During a recent conversation I had with the Lemont Mayor, Mr. Brian Reaves, about his and the Trustees Brownfield Sports Complex scheme, he digressed from the topic at hand to angrily complain that “I heard you want to let the Downtown die!?”.
It was clear from his tone and hostile glare that he felt this was akin to a sacrilege!
To me, his accusation revealed the depth of his and the Trustees’ emotional commitment to their Brownfield Sports Complex scheme and explains their determination to pursue the project in spite of the following negative aspects:
… it will cost over $40 Million to build and finance, and the Lemont taxpayers will be the unwilling guarantors of the loan after being denied the right to approve or disapprove of the Brownfield Complex by actions of the Mayor and Village Board.
…the private source financing they have secured to preclude Lemont voters from voting on the Brownfield Complex will cost much more in total interest than the original funding proposal that was supposed to be voted on as part of the March 18th, 2014 election.
…even after it’s paid off, the people of Lemont will never truly “own” the $40 Million + building because it will be built on land leased from the MWRD. The MWRD will ultimately receive ownership of the Brownfield Sports Complex at the end of the lease. Lemont taxpayers will receive nothing for this $40 Million wealth transfer!
…the MWRD site is rated as a Brownfield by the IEPA and Lemont taxpayers will be forced to pay for its clean up due to the Mayor and Board’s actions. It is rightfully the MWRD’s responsibility.
…it will be built at the end of a narrow two lane dead-end street, virtually guaranteeing traffic jams.
…it will be built next to the Illinois Sanitary and Ship Canal which is a heavily polluted, open air sewer for Chicago waste treatment plants. (The Lemont officials plan a river walk along the S&S canal as an “attraction”!?)
…the Lemont Downtown is basically a cul-de-sac: one way in, one way out. Imagine the traffic jams this severely restricted access will cause.
…the Illinois Heritage Line commuter/freight railroad borders the Downtown’s South edge, and will undoubtedly contribute to traffic jams.
…a University of Chicago expert has said that the market for these travelling sports facilities is transitory and is already saturated with near-by competitive facilities in far better locations.
Etcetera, etcetera, etceteta…
So, in spite of all these “cons” for the Brownfield Sports Complex, which has chilled the blood of real business world investors and send them running out the door screaming, “not with our money you won’t!”, it’s clear to me that nothing rational will get in the way of this scheme of theirs because its sole reason for existence is not the result of a rational business decision process, but is one last emotional $40 Million gesture to “SAVE THE DOWNTOWN!”. And the best part of their scheme is; it’s other people’s money! (Lemont is, after all, in Cook County!)
After Mayor Reaves’ remark about my ‘heartless’ view of Downtown Lemont, I stood there momentarily considering how to respond with a logical response to this obviously emotional position. Any objective analysis of the Downtown’s physical and business environment would readily conclude that the Downtown of Lemont has been dying since the new bridge diverted all through-traffic from Stephen Street in 1985. This slow death has been extended only by the expenditure of millions of dollars of Lemont taxpayer property tax funds (under the guise of TIF) on brick sidewalks, new signs, new facades, and cement flower pots all for the benefit of the Downtown property owners. The sad reality is that given the physical location of Downtown Lemont, in a cul-de-sac with no through-traffic possible, these tax funds have been - and will continue to be - futilely spent.
As long as it was a million here, a million and a half there, it was tolerable, at least the items purchased are “owned” by Lemont, but $40 Million on a building we will eventually give away to somebody else!?
Completely irrational and unacceptable.
I do not have a plan to “save” Downtown Lemont, I have no intention of formulating one, and I don’t need to have one in order to justify my criticism of Mayor Reaves’ and the gang of six Trustees’ Brownfield Sports Complex scheme. Nor do I need a plan to justify my condemnation for their despicable and dishonorable efforts to disenfranchise the thousands of Lemont voters who were denied their fundamental right to vote on the Brownfield Complex’s funding on March 18th, 2014.
As a general observation, it has been my experience that when you criticize a plan of this complexity, expense, and risk, and its proponent’s first response is not to list a host of benefits, or a factual countering of your complaints, but instead to demand that “you come up with something better…”, then it’s likely that they know that many of your criticisms are true, but they do not wish to address them in a straightforward, honest manner because this would expose their plan’s fatal weaknesses.
Since Mayor Reaves and the Village Trustees sought their political positions of their own free will, it’s their job to come up with a plan to “save” the Downtown - not mine, one that makes economic sense, and one that they pursue only after they have received the voters’ approval.
The current Brownfield Sports Complex plan is seriously flawed, is mindlessly risky, and has no support among the majority of Lemont taxpayers. The in-and-out traffic it will generate will not “save” the Downtown area, an area devoid of any kid/family friendly businesses. The difficult and time consuming access to the Brownfield Complex caused by its poor location will discourage users and they will quickly take their business to more accessible and hospitable venues.
In spite of all this, I am convinced that the Mayor and Trustees intend to inflict this ruinous project on us Lemonters because as elected officials, they have convinced themselves that, “they can do what they want.”.
Well, the damage that the Brownfield Complex’s failure will cause a few years after being built will negatively impact thousands of Lemont taxpayers for sure. I assure you that many of their victims will ensure that it will also negatively impact the perpetrators.