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May 2, 2014 / jeffnward

And then the voters restored my faith!

Well…at least some of them did. But heck! Its’ better than living in your crawl space.

It’s also important to note that the assembly in question consisted not of your average electoral gaggle, but a group of downtown Geneva merchants, the folks associated with them, and a small smattering of residents thrown in for good measure.

Now, I’m not necessarily sayin’ it makes these people “better” than your “regular” voters, but with that bar set so low, engaging those with some skin the game does make a difference. Previously provided with a fate of downtown Geneva survey, last Tuesday’s community forum was intended to cover the questionnaire results as well as solicit more downtown input.

But before we progress, it’s important to note that these Economic Development Commission of Geneva gatherings typically turn into, as attendee and Geneva Township Highway Commissioner Mike Abts aptly put it, “Asking your grandchildren for a Christmas list with no established limits.”

And, as is often the case with Geneva, whenever you put City administrators, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Economic Development Commission together they immediately embark upon the kind of acid trip that renders monetary limitations as boundless as the Universe.

We’re talking about the kind of wishful thinking that makes even the Tea Party seem reasonable.

When they come eventually come down from that high, their solution isn’t to install some mid-range retailers like Eddie Bauer, it’s always something like improving sight lines. Yep! That’ll stave off the Internet!

But a funny thing happened on the way to the conclusion of this forum. Realizing the underlying premise wasn’t flying, Economic Development Commission head and close Mayor Burns ally, Bob Mann, suddenly asked the merchants if they were willing to support the higher downtown sales tax necessary to fund these “improvements.”

And the resounding answer was “No!” Even sainted Shodeen President Dave Patzelt said, “This is just shopping for wishes before establishing a budget.”

With that answer firmly in hand, Mann called off the Evanston consultants’ presentation and generally adjourned the proceedings.

Considering he often displays the same shrill temperament as the Mayor, I immediately wondered if this was a case of taking your football and going home. But after a discussion with a number of attendees, they told me that, while Mann was certainly disappointed, this really was a case of seeing it was pointless to proceed.

“Sales tax has tended to be a lightning rod for comment and criticism,” Mann said.

Though I would advise them against getting used to it, I have to give those forward thinking downtown merchants credit for calling the Geneva administration (not the city council) on their spendthrift ways and quickly realizing that the gathering was an exercise in futility.

Because even if we’re only talking only a .25 to 1 percent downtown retail tax hike, it will immediately put the those merchants at a Geneva Commons disadvantage and the kind of “improvements” they consistently discuss don’t even begin to address the real downtown survival issues.

How long have those Third and State Street stores been vacant?

What’s even more fascinating is, when folks like Patzelt and Abts are the ones speaking up, it evinces the existence of some real chinks on that old boy “everything is always rosy in Geneva” mentality. downtown geneva

It certainly can be contentious, but the relationship between Shodeen and the City has always been a lot like an old married couple in which the wife (Kent Shodeen) almost always gets her way. And Highway Commissioner Abts was sponsored by downtown landlord Joe Stanton who fancies himself as a local kingmaker.

Perhaps Mike didn’t realize, at least in this case, he wasn’t supposed to be quite so “outspoken.”

Ah! But just like the legendary Freddy Kruger, this issue is by no means dead. Mann told reporters he intended to seek the say so of the “silent majority” of merchants who did respond to the survey – 459 of ’em to be exact.

In other words, don’t be surprised if you sudden see a downtown sales tax hike resurgence. Ah yes! Though I’d like to say it could only happen in Geneva, we know that’s clearly not the case.

One Comment

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  1. The Observer / May 2 2014 4:05 pm

    When downtown Geneva once again has REAL stores with REAL merchandise that REAL people NEED to buy for basic everyday living, Geneva’s traditional downtown shopping district will again
    be prosperous.
    Knick-knack shops, poodle spas, and sellers of kitsch junk won’t carry the load.

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