On Wednesday the 5th of March, Mayor Reaves gave the traditional yearly “State of the Village Address” at a local Banquet Hall. (As an aside, someone I know who attended the affair said that many if not most of the attendees were local government officials. Guess who paid for their $45 lunch to hear his words of wisdom?)
His speech was the subject of an article in the March 7th edition of the ‘Lemont Suburban Life’ newspaper. The page 4 article was titled “Mayor lays out economic challenges of past, future”.
It contains statements that are contradictory, and which indicates a naïve assessment of the economic realities facing Downtown Lemont. (When he says “Lemont”, he really means “Downtown” Lemont.)
The first statement is:
“But even compared to some of its neighboring towns, Lemont has some unique challenges facing its economic recovery, he said.”
He then goes on say that the main problem of Downtown Lemont is that too many of its businesses are “small” businesses! Rhetorical question, “what ‘big businesses”” line Main Street in Downers Grove? Any Target or Best Buy stores?
The next comment is so hypocritical it almost sounds like something out of “1984”:
“We need to work more with Cook County to help get our property taxes down for the businesses that we have that are vacant now.”
This would mean that the rest of us would have to make up their discount!
Mayor, how about our property taxes? I’m sure many of us that have hit a bad economic patch in our lives would like a tax property tax reduction!
But this statement is more offensive in that he and the Village Board are attempting to force the Sports Complex through without any voter/taxpayer approval. The estimated cost of this “destination” attraction is over $39 Million. If they succeed in their unsanctioned effort, when this project fails to generate enough revenue to pay principal, interest, and operating costs, the property taxes of Lemont residents would go up dramatically. This would of course be in addition to our making up the vacant property owners’ discounted property taxes.
I must confess that the next comment stains my brain in trying to figure how this man can successfully run an actual business:
“Reaves said that some of the Village’s characteristics that have hurt business, such as having low through traffic, are also seen as strengths for the community.”
I have to interrupt his thought here. In 1985 IDOT replaced the old bridge that ran right through downtown Lemont – much like Main Street stills does in Downers Grove – and erected the one now in use above (not through) Downtown Lemont. Indeed, when the main street through your downtown area becomes a dead-end street, as does Stephen Street (at the S&S Canal, it certainly can contribute to “low through traffic”! The stark truth is that the Lemont Downtown area has been in economic decline since that cessation of through traffic, and all the grand, and outrageously expensive plans to deny this reality are a waste of our tax dollars.
He completes his thoughts on “traffic” with the following comment:
“As residents we don’t want the traffic, we don’t want some of the other head-aches.”
Again, the absolute ignorance he demonstrates of the truth behind the old standby of the “location, location, location” requirement for success in business just baffles me.
Maybe a better model for economic success for the (Downtown) Lemont businesses that the Mayor and Village Board should pursue would be to demand a sort of reverse Mardi Gras Parade – where the handful of people who do drive into Downtown Lemont would be required to throw money out their car windows as they drive back out of the downtown.
That plan makes more sense than the crazy scheme of Mayor Reaves’ to build a $39 Million “destination” Sports Complex on seriously contaminated land owned by the MWRD, in a cul-de-sac, at the end of a narrow dead-end street, next to the dangerously polluted Sanitary and Ship Canal. And…oh, yes… without any voter approval of the project!
Mayor Reaves seems incapable of understanding or accepting that the Village’s role in our local economy is not to use taxpayer money or credit (especially without their approval) to start its own “business” but rather to facilitate business ventures by private individuals risking their own money of their own free will. If private investors have taken a pass on building this project, and all who were approached have, then let’s insist that the Mayor and the Village Board drop this unauthorized and irresponsible gamble with our economic future. For as start, how about spending some time and money on what to do with our two defunct gas stations in uptown Lemont?