Poor Trustee Ray Johnson continues to try and fudge his way around the Colt and Whiteco developments [NLP/VCA tries to spin its way out of Colt fiasco, Viewpoints, Feb. 21]. Ray is desperate to make it appear as if he saved the taxpayers monies and everyone else wasted the dollars.

Fact: The VMA-led governments, from 1983 on, wasted opportunity after opportunity to revitalize Downtown Oak Park (DTOP). The plan Ray touts, Crandall Arambula, cites DTOP as mediocre. In fact, the VMA allowed some of the building owners and developers to let the buildings deteriorate while they waited for the big killing.

As to Whiteco, the Plan Commission voted 5-4 on the findings of fact, after days of testimony, to direct the attorney to draft findings against building Whiteco. A second vote to confirm the findings is required but it never happened. Then VMA President Trapani, with the support of Ray (newly elected to the board) called a 7:30 a.m. meeting when working citizens could not attend, and the board voted 5-2 to withdraw from the agreement. Whiteco was asked to come back with a new plan.

We will have a Trader Joe’s in the Whiteco building. However, residential property taxes will go up because in Cook County, homes, condominiums and small apartment buildings are assessed at 16 percent of “market value,” while other property types are assessed at different percentages of market value. Another major property class and assessment percentage in Cook County is apartment buildings of seven units or more-the tax is 30 percent … this last one will be reduced over the next few years to 20 percent. Homeowners will make up the difference.

In addition, we paid the largest single subsidy to one developer.

The Colt purchase and 1145 Westgate pales in comparison to Whiteco. Remember, the building was allowed to deteriorate to justify tearing it down and using TIF funds for the reduction of “blight.” This is the same blight that VMA boards let happen.

What Ray forgets to tell you is that the Colt and 1145 purchase are bonded against TIF dollars and not residential property taxes. It is disingenuous for him to say that he is the guardian of your tax dollars.

Ray and the VMA trustees voted to extend the DTOP TIF district for 13 more years, knowing full well they had no “plan” for what to do if it ended. In addition, that action damages income for the other taxing bodies. District 97 has been doing its very best to save tax dollars but is suffering under the burden of the TIF. Now we find the TIF so strapped for dollars that we can’t use any additional dollars to help the schools, and we may end up borrowing against the future development in the Madison TIF.

Ray and his progressive party love to pay developers big dollars, your tax dollars, love to pretend that we can grow our way out of the tax burden we are in when we need state- and county-wide reform. All of this is being done while the middle and lower income citizens are fearful of losing their homes.

Developers coming to Oak Park need to compensate the village. We need housing that is affordable to seniors, individuals with disabilities, low-income citizens and young families.

The progressives offer increased taxes, increased debt and diversion of funds from our schools. This is a progressive party we could do without.

Robert Milstein is an Oak Park village trustee and candidate on the VCA slate.

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