied at the ground level, the old Carswell is now a nice shop selling mid-century/vintage furniture, etc. I think it was a great marketing event for Elgin. Most people from surrounding towns still remember Elgin from the dark ages of the 70s-80s/whatever, so when they see a beautiful new building like Artspace, and all the new shops, art studios/galleries, the great restaurants like Public House, I think that can really change their view of this city.

      • One Vote says:

        I’ve long ago passed the age of hanging out with drinkers pretending to be someone else.
        And I REALLY get irritated when they use my tax money for such events. Kane County ranks in the top 40 in the nation in high property taxes. The last thing I want to pay for is zombies.
        But that’s just me.

        • Tim says:

          Even if the event ” lost ” 30k that’s .30 per resident of this city. I’m okay with paying that for an event I can actually use and ENJOY In this city. I pay a silly amount of taxes for what I get back, so when something is actually geared toward an employed demographic with money to spend it only makes sense to support it.

          • Chuck Keysor says:

            Hello Tim. Your logic is understandable in supporting events such as Nightmare on Chicago Street/Zombie Fest. But I will invite you to consider the ramifications of your logic.

            It is commonly done that council members and city staff will site how small a particular project or event will be, making it seem totally harmless to approve something. However this has two problems:
            1) This approach is so widely applied that the costs directly add up for all the little activities here and there.
            2) This type of discretionary spending psychologically loosens the purse strings. (Someone who is given to making lots of harmless impulse purchases is more likely to make big impulse purchases, compared to someone who holds tight to their wallet and must justify every purchase.)

            Because there are so many small/harmless purchases, for me the best way to hope that the council would decide on any expenditure is to ask, “Is this a core function of government?” If something fails to meet that simple standard, it should not even be considered.

            Of course the roll of government has expanded so radically over-time, that it may be difficult at times to clearly answer what is a core function, and what is not. But zombies, that is a no-brainer, and should be eliminated without question ALONG with all other obvious non-core expenditures.

            Thanks for joining the conversation, Chuck

          • Tim says:

            So chuck, if a city were to offer nothing but core expenditures to the residents what would draw residents to the community? What would the draw be for a desirable demographic? If a community offers nothing to its residents what type of community do you think that breeds?

          • Chuck Keysor says:

            Tim, you set me up! The answer is clear as to what would draw people to Elgin if we cut out the excesses of Elgin government!!!

            First understand that most fundamentally our geographical relationship to I-90, O’Hare and Chicago, plus our diverse community, lots of great old houses and neighborhoods, great history, wonderful churches, etc, all make Elgin an inherently desirable community. These inherent assets provide the basis for Elgin to be a naturally desirable home for people and businesses.

            But if to the above list we can add low taxes, and freedom from excessive governmental intrusion (into the lives citizens and businesses), we would have more people LOVE Elgin!!!! That would be the best recipe for attracting people to Elgin.

            Thanks for setting me up for that one, Chuck!

  3. RS says:

    Thoughts on the proposed 2014 budget?

    http://couriernews.suntimes.com/news/23555220-418/property-tax-decrease-no-rain-tax-or-business-license-in-elgins-proposed-2014-budget.html

    The budget calls for keeping a preponderance of fees charged at the same rates in place in 2013. Exceptions include refuse collection and refuse bags and sticker fees, which are set to rise 3.5 percent in 2014; slight increases in user fees for the city’s sports facilities; small increases for Hemmens Cultural Center rental rates; and small increases for golf rounds at Wing Park and the Highlands, but no increases at Bowes Creek Country Club.

    The 2014 budget anticipates taking in $20.8 million in sales tax, or about what it will do this year, and to receive a little less in its share of state income tax money ($10.16 million) compared to 2012 ($10.46 million).

    Another $4.66 million is budgeted to come in through refuse collection fees, for which the city first started charging directly in 2012 — and which Councilman Terry Gavin has noted he would like to discuss.

    The proposed budget also calls for adding an assistant fire chief post overseeing emergency management for the city and creating “311 Citizen Advocate” positions. It also sets aside $130,000 for marketing and communications that could be used to hire consultants or to pay in-house staff, Stegall said.

    Purchases for 2014 would include two electronic speed signs ($20,000); police surveillance equipment ($100,000); replacing city street sweepers ($450,000); replacing carpet at The Centre ($35,000) and a second phase of audiovisual equipment upgrades for city council chambers ($100,000).

    The city’s share of taxes and lease revenue from the Grand Victoria Casino are being budgeted at $13.12 million for 2014, which is up slightly from the estimated take for 2013 ($13.04 million) and down considerably from $22.15 million in 2009. Casino money would be used to fund 63 initiatives next year. Among them would be replacing the fire department’s 1996 tower ladder truck ($1,015,000). Another $200,000 would be set aside to divvy up among local nonprofits, with $50,000 allocated for arts groups.

    The budget also recommends using $100,000 expected to come from video gaming machines — which are now up and running at some Elgin establishments — to purchase vehicles for the police department.

    The Central Area Tax Increment Finance District budget of about $11.3 million includes a loan of $5 million from the general fund that is “necessary for the city to participate in the proposed Tower Building renovation with economic development assistance. The loan will also fund the final phase of the Central Business District streetscape improvements,” the document states. Those improvements would cost $5.534 million.

    The Courier-News reported in May that a deal was in the works for Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. to purchase the Tower Building for about $1.15 million. The deal is contingent upon 12 points, including an environmental review; inspection; review of existing leases; Gorman being able to get zoning changes, permits and approvals for its project; and Gorman being able to find grants and investors.

    The contingencies also include Gorman being able to get financing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is Gorman’s intention to develop the Tower as an apartment complex using federal and state historical tax credits. Sources told The Courier-News that if all goes well, the deal is expected to be closed by the end of the year.

    Tuesday afternoon Stegall cautioned about matters impacting the Elgin budget that are out of the city’s control. Chief among them are how Obamacare mandates will cost the city for its employee health insurance; the growing gap between what the community wants or needs and what it might be willing to pay for; and the state’s demand that pension plans be 90 percent funded by 2040. According to Elgin CFO Colleen Lavery, the city’s unfunded pension obligation now stands at about $158 million.

  4. Tom says:

    Elgin Technology Center (ETC)

    We are a collaborative community in the suburbs where entrepreneurs & small businesses come to grow and evolve…

    Join us Thursday November 7th @ 6pm for a preliminary tour of our a new space!

    You can reserve a private office next week & help us design our open co-working space to best suit your needs. We will officially open in January 2014, but early adopters will begin using the new space in the next few weeks. First come, first reserve…

    6pm - 6:30pm mix and mingle
    6:30pm short presentation
    7pm - tours

    Stairs only at 68 S Grove Ave Elgin, IL 60120
    If you need an elevator, please use:
    73 S Riverside Dr, Elgin, IL 60120 - Second Floor

    More info here: http://www.meetup.com/Elgin-Technology-Center/events/146755502/

    • Chuck Keysor says:

      Tom, thanks for the information. I was a bit curious. Is this the same Elgin Technology Center that was previously located in the Tower Building? If so, I suppose it makes sense that with the pending sale of the Tower Building, that you’d have to find a new space.

      But I was confused, because I had understood that the ETC had moved to 366 Bluff City Blvd. Is that then a totally different enterprise that is simply a spin off from the Tower Building ETC? And how does your new location compare to what is offered at 366 Bluff City Blvd?
      Thanks, Chuck

      • Tom says:

        Chuck,

        366 Bluff City Blvd is a location where some of the members of the ETC moved to. The ETC is currently located in the Elgin Tower Building on floor 2. The primary reason for the move is to better serve our member companies to and attact new members.

  5. Tim says:

    Chuck, low taxes and a decrepit life less community would attract no one. This town is always going to have higher taxes because of that wonderful diverse community made up of a majority of very low income residents. That doesn’t attract people who LOVE a city. That attracts people that don’t pay taxes. I’d rather see my taxes used to put on events and create a city attractive to potential buyers and families looking to participate it the community rather than simply depend on it.

  6. Chuck Keysor says:

    Tim, a quick note,,,,, There is an obvious logical flaw in what you said,,,, Low taxes “attracts people that don’t pay taxes.”

    Gee, if they don’t pay taxes, then they don’t mind living in high tax cities either, since they don’t pay them however much they are.

    A good chuckle as I start my day, thanks, Chuck

    • RS says:

      Chuck, I really think these minor expenses have nothing to do with your tax rate. Elgin has a high tax rate because the average home value is low. The density of low-income residents is high, and yet somebody has to pay for all the kids going to school, etc. So property taxes rates are high in Elgin and there is nothing that is going to make a dent in that short of shifting the entire low income population to another city and another school district.

      What Tim is saying is give a little something back to the people who are paying taxes, who chose to live here when it makes a lot more sense for them to live elsewhere. Elgin’s location is not that wonderful that there are no alternatives. There are plenty of alternatives, especially if they have children it simply does not make sense to live in this city and school district. They could cross the border to South Elgin and pay 2.3% instead of 2.9% tax and send their kids to St. Charles schools. So why stay? You have to give people some incentives because low taxes is not why they are here.

  7. Chuck Keysor says:

    RS: “Pay for all the kids going to school, etc.” is about the U46 tax rate, which is not part of what the City of Elgin and its taxes pay for.

    Lowering my tax bill by any amount is of value to me, because I am living off of savings entirely. Ask all the seniors who lost their river-boat funded refunds, even though the amount may have seemed small to a working person, to someone who is retired or unemployed, that seemingly small sum is quite significant. Even people who are fully employed will pay an attorney to file a tax assessment appeal to lower their taxes by what often turns out to not be lots of money. They do this because they find their high taxes to be unacceptable.

    High taxes are especially a pain for people on the edge, which is a lot of people in Elgin.

    And maybe my point of less governmental interference was lost in your focus on the taxes. There are people who value their freedoms, and mourn at the loss of even the smallest liberty.

    Frankly, while I worked in St. Charles for 27 years, I decided to live in Elgin, because the housing prices AND the taxes were hugely lower than St. Charles, even though I very much wanted to walk to work, it made no sense to move to be close to work. Rent was way cheaper here when I got out of college, and 7 years later, when I decided to buy a house, housing prices were also a bargain. So housing costs, which are directly linked to taxes is in fact a factor for people deciding where to live.

    Lastly, before I go take care of something on the stove, Elgin’s location IS wonderful. Does anyone think South Elgin could ever catch up to Elgin in size without someone relocating I-90 being closer to South Elgin than to Elgin? That single factor is worth more to Elgin’s “economic development” than all the advertising that the City and the Chamber could ever purchase.

    Chuck

    • Tim says:

      There is truth to that, I mean just look at the i90 corridor through Elgin, simply booming with business and attractions! Why the rt 25 interchange features a flea bag motel and several decrepit used car lots. Just what interstate travelers are looking for and account executives flock their business prospects to!

    • SIE says:

      Elgin never took proper advantage of its proximity I90. Like Tim says look at the Rt. 25 exit. A long gone KMart, the motel and a pseudo business park.

      I disagree with you that being close to I90 is “enough” to justify Elgin being desireable. Plenty of towns north and south of I90 have attracted more lucrative businesses and higher quality residents. Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Lake-In-The-Hills to the north and St. Charles, South Elgin and others to the south.

      Just drive Randall Rd. from up north and see all the big box stores, restaurants etc. as you go through those towns I named. Come to Elgin and what do you see? Not a lot. Leave Elgin to the south and the development starts right back up. Yes theres the Rookies/Tilted Kilt development (the name escapes me) and the Walmart/Portillos and a few scattered retail in between but nothing like you see up north or south.

      Elgin just can’t support the retail/restaurants that other cities can. So could Elgin really take advantage of I90 if no businesses want to build here? I guess not.

  8. Margaret Miller says:

    Report on the City Council meeting of November 6, 2013.

    City Manager Sean Stegall stated that he was looking for policy direction on the Stormwater Utility Fee (a.k.a “The Rain Tax) that was listed in the Elgin 5 year plan.

    Video Mark 48:35
    In answer to his question, Councilman Gavin placed a motion on the table to give direct action to the staff.
    “If we’re not going to implement the tax in the year 2014, as its not in the budget as I am reading it and hearing it, I’m going to make a motion right now to remove any and all references to Stormwater Tax Fee in the current 5 year plan. It is strewn throughout the 5 year plan and it is not accurate because we have not voted to implement that tax and removing it would correct an error in the city document and would be open and transparent is what we’re supposed to be. That’s my motion”

    The motion was seconded by Councilmen Prigge.

    Councilman Prigge eluded to all that he would support the motion and if anyone wanted to bring the Stormwater Utility Fee back up at a later date, they can do so.

    The vote was take.
    Councilman Gavin’s motion was approved by a 5-4 vote

    THANK YOU COUNCILMEN GAVIN & PRIGGE FOR LIVING UP TO YOUR ELECTION PLEDGES.

  9. RS says:

    I’m kinda surprised nobody has anything to say about the Gorman Tower Building deal. Did I read that story correctly? Did it say they’re going to HUD? This is going to be rental apartments? The city is putting in $5M? Huh??

  10. What were they thinking? says:

    And how much is the COE spending on a new fire truck? And didn’t we just buy a fire truck last year? Doesn’t it seem we spend an awful lot of money on the fire department even though we don’t see many fires anymore. Wouldn’t you rather see another ambulance on the road? What is more important, taking care of property or people?

    • What were they thinking? says:

      Somehow we pay over $80,000 a year on maintenance on Elgin Tower 2 (not going to try to explain that). So that would take just over 12 years just to break even. Then we have a twelve year old fire truck that needs $80,000 a year in maintenance.

      So unless this new truck does something the old one doesn’t, what are they thinking?

  11. One Vote says:

    Don’t you see? This is step one of another trip to Chile.
    The “old” fire truck is headed to South America. And the photo op with Dunne and Bedard. You need hardware for something like that.
    (Just conjecture now. I do not have any inside information.)

  12. Margaret Miller says:

    From Councilman Terry Gavin’s Action Alert

    Save the Date
    Open Public Comment Session on the Elgin 2014 Budget
    The Elgin budget for 2014 is proposed to be about $279 Million.
    Remember… Silence is consent and its your money.

    NOVEMBER
    16

    For more information about the budget or upcoming meetings, visit the city website at http://www.cityofelgin/budget or contact the City of Elgin at 847-931-6100.

    You are invited to…
    In Our Towns: Session to let public comment on Elgin city budget

    In order to provide residents with the opportunity for input on the 2014 budget, the city will host a public meeting at 9 a.m. November 16 at The Centre, 100 Symphony Way. Residents will be invited to sign in to speak on any subject related to the 2014 budget and comment on other issues related to public policy of the city government and the city’s strategic plan.

    The public comments gathered at this meeting will help guide the City Council in making important decisions that will shape the future of the community, a release from the city said. This meeting is designed to provide a dedicated amount of time to public input beyond the short public comment time allotted at regular council meetings and at a time that might be more convenient for residents.

    For information about the budget or upcoming meetings, visit the city website at http://www.cityofelgin/budget or contact the City of Elgin at 847-931-6100.
    November 8, 2013 9:40PM
    http://couriernews.suntimes.com/news/23631349-418/in-our-towns-session-to-let-public-comment-on-elgin-city-budget.html

    As a reminder…
    Last Wednesday night at the Elgin City Council’s work session the tax payers of Elgin won a major battle. That battle was won when I made a motion to amend the city’s current 5 Year Plan to remove all references to a Storm Water Utility fee/tax aka the “Rain Tax”. The final tally was 5 YES votes & 4 NO votes.

    The yes votes included Council members Prigge, Shaw, Moeller, Powell & I.

    The NO votes included Council members Dunne, Steffen, Rauschenberger & Mayor Kaptain. By voting NO those council members were clearly stating that it would be better to leave the door open to the possibility in the future of imposing a rain tax on the citizens of Elgin.

    This victory could not have been achieved if it wasn’t for the voters electing Councilmen Shaw & myself & re-electing Councilman Prigge in last April’s election. I give thanks to those voters & we’re just getting started on the 2014 Budget.

    The Elgin budget for 2014 is proposed to be about $279 Million.

    I hope to see you there and encourage you to stay engaged in the process.
    Remember… Silence is consent and its your money.

    Terry L. Gavin
    Elgin City Councilman
    847-857-0266
    https://www.facebook.com/TerryGavinElginCityCouncilCandidate

  13. One Vote says:

    Kudos to OCTAVE for taking the lead on the Rain Tax.
    They stood up to the taxers on the Council and stopped this new revenue stream.
    Thanks!

  14. Chuck Keysor says:

    Thank you One Vote. Normally when I post here, it is just me, speaking for myself. But in this case, on the behalf of the Elgin OCTAVE, I am pleased to say that you are most certainly welcome.

    But the real thanks go to our fine councilmen, Prigge, Gavin and Shaw! Councilman Prigge who stood up against the Storm Water Run-off Utility Fee, dubbed it the “Rain Tax” and voted against the related study last fall! And Councilman Gavin was so impassioned as he argued this case against the council liberals on 11/6/13, I was blown away! In contrast, Councilman Shaw provided reasoned calm as he articulated the concern he had for the taxpayers of Elgin. The three of them together, with their varying approaches, functioned with a unity of purpose that was as uplifting to watch, as it was effective!

    Thanks of the highest order go out to John, Terry and Toby! Excellent work! Chuck

  15. Margaret Miller says:

    Nice post Chuck.

  16. MS says:

    For years I, too, always thought the more upscale, wealthier areas in Kane County (St Charles, Geneva, etc…) would logically pay more in property taxes percentage wise than cheaper, more affordable areas like Elgin.

    I found that is factually untrue. (See the attached estimate of property tax bills from the Kane County website.) Bear in mind these are estimates, and rates will vary even in each township, but it does give an accurate portrayal of what you can expect to pay on taxes in specific locations.

    What’s most interesting to me is a potential Elgin Township homeowner paying the second highest tax rate out of all 18 townships right behind Aurora! (What does that tell you?) And a St Charles Township homeowner the lowest tax rate.

    http://www.co.kane.il.us/Treasurer/ptax.htm

    • RS says:

      I think what Chuck was saying is that even though tax rates in Elgin are higher than St. Charles, the absolute average amount of tax paid by a homeowner is lower because Elgin’s property values are so much lower (median home value $100K less than St. Charles I believe). People are always complaining about all the poor and/or illegal people in town but they do help to keep property values lower and consequently taxes lower despite the higher tax rate. I don’t know whether it will always balance out like that.

      If you are comfortable downsizing to a smaller home then you could move to St. Charles and pay less in taxes. If you want a home of the same size you will end up paying more in St. Charles despite the lower tax rate because the value of the home will be substantially higher than a similar home in Elgin.

      I think that’s how it works. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      • MS says:

        I somewhat agree with what you’re saying. If a homeowner in a $250,000 house in Elgin Township is paying an average of $8223 a year in property taxes (according to the Kane Co. chart), and that individual decides to buy a home in St Charles for $250,000, (if he can find one?) his taxes should be less (about $1200!) but, the type of home he will be living in will not be as nice/new/big as his previous Elgin home.

        I think where this logic breaks down, from what I’ve researched, is when the price of the homes are somewhat higher. I live on the West side of Elgin. My 8 year old home was recently appraised in the lower-mid $300,000 range. My taxes are upwards of $9400. I have searched and found many homes in Campton Hills, St Charles, Geneva areas that are comparable to mine, size and price wise, but, the taxes are in the $5000 to $8000 range.

        Is a slightly newer home in Elgin worth all the extra taxes, without having to really downsize much? For some, including myself, I’m not so sure anymore.

        (I didn’t mean to turn this into a real estate Blog. Was just something I thought interesting)

      • SIE says:

        Flawed logic in my opinion.

        Forget about whether the same priced house will be larger or smaller in different towns. I go by tax rate. Which translates to the amount of tax money a city/village takes from a homeowner.

        Just like in Kane County the tax rate for the Cook County portion of Elgin is higher than every nearby town. It is double the rate of Schaumburg. It is higher than Hoffman Estates and Streamwood, among others. In fact other than some really depressed southern suburbs near Indiana it is one of the highest rates in the entire county.

        In the 2nd largest county in the country based on population Elgin has the distinction of having one of the highest tax rates.

    • Chuck Keysor says:

      RS, you are right. I never made any mention of tax rates. All I cared about at the time, was how much I was going to have to pay out of my pocket, which was dollars. The housing values were so much lower that whatever the rate, my annual taxes were way lower.

      In 1987, I paid $69,900 for my Elgin house that I love. I only did some casual St. Charles house browsing during lunch at work, and talked to friends. But at that time in St. Charles, I couldn’t have bought anything for anything nearly as low of a price.

      I will also note, that all of my friends at work thought I was crazy to consider buying a house in Elgin. Even some people here in Elgin, where I was renting told me I should want to move out of dumpy Elgin. Had I not grown up more or less across the street from where I live today, and still attended Grace Church, which I can see out of my southern windows, I would probably never have lived in this house, but would have still been in Elgin, for cost considerations.

      Would it be nice to live in a clean well kept neighborhood, sure, but the reality is I voted with my wallet.

      Thanks, Chuck

      • SIE says:

        In the 26 years you’ve lived here Elgin could have made changes that would have helped the value of your home and in general the quality of life in this city. They did not. Or at least the changes they made didn’t work out as intended.

        There is a reason Elgin is the main destination in the Northwest suburbs for immigrants (illegal or not). No need to turn this into a debate about that aspect but it is a fact that the massive influx of immigration has effected this city in many not so positive ways in terms of housing values and general neighborhood conditions.

        There is a reason Elgin can’t support businesses that other nearby towns can.

        There is a reason for it all its not just happenstance.

        • Chuck Keysor says:

          Hello SIE. You have touched on some important points of course. Even if we don’t get into a needless discussion of housing prices, your related thoughts should be of interest to many readers here. Post more and I will read with interest. Thanks, Chuck

          • SIE says:

            I’m just repeating things myself and others have said. An ineffective code enforcement department that let single family homes be turned in to boarding houses led to the deterioration of Elgins older (and some not so old) neighborhoods.

            A downtown revitalization project that has gone on for years and has produced nothing of value for residents unless one counts brick pavers.

            I could go on but there’s not really a point. Those are but two examples of the ineptitude that is this city.

            Elgin is what it is as this time and every day that goes by its reputation gets worse and worse. Nearby towns used to be as bad or worse than Elgin and they have been able to turn their fortunes around through a variety of initiatives. Not Elgin.

  17. One Vote says:

    A couple of random comments:
    1) Carl Missele still advocating for the rain tax, presented comments at the budget free-for-all. I don’t know if he still speaks for Kaptain, but he’s clearly showing his stripes.
    2) The Karen Schock charter school brainchild is worth watching closely. As a former ETA president the idea is out-of-step with her previous positions. The school site is one prime property. I was always impressed with the school at I-90 and 25 with 50 acres of woods, a pool and other buildings. Keep an eye on this project. Something doesn’t seem right.

    • Capitalist Pig says:

      One Vote:

      I agree with you, this property needs to be watched carefully. The liberals on this charter school committee are greedy for this property. Some of the board members are Anna Moeller, John Steffen’s wife and Ms. Shock and Keith Rauschenberger.

      It’s my understanding that the City was gifted this property about ten months ago, way too short a period of time and in the wrong season to make a rash decision about its use.

      Has there even been a serious evaluation of what the property is worth or what the property can best be used for? It may be better in private hands. Until someone with expertise can determine this the city should stand fast and do nothing and promise nothing.

      It is not the City’s job to partnership with this committee or their vision. The should not be directly in the business of schools, Charter or otherwise. If the Council is pushed into making a decision, I sure hope Council members with a connection to this charter school plan or committee abstain from the vote.

      Elgin is in the middle of budget negotiation. The additional costs of Obamacare that will affect the budgets bottom line is enough facing the taxpayers at the holiday season

    • SIE says:

      Prime property for what? Read the recent posts about Elgin failing to take advantage of its proximity to I90. The Rt. 25 interchange is a perfect example. A pseuod business park and a no tell motel.

      That property will be turned in to Stegall Park or whatever he decides to call it. Any other village or town would have been able to lure taxpaying businesses to build there.

      • ADV says:

        That property is a historic site with several beautiful buildings (one of which is practically brand new) as well as old growth forest. It was a school for many years and probably could be one again without too much expense or trouble. Better that than bulldozing it for a mall we don’t need or some other “modern” commercial use.

  18. Peter Galbreathe says:

    Recently I spoke with several friends and neighbors about the Saturday public session of the 2014 budget. I tried to view it online at the city’s web site but unfortunately that portion of the public session budget talks was not made public. I do understand it was well attended by many of the city’s Not-For-Profit organizations and special interest groups.

    The years of rehearsed presentations must be getting redundant from a taxpayer point of view and many organizations showed up with their always empty hand extended. Friends mentioned that some even brought in children to tug at the heartstrings of the decision makers in attendance. Maybe in preparation for others to profess later that if some Council members didn’t approve of some organization’s funding they are less compassionate than other members who would approve funding.

    Some presentations offered a soft gentle approach while others demanded their just due. Everyone chasing after the same slice of the taxpayer’s pie. It must have been quit a showing.

    As a reminder, the tax payers already offer financial support when their personal, State and National economy is strong. When its not, hopefully these organizations saw a downward economic turn, made their budget adjustments accordingly and then had the forethought to prepare. Did any cast their nets into the public arena in hopes of financial support from citizens in the greater Elgin area as well as relying on the sponsorships they have lined up throughout their many years or do you think they just showed up for city check?

    Mayor Kaptain, I don’t know who’s crazy idea it was that the Elgin taxpayers should make up for the State and Federal social services cut backs, do you?

    Has anyone ever wondered how many of these successful organizations are self funding through sponsorship and community fund raising? That some organizations work hard all year to gather the necessary funds they need to continue providing their particular service and not waiting around for the next year’s city budget.

    Of those organizations that are not self supporting, how many have budgets higher than $1 million? If their budget is over $1 million, and they are asking for additional funds, one of the conditions for more city funding should be an examination if their books to see where they themselves may be top heavy. Perhaps it’s their rent and should consider moving, high utility services, maintenance of their building and most of all, the pay of their directors and board members. How many of these directors, board members or band leaders have personal salaries and benefits of 12% or more of their budget? How about 10% of the budget?

    I was told that the words “quality of life” were used often. I now have to question, who’s quality of life were they all speaking about? Was it the quality of life of the people who benefit from social services or was it the quality of life as it pertains to a someone’s special interests or compensation?

    Have some members of this council lost their way? They approve
    funding, at tax payer expense, for their personal utopian dreams, for their friends personal organizations and financial health, for political payback, or the clout and ego boost gained by sitting on the board of any of a number of these organizations.

    Councilman Steffen, would you like to please the tax payers? Will you
    declare now that the selfish quality of life to ride two wheelers,
    unencumbered through the streets of Elgin, at the cost of $1.3 million is more important than supporting a shelter for homeless persons or battered women and their children who most likely don’t have a bike? Will you and other Council members freely give up this luxury in favor of social services funding and by doing so also offering some much needed taxpayer relief?

    Your own liberal party will support you in this declaration. After all, liberals are infamous for having cornered the market as the only ones who are compassionate to the needs of others. Here is your chance to live by what your party stands for. Are you willing to give up your $1.3 million bike lanes and support the children and families in need or to listen to the Elgin Children’s Choir? Will you be bold and make a motion to give up bike lanes for children and persons in need?

    Council members, please do the tax payers a favor. Give up the grandiose idea that Elgin is something special because tax payers bail out a symphony for the few elitists in town or provided a bike lane for the 20 people in the bike club. Start supporting the causes the liberals always seem to spout as one of their reason for existence, the issues of the social services.

    They always want to take from the wealthy and give to the less fortunate so why don’t we start with the liberal’s wealthy unnecessary bike lanes? Give it up!

    I would also like to say, with respect, to the citizens of Elgin who work hard to support their families and households that I am hopeful you will start to hold these Council members feet to the fire and speak out for spending restraint because it’s for their wants that they need your money.

    The choice is yours tax payers. Remain silent and get another 35% tax increase under the heading of revenue diversification or start to stand against this Council’s out of control wish list spending.

    To the Council members who don’t seem to grasp the big picture of a down economy and struggling tax payers, the 2015 election is closer than you think.

  19. TLC says:

    Elgin hinders charitable services

    (Elgin, Ill.—Nov. 20, 2013) Public records recently produced by Elgin city officials reveal that the city responded to TLC Pregnancy Service’s claim that their mobile unit was being discriminated against by ramping up their regulation of other charitable services rather than eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy. Immediately after TLC filed suit against Elgin, other charitable organizations with mobile units, from the Heartland Blood Center to the Lions Club’s free hearing and diabetic screenings received letters from the city informing them that they were going to be regulated as a ‘temporary land us’ subject to a $190 permit requirement for each use of their mobile unit.

    The city’s temporary land use provision has been the subject of federal litigation between Elgin and TLC since earlier this year. In March, United States District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan entered an order allowing TLC to continue operating despite the city’s permit fee and zoning restrictions. In August the judge again ruled against Elgin and called Elgin’s “effort to curtail private entities from providing free and valuable services…ill-advised.”

    “Last week TLC received several thousand pages of government records from Elgin concerning their temporary land use regulations,” said TLC attorney John Mauck. “The mass of bureaucratic documents revealed a number of uses which were apparently so ‘dangerous’ that they had to be licensed and forced to pay a $190 fee for each time they provide free services to the people of Elgin.”

    The following charitable services received letters from Elgin: Heartland Blood Center, Lions of Illinois Foundation and Loyola Medicine’s Mobile Heath Fair.

    “This list shows that Elgin’s bureaucracy seems to have forgotten that the job of government is to serve people rather than tax them and make charitable services more difficult to provide,” said Mauck.

    View Elgin’s letters to Heartland Blood Center, Lions of Illinois Foundation and Loyola Medicine.

    View Mauck & Baker’s brief of the Plaintiffs-Appellees to Elgin.

    • Anna Claire says:

      Looks like Mauck & Baker found Elginite. If not them, certainly someone who has the inside track and is trying to tell their side of the story. Maybe their PR firm or someone connected to TLC directly.

      Why don’t we stop trying to sway public opinion and take the wait and see stance.

      This post could be interpreted as corrupting the public opinion, a breach of the city’s confidentiality or just a plain and simple foolish thing to do.

      • One Vote says:

        Here’s what I see AC.
        The city is under a microscope because of Anna Moeller’s knee-jerk reaction to TLC’s van, followed by Swoboda’s totally inappropriate response.
        Obviously, they used their clout to single out TLC, so they had to cover their tracks by cracking down on other mobile van services.
        The city’s sudden interest in enforcement AFTER THE FACT is telling.
        It just gets worse and worse at Dexter Ct. Now they’ve implicated other departments and exposed the city to a serious legal case.
        But I like your brave little face in defense of folly at city hall.
        I hope someone over there reads this and simply rewrites the ordinance to be in compliance with the law rather than defend the Moeller/Swoboda screw up.

        • ositob says:

          Were else does this mobile unit go? Unknown if Elgin is the only city. With all the money TLC is currently spending on the mobile unit, why cant they just open shop in one of the vacant buildings along South McLean and then they can serve more people with more hours of operation just like a clinic? Then they would also fill up empty store space? Novel Concept TLC

      • Chuck Keysor says:

        One Vote, from where I sit, your theory seems to be very logical, and almost certainly correct.

        I also must say that I was not aware that the City was charging $190 to these not-for-profits, who struggle to provide important services to the community. Such a fee is unnecessary and regrettable.

        What won’t the City tax??? I guess these ideas spring from the same great minds that wanted to tax the rain. Chuck

  20. SIE says:

    Since it is practically a given that whenever I try to call someone at the City I will get their voicemail they really should improve the system. Half the time I’m never sure if the message goes through. So when I don’t get a call back (typical) I never know if its because the never got the mesaage or they are just non responsive.

    So today I sent an email and I got an auto reply that the recipient is out of the office “attending a conference, with limited access to emails”. So city employees don’t have a way to check emails when they are gone? In reality it seems he’s saying I can’t be bothered to return your email while I’m attending a conference on the taxpayers buck?

  21. By George says:

    Greatness is rooted in the seriousness with which it takes the values that make our Republic thrive. The danger to those values that is posed by the current trends in the entitlement state. Both the financial problems of the State and the moral problems generated by the activities of that State.

    I want to draw a picture for you of the many forces at work today to give you some idea of the forces that are coming and a title wave particularly for the students. The country is on a trajectory to go bankrupt in two ways, gradually and suddenly. America’s biggest problem today is that the consciences is as broad as the Republic and as deep as the Grand Canyon. The conscience is that we should have a large, generous omnipresent, omni provident welfare state and not pay for it. Everyone seems to be in agreement with this and the cost should be pushed off on the future generations.

    The American people suffer from a sever case of cognitive dissidence. Which is a fancy way of saying that they hold in their mind, with equal fervor of incompatible ideas. They want a large service estate and low taxes. The American people are often ideologically conservative but operationally liberal. They talk like Jeffersonians but insist on being governed by Hamiltonians. The problem is we cannot continue to do this for much longer because we’re practicing today a kind of decadent Democracy. We use to run deficits to borrow FOR the future and for the future generations. Today we borrow FROM the future to finance our own current consumption. This is a fundamental immorality. Burdening the unconsenting and unpresent future generations with the cost of our appetites. The problem is that we are weaving a network of dependency making Americans more and more dependent on government that we are not really paying for. We’re making big government cheap by giving the American people a dollars worth of government and charging them sixty-five cents for it and all the while we become more dependent.

    Just consider, the two largest decision that a parent makes is to get a mortgage and a tuition loan for their children to go college. These are now transactions with the federal government. Even before the Affordable Care Act was passed, fifty cents of every healthcare dollar in this country was a government fifty cents. Sixty- six percent of what the government does is transfer payments shuffling money back and forth between client groups. Transfer payments are twice a large as everything else the federal government does.

    Forty-nine percent of American households are receiving a government benefit. Thirty-four percent of American households are receiving a means tested benefits. Forty-eight million Americans are receiving food stamps. The problem is that the government is placing in front of the American people an increasingly rich menu of temptations, destigmatizing dependence on the State and an attempt to change first social norms and then our National character.

    This cannot go on forever and all the while we seem to be doing things less and less competently in this country. This is a way of behaving we just cannot continue. We have been getting away with it for years. So far so good they keep saying because America has a cush of wealth and opportunity. This is not good governance.

    We are reaching in this country a tipping point at which a majority of Americans are related to the government either as the governments employees or the governments clients. We are setting ourselves up for a death spiral of the welfare state. As welfare state’s weight becomes so heavy that it suffocates the energy of the private sector, which along by its productivity, can throw off the revenues to pay the bills, the response of the political class is to increase taxes which deepens the weight and increases the suffocation of the private sector.

    We are in today in the most predictable crisis in our Nation’s history. Predictable because it is entirely demographically driven. We have an aging population and a welfare state that exists to subsides the elderly in the forms of pensions and medical care. The welfare state is build around Social Security enacted in 1935 and a Medi-care enacted in 1965, both relatively unchanged since conception, although the world has changed.

    In 1940 there were 42 workers for every retiree. Today there are three workers for every retiree. By the time the Baby Bommer’s retire there will be two workers for each retiree and there will only be that many if we continue to have what we no longer can assume, a high level of immigration to replenish the work force.

    The questions is, what are we going to do to rein in our appetites and align with our revenues so we don’t continue the decadence of a Democracy that borrows not for the future but from the future? The answer is we’re going to have a huge argument either about or appetites or restraining our taxes. We can dodge our responsibilities but cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.

    The top one percent of American earners pay thirty-seven percent of the income tax. The top five percent pay sixty percent and the top ten percent pay seventy percent of the income tax. The bottom fifty percent of Americans earners pay three percent pf the income tax.

    Sixty percent of American households either pay no income tax, that’s forty-seven percent or less than five percent of their income in taxes. That means we have a large American majority today for whom there is no incentive to restrain the growth of a government they’re NOT paying for. This is what the economist call a situation of moral hazard. A situation in which the incentives are for perverse behavior. As Margaret Thatcher stated, sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.

    I’ll let that sink in.

    • One Vote says:

      There are also some hidden government perks.
      Like milk subsidies. You never hear about these things until there is talk of cut backs.
      Then they tell us that if revenue is cut back we’ll be paying $8 a gallon for milk.
      Who knows the truth?
      On the other hand, people project that if we just held the federal budget at zero growth, we’d fix the deficit in ten years.
      So much talk; so little confidence in the information.

  22. Chuck Keysor says:

    Great post By George! Chuck

  23. Margaret Miller says:

    The April 2013 Elgin election clearly changed the face of the City Council. The re-election of John Prigge and the addition of Terry Gavin and Toby Shaw has shown a strong shift in favor of the tax payer’s in approximately 14 Council sessions.

    The 2015 election is starting and as responsible voters we should look at the current Council members (Steffen, Powell & Moeller) who will be running for re-election and educated ourselves about their voting records while asking ourselves these few questions.

    1) Where their campaign promises fulfilled or just campaign rhetoric to get elected?

    2) Is your household or business 38% better or 38% worse?

    3) On issues of your economic well being, did they save you money or cost you more money?

    Let’s start here to get educated. http://www.cityofelgin.org/DocumentCenter/View/46163

    Let’s see if we can figue out who are they representing? Let’s work towards our Masters Degree in their voting records.

    More to follow later.

  24. Margaret Miller says:

    BREITBART NEWS 23 Nov 2013 135 POST A COMMENT

    Once again American taxpayers are being soaked by the Obama administration’s quest for failed green energy projects. On Friday, officials announced that they will lose $139 million loaned to beleaguered electric car maker Fisker Automotive. Unfortunately, the administration doesn’t seem to learn its lesson about wasting public funds on failed green ventures such as the $528 million it lost on Solyndra. 

    Fred Upton (R-Pa) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa,) leaders of House Energy and House Investigative committees, released a joint statement: “Fisker’s collapse closes yet another sad chapter in DOE’s troubled portfolio. The jobs that were promised never materialized and once again tax payers are on the hook for the administration’s reckless gamble.”
    Fisker investors, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, where Al Gore is a partner, spent $400,000 lobbying the Obama Administration for a piece of the $90 billion in green energy program subsides. As a result, Fisker was awarded $529 million in loan guarantees to produce the Karma, a hybrid sports car with a price tag of a whopping $103,000.

    Unable to meet the DOE benchmarks, the company lost most of its originals funding.  Yet Fisker was still able to draw down on the loan to a sizable $192 million before the administration pulled the plug. 
    Due to a paucity of consumer demand, the balance sheet tanked into the red and Fisker was forced into bankruptcy, defaulting on its loan obligation. Hybrid Technology LLC was able to grab the company by buying the remaining defaulted loan. Combined with the administration seizing $21 million from Fisker back in April, $139 million was left on the table for taxpayers to absorb. 

    DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons thinks overall dumping of $139 million onto the taxpayers’ backs isn’t so bad, “While this result is not what anyone hoped for, this amount represents less than 2 percent of our advance vehicle loans and less than one-half of 1 percent of our overall loan program portfolio of more than $30 billion.”
    Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), House Energy and Commerce Committee leader, is appalled by the Obama administration’s bungled green energy program, lamenting, “Time after time the administration has fumbled the ball with their attempts to pick winners when it comes to American energy.”

  25. RS says:

    Ok everybody please keep the posts related to Elgin. No more national news/editorials. There should be plenty of stuff to discuss about Elgin.

    • Margaret Miller says:

      RS, again with respect, my post does have a great deal to do with Elgin since we have the green guru as Mayor followed up by several green Council members.

      Now we may differ on this issue however, since I outed Todd Martin and his scheme to get electric charging stations installed in Elgin at tax payer expense, maybe the citizens will start to see that the green energy trend is not the answer to the taxpayer’s prayers, lower taxes, jobs, a strong economy and housing market along with the halting of frivolous spending would be! Perhaps the Mayor and certain Council members will get the memo soon.

      If a private company wants to produce these alternatives, let them, it’s a free market but way too many of my tax dollars have been invested in these fly by night companies at a clear loss too bankruptcy for each project.

      What are the taxpayer losses up to now? When their hard earned dollars are invested without consent in solar, wind or electric car businesses? I believe the figure is about $750 Billion.

  26. Margaret Miller says:

    Take a look at the enlightening video history from Left Right & You from March 29, 2011
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3l4I3wIcF0
     
    An uneducated voter might have expected John Steffen to be a champion of the tax payer from the top three issues he ran on in 2011 (at 8:20 video mark) I didn’t, I came to the logical conclusion he is no friend of the tax payer and hopes he rides his bike away from City Hall in 2015.
     
    In the last several months, John Steffen fretted about loosing revenue from the Business License rather than offer a break to the Elgin  business owners, he voted for two electric charging stations all paid for by the tax payer, he voted for his bike lanes at $1.3 million and when he had another opportunity to vote the garbage tax off the water bill and place it back on property tax, yes, that’s right, John Steffen voted against it.
     
    So who’s friend is he?

    • Chuck Keysor says:

      Margaret, didn’t John Steffen also vote to keep the “Rain Tax” in the 5 year financial plan as well? Not so good……..

      In the video you linked to, John Steffen also mentioned bringing in good jobs, like Siemens Winergy that made gear boxes for wind turbines. But on the first of November, or there abouts, it was announced that Siemens is closing that facility, and 79 people were supposed to be laid off as a result. (The wind business hasn’t done so well, with reductions in tax credits that propped up the business, and now the Feds are suing windmill manufacturers because their huge turbines are killing lots of bald eagles! That will put another nail into the coffin of the alternative wind power business.)

      John also mentioned at the end of the video that he supported turning Route 20 into a boulevard! That was a real boondoggle. John had told the Courier that I was misleading people on that issue, because I was telling everyone that there would be stoplights and 35mph speed limits, making the once streamlined Rt. 20 into a bottleneck. I told John that I was only reporting what had been reported in the Courier and the Daily Herald. John told me that I should look to the original source, a study by the “New Congress for Urbanism, to get my facts straight. And he provided me with a link to the study that the City had already paid almost $100,000 for, of which 1/3 was devoted to turning Rt. 20 into a tree-lined boulevard.

      So I read the Congress for New Urbanism’s study that was on the City Website, and in fact, it showed that the plan for Rt. 20 becoming a boulevard did in fact call for reconnecting all of the cross streets, installing all the required stop lights, and having 35mph speed limits! And I was the one misleading people!

      John was advocating that we turn Rt. 20 into a tree-lined boulevard, when it appeared to me that he hadn’t even read the Congress for New Urbanism’s study. At least he didn’t know it had 35mph speed limits and stop lights. I think he trusted someone else’s recommendation, like the mayor, and the City Manager! This is yet more info for Margaret’s list of John Steffen’s non-taxpayer friendly positions.
      Chuck

      • Margaret Miller says:

        Hi Chuck,

        Thank you for watching the video. If you take another look at it, John Steffen also implies that the “inhabitants” of Elgin are not smart enough to get the jobs he wants to bring in. When questioned about that by the interviewer, he never answers the question.

        Also take a look at my earlier link from my November 23 post. In the video he states his #1 item is to “live within our means”. You will see that John Steffen has voted yes on everything with the exception of one item that was tabled.

        This upcoming election season is going to be interesting.

      • Margaret Miller says:

        Chuck,

        Thanks for the reminder on John Steffen’s recent Rain Tax YES vote.

        He may say he wants to live within the city’s means but taxing the rain really helps the tax payers and businesses doesn’t it?

        Maybe he was implying that he wanted Elgin “inhabitants” to live UP to his means. The $1.3 million bike bath and the bailout of the ESO, Hoffman Estates fireworks, MetraWest, let’s not forget the Chilian’s are just examples.

        More to follow I’m sure.

  27. Chuck Keysor says:

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The City of Elgin will be hosting a community input session about the proposed $25million expansion of the public housing project at 120 S. State Street. That PUBLIC MEETING, will be held on Tuesday, December 10th, The Heritage Ballroom (The Centre), beginning at 6:30PM!!!!!

    Come and find out what has been done with this project. Come to express your opinions………..

    Here are some obvious questions that I hope will be answered:
    a) Is the Walker Engineering parking study available, and what did it say?
    b) Did someone figure out a way to get a direct two way entrance/exit to State Street?
    c) Did the plans get revised to make the building look more “traditional”?
    d) Have setbacks been improved?
    e) Can fire trucks get in and out?
    f) The Housing Authority of Elgin (HAE) has been billing this project as only adding 6 more units of housing to the combined facility. Yet they are spending $25million….. Does this even seem logical? Or will they need to put more people (up to 123 could fit) into this complex to justify spending $25million?????

    Bring your questions and concerns. Thanks, Chuck

  28. James Madison says:

    Happy Thanksgiving to all…

    • Chuck Keysor says:

      Thank you James! I had a great Thanksgiving, and I hope that you and all the Elginite family did as well! Thanks, Chuck

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