Hey local officials, how about a festival of savings?
By Jeff Ward For The Courier-News July 15, 2012 8:40PM
Updated: August 17, 2012 6:42AM
Last week we discussed the “municipal mindset,” a malicious and insidious affliction that tends to infect public officials who, once elected, begin to believe they’re entitled to our tax dollars and that things should be done a certain way simply because they’ve always been done a certain way.
But I gotta tell ya folks, when you consider a series of recent Elgin City Council rulings, that body has actually managed to strike some serious blows against that dreaded municipal malady..
And their first fine move was to vote down video gambling in any Elgin venue besides the Grand Victoria Casino. Again, we know those heinous poker machines are nothing more than a tax on the blue collar workers which is the last thing they need.
I’d like to think the council members were paying attention to me when they cast those votes, but what’s probably closer to the truth is they saw the damage the Des Plaines riverboat just did to the Grand Victoria’s bottom line and any further gambling expansion will only exacerbate that bleeding.
We also discussed pawnshops last week, which brings us to the second outbreak of reasonability.
While some councilmen insisted a second Elgin pawnshop would irretrievably malign their fair city’s good name, Easy Cash Solutions will, indeed, open up in the Town and Country Shopping Center at 1460 Main Lane.
Those cooler city council heads prevailed once again when a slim majority noted that these are not your father’s pawnshops.
To make it a three for three, I’ll also applaud that body and Elgin city staff for the quick approval of a new Elgin Portillo’s restaurant to at the southwest corner of Bowes and Randall roads. According to Courier-News reporter Mike Danahey, the city “fast-tracked” the permit application process and waved around $134,000 in impact fees.
This particular Portillo’s is expected to generate $7.2 million in revenue in 2013, while employing 120 people, and generating $162,000 in sales tax which will more than offset the incentive package in less than a scant year.
If you’ve ever been to their bustling Batavia location, then you know those numbers might be a bit conservative.
Elgin may have made the pawnshop people jump through a few hoops, but Portillo’s owner Dick Portillo specifically referred to city staff as “professional and helpful.”
But my favorite assault upon the municipal mindset — the one that makes me want to stand up and salute — is the one where the City of Elgin partnered with Hanover Park, Hoffman Estates, and Hanover Township to put on Northwest Fourth Fest.
This five-day Sears Centre-based celebration trumpeted the area’s largest fireworks display, carnival rides, food from local vendors, a massive beer garden, and live entertainment.
But it was the fireworks collaboration that piqued my interest because that kind of fiscal thinking is very antithesis to our aforementioned affliction and should always be encouraged.
For years, from my home’s exceptionally high perch, I’ve been able to observe the St. Charles, North Aurora, Batavia, Elburn and Kane County Cougars Fourth of July festivities.
And I’ve always wondered why. I suppose there’s some prestige in sending up your own incendiary devices, but the truth is, if you seen one fireworks display, you’ve seen ‘em all. Well…except for that mid ‘90s Streamwood show where they all went up at once.
“What if,” I thought, “these various and sundry entities combined their efforts into one big Independence Day shindig?”
“Naw. It’ll never happen,” I muttered to myself, “Suburban patronage and provinciality are far too entrenched for it to ever come to pass.” But leave it to Elgin, Hoffman Estates and Hanover Park to prove me wrong.
Now I’m thinking, why not take this a small step further? What if, like the theory behind the impending Elgin Sam’s Club (also coming in at Bowes and Randall), municipalities brought their combined buying power to bear on essential purchases and contracts?
Think about it. Just like the price breaks warehouse clubs provide for buying in bulk, I’m sure waste haulers, electricity providers and cable companies could do even better with multi-city contracts.
Perhaps the same principle could also apply to repetitive public works efforts. Take street sweeping and snow plowing for example. The savings on the equipment alone, which often sits idle, could turn out to be something significant.
The only hitch in our collectivist giddyup is, of course, that gosh darned municipal mindset. When you consider ranking city council traits, cooperation and sharing aren’t terribly high on the list.
That said, the fact that four separate entities could come together to create something as fantastic as Northwest Fourth Fest actually makes me giddy.
What if our property taxes actually went down?
You can reach Jeff and