Armed with some COW meeting intelligence accusing Elgin City Councilman Terry Gavin of getting even more outta hand than usual after the Grand Victoria asked for a rent reduction, I decided to go right to the tape.
And I’m not really sure if this is a good or bad thing, but while Gavin’s capacity to act like an utter jackass remains intact, there was no discernable difference between his behavior at this or any other city council get together.
That said, and even though I probably shouldn’t go here, I will admit that when that Alderman “asked” Grand Victoria GM Jim Thomason not to insult his intelligence, my first thought was, “It simply isn’t possible to hit a target that small.”
But we digress.
Given their waning fiscal fortunes, the boat wants the Council to cut their rent from about $1.7 million a year to a million flat. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but for all intents and purposes it’ll work just fine for us.
And even though he was far too subtle in his attempt to make this point, Thomason reminded that governmental gaggle that when the local bars were feeling the economic pinch and begged for video poker, the Grand Victoria did not stand in their way.
I can’t remember the specific year, but back then Thomason said something to the effect of, “What’s good for Elgin is good for us!” Sadly, as is always the no good deed goes unpunished case, that decision certainly came around to bite them in the butt!
Now, I don’t usually like to leap forward and spoil the ending, but it’s important to note that those COW folks did move the rent issue along to the next full council meeting with only Senior Gavin and Toby Shaw casting dissenting votes.
With those supermajority numbers, you can bet your sweet bippie that the Grand Victoria’s lease will, indeed, be readjusted accordingly.
But despite doing the right thing, we’ve run into a massive city council irony that I simply cannot ignore. And it starts with City Manager Sean Stegal mentioning that no other Illinois floating craps game pays any rent. Well…there might be one that remits 50 grand a year, but neither Des Plaines, nor Joliet, nor Aurora pay one thin dime of rent to their host towns.
So where’s the irony you ask? Oh! I’ll tell you! I’ve managed to make it through more bleepin’ county board, city council, and school board meetings than the entire population of Pingree Grove combined. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard those council folk say something like, “We have to bring this fee/rate/tax in line with surrounding communities.”
Translated, what that really means is, “We need an excuse to raise taxes so we’re going to cite the fact that other municipalities charge more so we can too. However, if we accidentally discover that we’re a bit higher on some other fees and taxes, you won’t hear a peep out of us.”
So when Councilman Shaw argued that paying just 3.5 percent of their profit in rent was a great deal relative to other local businesses, my rebuttal would’ve been, “Yeah! But the other boat’s aren’t paying any rent at all!”
Because if you’re gonna use the relativity theory, then you’re bound by it on all fronts and my argument is really hard to beat. (I still love you Toby, but you’re dead wrong on this one.)
Once! Just once! I would love to Elgin, or any other village board, say, “You’re right! We’ve got to bring this in line with other communities. Jim! [Thomason] You’re off the rental hook!” I completely understand the ramifications of sudden unforeseen budget deficits, but ethically and philosophically, it would’ve been the right thing to do.
Of course, I’m sure Terry Gavin would responded to that sentiment with something like; “It’s not our fault you signed a really bad lease agreement and you’re just gonna have to live with it.”
But that’s why he’s an unrepentant braying jackass! Because even though he’s correct on a mere technicality, considering how the Grand Victoria and Pritzker Family have always made it a point to work with the community – instead of against them – why wouldn’t you give them the same consideration?
Why does this relationship have to be so adversarial?
For better or worse, the fate of the City of Elgin and the Grand Victoria are inextricably intertwined and if the council doesn’t hold up their end of that implicit social bargain and things go too far, I guarantee you the Pritzkers will bail out and the next owners won’t be nearly as magnanimous on so many levels.
For lack of a better analogy, this relationship is just like a good marriage and that means you always try to do your best and go the extra mile. C’mon man! You got a good thing going! Please don’t tell me the thrill is gone or I’ll have to get out my B. B. King records and really annoy the crap out of the neighbors.
Not only should Elgin reduce the boat’s rent to zero on pure principal, but the Council should direct the appropriate city folks to consistently go out of their way to promote Festival Park events because a reinvented Grand Victoria is good for everyone.
And please try to remember that all this is coming from a staunch pain in the ass columnist who doesn’t believe in legal gambling anywhere. That said, how many goddamn billionaire families have the social conscience of the Pritzkers?
You wanna know what the really scary thing is? If I’m the smartest person in the room here, then we’re all in fucking trouble.