Mailbag of "Not Quite the Facts"
Who got mail today? Who would have thought that this village election would have put so much mail in our boxes? The United4Lakewood Team has sent out exactly 3 postcards and a past Village President sent a letter endorsing us. The incumbents or their allies have sent 2 smear postcards and at least 2 letters. The last of these appears to be a copycat version of my fact checking that I've been doing of them for months.
Let's be clear, asking the board to be accountable for their actions and inaction is not a smear campaign -- it's called being a good, involved, informed citizen. This is not what the incumbents want you to be -- they do not want you to know what they are doing. Nothing was more clear than the email that our CAO sent the board prior to the incident at Village Hall when she said "your public has great trust in you!"
Less than a month later there were so many people attending a board meeting that it exceeded the number of allowable attendees and forced the village to increase our account with Zoom. Since then, we've seen a consistent number of residents coming out for every board meeting -- if zero attendance says the residents trust this board, then what does nearly 100 in attendance every meeting say?
This might be my favorite paragraph in Phil's latest attempt to win your favor:
Phil's allies have sent anonymous postcards with outright lies about Dave Stavropoulos that Phil did not even condemn at the most recent board meeting as he apparently promised both Dave and residents. If anyone is sending threatening emails, it is wrong and it should stop immediately. All threats, regardless of origin, do not reflect the character of the United4Lakewood candidates and those who send them do not represent us. (Phil, this is how you do that -- you do NOT sit by silently and allow bully behavior to continue.)
But I will say, he's right -- Only YOU can stop the bullies -- they already have office -- and your vote is absolutely critical.
Now, to fact check this latest round of half-truths:
Phil says he has a plan. He claims that they have had strategic planning meetings.
According to the village site, these meetings appear to have existed --- however, there is no recording of them, no minutes taken during them, no presentations saved for the record or history --- thus there is NO record of these meetings, the discussions, nor the plans that may or may not have come from them. This plan is as real as the non-existent business plan that has brought profitability to RedTail that Phil kept claiming was the key to the success -- until the village was forced to admit it does not exist.
To prove his 'plan' exists, he claims five bullet points; we claim this plan is more myth than reality.
Lower taxes and attract commercial development
Phil has been president for TWO levy votes -- the first was to INCREASE the levy by 2% and the second was hold it flat. In fact, in the FOUR levy votes he's been a part of lowering the levy has only occurred only ONCE -- when Paul Serwatka was in office.
The village sold a plot of land. There has been exactly ZERO commercial development as ground hasn't even been broken on that land. In fact, if you look at the number of businesses that were open in the village he day he took office and today, we are actually ONE fewer business in the past two years. (Yes, that's a fact, there were NO open store fronts in Lakewood Commons in 2019 when Phil too office and today there is one empty store front.)
Produce New Revenue Sources
We got ONE grant. A grant that our CAO didn't write and didn't present; but yet the board has given her all the credit. One grant isn't a sustainable source of new revenue, it is more like an annual bonus -- some years you get one; others you don't.
The grant will replace like for like on Haligus from Lakewood Rd. to the north border of the village. This means there will be no added bike lanes on Haligus -- this will be important when we talk about the park that is going in.
Maintain Healthy Fund Balances & Financial Excellence
For the first time in memorable history, we got an audit management letter. I showed the letter to a retired CFO buddy of mine who said, "Those are serious items listed, if I ever got a letter like that, as a CFO, I'd be fired." Yet our finance director (the person charged with the oversight in the department) still has her job, she merely blames an employee who is not a CPA, nor a trained bookkeeper and was charged with the bookkeeping only when our CAO took the job and refused to the work the CPA used to do -- despite taking his salary.
I'm not exactly sure how you keep healthy fund balances when you consistently over spend the budget or just simply fail to budget for items you know you are planning to spend. But yes, Phil is right, CASH was up 17% (in the general fund only) from '19 to '20 solely because we sold land in the final days of the fiscal year. Yet net position (the net worth) of the village is down.
Improve the drainage in the Heart of the Village
Simply put, if Hampshire is the massive success Phil claims, then where is the plan to continue that project through the rest of the Gates? And why is this plan not being shared with the residents with a realistic timeline?
Do not forget that Hampshire road is one of the reasons that long time village engineer (and author/presenter of the Haligus Road grant) fired the village.
We may get a benefit from the $500K vactor truck -- but could we have gotten the same benefit from a used truck and saved money? He claims a 7 year break even, but the cost/benefit analysis is flawed -- most people I've spoken to tell me that we will be lucky to break even in 20 years.
Preserve Open Space and New Park
The park is 9.75 acres (reduced in size due to some easements with the waste water plant) and the land hasn't been transferred to the park district yet.
Phil has promised there would be public input on what facilities would be put into the this new park -- and there's an open question about if there will be a splash pad. But just remember, this park is literally next door to the wastewater plant and wedged between it and the Kishwaukee River -- the river that supplies the water for both Turnberry and RedTail golf courses and Turnberry Lakes -- I think a splash pad might have to be really thought through from both the optics of it being next to the wastewater plant and the drainage and where the run off of chlorinated water will go. And remember the lack of bike lanes on Haligus? Yes, people will likely need to drive to the park, so there will need to be enough parking.
His next point is "no more kicking the can." He claims that there was an interest only bond that we refinanced and it would be paid off in 14 years.
The problem is that instead of just refinancing the bonds, the village chose to take $900,000 in proceeds from the bond refinance to rehab Well #5 -- this is an unused, back-up well that has methane that would need to be remediated in order to be brought online and hasn't been needed because it was installed when there was an expectation of more development at the corner of Ackman and Haligus. So -- we basically, took $900,000 out in debt that we don't really need because we were refinancing a bond -- which by the way, was the plan all along. The plan had been to refinance that bond in 2019/2020, and the motions were put into place to do that as far back as at least 2017.
And his final fact he shares is "RedTail is Profitable."
After every year he has been in elected office RedTail has had 6 figure negative cash balances, Phil wants to take credit for the pandemic that made RedTail profitable?? Look, I know the team at RedTail work very hard -- but I also know they ignored a hacked Facebook account for months. I also know that if the golf course was not profitable in the midst of this global pandemic, we have much bigger problems -- it isn't a tribute to your business acumen to make money when the tide is rising, it's a testament to your skill if you can not lose money when the tide is going out. Phil has repeatedly shown he doesn't understand basic business.
What Phil fails to tell you is that of the truly little he's accomplished, he has done it in the most disgraceful manner. He has either actively or passively allowed residents to be bullied, staff to be harassed, and has personally been named in a law suit as part of a discrimination claim -- that the Village Insurance company paid. While I argue that he's not been a success at all, even if all his claims were true, the manner in which he goes about his business brings disgrace to our village.
So, yes, YOUR VOTE MATTERS. Your opinion of how you want your village run matters. There are 5 days left to make your voice be heard.