What's the goal of the Incumbents?
One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis, author of the Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe. He spoke on progress and said this:
Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.
I've been spending a lot of my free time thinking about what is that "place" that this majority board wants to be. I've heard platitudes of 'a better Lakewood' -- but what does it mean? What is the goal that Phil and his crew of loyal followers are trying to achieve?
Since they've been utterly incapable of explaining this vision for my village, I can only look to their actions and decisions as key indicators of the grand plan.
Hamstring the Village Financially
Over the last years, I've seen a flush with cash village turn into a debt ridden, cashless community. In the past years outflow has exceeded inflow to a total of about $1.3 million, and where do you think that money comes from? It comes from our reserves. In the meantime, I see an ever increasing debt being added to our village.
To put this in personal terms, our village is about 1,500 homes (our primary source of revenue is taxes as we do not have a large business base). Our village, last year (per the IL Comptroller's Report based on the recent audit), for every dollar of revenue brought in spent $1.13. This is a loss of $821,000 or $548 per house. Additionally, the village holds $6,626 in debt per household. This means that even get to zero, our village should have raised $548 more per household last year just to cover their spending --- how do you think this village raises money? Do you think the Fiscal Year 2021 spending has been better controlled than last year?
Prioritize Public Works Equipment over Public Safety
In the past year, we've heard of the police department working on a skeleton crew (I believe as of this post there are two open positions for officers and we have an interim chief who does no patrolling); disabled vehicles; bald tires in impending snowy weather; and the list goes on. Over the past few years, we've also watched money pour into public works including the purchase of a half a million dollar vactor truck that no village our size in the state owns. That fact doesn't make us better, it makes us frivolous with our spending.
Phil and his merry band of Trustees are happy to funnel funds, we don't have, into public works, and while infrastructure is important, governing is about balancing limited resources across unlimited needs and wants. That vactor truck was a want -- it is a giant Tonka truck that Phil wanted. A new police car to replace one of the 2 that have over 100,000 miles on them is a need -- better if it means we have a fleet of cars that all work.
Deal in Dubious Behavior
If overspending and reprioritizing our public safety aren't enough to move you, let's look at another hallmark of this current administration -- Dubious Behavior. We not only have an unprecedented lack of transparency, a complete lack of any discussion or question to the resolutions passed by the board, here's a small sample of what Phil, rubber stamped by his buddies has passed.
Reduced the Clerk's Stipend (which is a violation of IL Code)
Appointed the spouse of a sitting Trustee to be our Treasurer and doubled her pay. While I have no doubt this is a conflict of interest, given the complete lack of work product I've seen for her $400/month; I wonder what she's doing.
Doubled the Trustee and President's Stipend (effective on the next election) passed INSIDE a consent agenda
Authorized the spending of money multiple times with NO budget to support the spending (a violation of IL Code)
Through about mid-December, our village has spent $123,874.80 of UNBUDGETED money. Only half of that amount is due to the complete lack of a realistic budget for RedTail and despite being open all summer, our CAO never bothered to write up the budget amendment to account for the change.
Over the last three years, our village's activities have become less, not more, open to the public. This is a violation of the very concept of Sunshine Laws (those laws that are meant to prevent backroom deals and allow the sun to shine into all aspects of government) -- which push for governments to default to openness unless absolutely mandatory.
Spreading of Misinformation
If you have read here any length of time, you know my love for a good fact check. So, here's a partial list of misinformation I've uncovered that has come from this current administration, board, and Phil:
The Earthen Dam was inspected in 2015 -- wholly not true.
The proposed well will reduce the algae in all the Turnberry Lakes -- Likely not the result that will come from that
The proposed well will keep the water levels high in drought while at the same time only being run during the drought, or in prep for the drought, or most of the year -- the story changes depending on which retelling of it.
The deck on RedTail was approved by the board -- wholly untrue.
The turnover of employees is less than the previous village manager -- not only not true, it has been on a sharp increase to 80% at this point.
Police tires were not bald and were replaced on the regular maintain schedule --- invoice proof that the tires were bald and were denied until a resident (now Candidate April Runge) emailed the CAO and board offering to buy/fundraise them for the police.
And there is SO MUCH MORE....
If you aren't aware there is an active Facebook Group called Village of Lakewood, IL - Local News & Politics. It is a private group open to any resident of the Village, staff, and the press. It is not unusual for the incumbents to have proxies promote their version of 'alternative facts;' but yet none of the sitting board is willing to step up and defend themselves. All of the newcomers are active this group and willing to answer questions, share actual facts and even their sources.
Is this the village YOU want? Do these match YOUR values? On April 6th, we have the opportunity to turn around. Please vote for your vision of what the Lakewood Community should be.