I was very glad that WEDNESDAY JOURNAL editorial last week (“Save the project, if not the process,” Jan. 26) took issue with the village’s broken process that has led to the current Whiteco situation.
For those folks who are unaware of Whiteco, it is a proposed development of 200 apartments, a parking garage and a Trader Joe’s situated behind Border’s and next to Holley Court. The village is providing at least $8.6 million in subsidies to the developer. According to Paul Hamer in his VIEWPOINTS letter (“The village’s cost of turning keys over to Whiteco: $20M?”, Jan. 26) that amount may be significantly higher.
When a process is as badly broken as this one, it calls into question the validity of the project itself. The national election of 2000, and quite possibly 2004, is an example of a badly broken process, the results of which reflect that broken process.
As a tax attorney, I tend to take a broad approach to the question of tax money being spent. I understand that the village has created a separate pocket in its conceptual suit jacket called the Downtown Oak Park Taxing Increment Finance District or DTIF for short. It is out of that DTIF pocket that the village will pay for the subsidies to Whiteco, however much they turn out to be.
However, if that DTIF pocket has a surplus, the village is allowed to use the money for other purposes, like the schools, for example. Which means if the village doesn’t spend the money on Whiteco, that money can go to our schools, which have recently let teachers go and asked the village for $3 million.
When the village spends money out of one pocket of its conceptual suit jacket, that means there is less money available in the whole suit jacket. Which leads me to ask why a responsible village board would increase taxes by $8.6 million or more at a time when there are more pressing financial needs. And yes, when the village spends money like this, it is, in effect, a tax increase which will be coming to a village near you in the not so distant future.
The Journal laments the process which brought us this situation but wants the Trader Joe’s and the extra apartments, even though there is somewhere around an 11 percent vacancy rate among Oak Park apartments currently.
Perhaps the Journal may want to question why other excellent developments have occurred throughout the village without subsidies.
Perhaps it would be worth investigating whether we could get a better deal on a development on that parcel of land by simply putting out a Request For Proposal (RFP) now before we go any further down the Whiteco path.
Any good consumer would get at least more than one quote when making a big purchase. Isn’t it time for the village to become a good consumer?
You may want to give our village trustees and WEDNESDAY JOURNAL your comments on this issue.
Their numbers are WEDNESDAY JOURNAL: 524-8300, President Trapani: 358-5798, Trustee Carpenter: 358-5786, Trustee Johnson: 358-5788, Trustee Kostopulos: 358-5790 and Trustee Pope: 358-5796. Trustees Robert Milstein: 358-5792 and Galen Gockel: 358-5794 have consistently voted against spending for Whiteco.