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Monday, February 26, 2007

Going Local

TonightI'll be posting a few things on the local election here in Zion, Illinois. Tuesday we have a primary election for the city commissioners, and Mayor's race along with a few others.

Specifically, the Mayor's race here is kind of important. The current Mayor, Lane Harrison, has been in office for a number of years, and has done some good things. At the same time, he's miss fired on a number of items, and doesn't seem to like being called on it.

Two of the issues in the election, a full time position for Mayor / City Administrator, and property taxes are two things the current mayor has taken a pass on. Crime is one where he's paid some lip service, but hasn't really addressed the issue.

When people mention that our taxes are the 5th highest per dollar of property value in the county he argues that the city only gets 14% of that amount, so it's not his fault. The truth is he, and the city council have done little to decrease the amount our city portion goes up. There is a ton of redundancy in the government in Zion, between a city and township that share common borders to a Park District with it's own budget that takes up 8% of my property tax money. In the six years I've lived in Zion the current mayor and the council have done NOTHING to eliminate the waste of all of those bodies.

The issue of a full time Mayor was actually made moot, to me, by Lane Harrison's last mailing to the electorate. While he spent an entire page making the case that he's provided a ton of progress as the (part time) Mayor, he asked why Dave Ratliff's big position on the issues is we don't need a full time Mayor. Dave has said we don't need one at either the original $100,000 or the currently reduced $75,000 salary the City Council has proposed. The truth is, Mr. Harrison, if as you say, we've been so successful since 1999 without a full time Mayor, why is one needed now?

Crime is an issue that the city likes to whitewash, and the current Mayor doesn't like being asked questions on. The truth is, there is plenty of crime in Zion, violent crime, drug crime, and property crime. You can't read the News Sun without at least a few crimes from Zion being in the police blotter on a daily basis.

In the last few months, just from the place my son works at least 3 people have been assaulted on the streets. At least weekly a pizza driver, or other delivery person gets robbed. And daily cars are broken into in peoples driveways. Yet the Mayor seems to think that crime shouldn't be considered a big issue. Maybe he should come park his car in my neighbors driveway, where they've had 3 break-ins of their vehicles in the last 7 months or so. Or park in the other neighbors drive, where he's had a few windshields broken in the last couple of years.

Dave Ratliff also has some things to answer, like where does the money for extra police patrols come from? While I agree with him that we need more cops, and more patrols in Zion, the truth is they aren't cheap, and with a promise of no more than 3% growth in the budget in any year he's in office, I'd like to know more about his plan on how to pay for things.

I'd like both candidates to let me know if they'd support a freeze on new residential construction unless an equal amount of commerical property is also built. The reason behind this is residential construction is a tax drain on the property owners, it requires more schools, teachers, police and fire services. Commercial development doesn't require new schools, and only a minimal amount of extra police and fire protection. Yet commerical development generates a good amount of property tax revenue, and reduces the burden on homeowners.

Secondly, I'd like both of them to address the issue of government consolidation in regards to the City and Township and the Park District. I've asked both about it, and Mr. Ratliff got back to me with some general answers, but Mayor Harrison never bothered to respond to my e-mail.

Even with the questions I have about Dave's plans, based on meeting him and talking to him, and reading what he has proposed, I think that it's time for some change for Zion, with a new direction in leadership.

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