I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! If any of our local mayors or aldercreatures could beat the market they wouldn’t be lowly mayors and aldercreatures. They’d be partying with Justin Bieber on some private island in the Caribbean. But since truth is always far stranger than fiction, despite the fact that neither has ever held a private sector job, that’s exactly what Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke tried to do.
Back in 2012 when energy prices were at long-term highs, our illustrious mayors fell for the equivalent of those ubiquitous mailers promising homeowners the moon, sun, and stars if they’d only send that scurrilous Com Ed packing. But because those pitches only show up when energy costs are soaring, the Tribune would regularly run sad stories about how some senior citizen fell for the pitch and wound up paying four times the going rate.
It’s in that very vein that Burns, Schielke, and their associated city councils bought into the downstate Prairie State Energy Campus clean coal con by signing a 30-year contract to buy a portion of their power exclusively from what was clearly a boondoggle waiting to happen.
And the best proof of this inevitable fiscal disaster theory is 99 percent of Illinois municipalities wouldn’t touch Prairie State with an insulated ten-foot pole. They damn well knew that, unless you’re as savvy as Warren Buffet, trying to beat the market is a fool’s errand.
The only thing that’s somewhat saved Genevan’s wallets is, unlike Batavia, our city council didn’t put too many of those electric eggs in the same Prairie State basket. But in an effort to stave off a citizen rebellion after some homeowners received four-figure electric bills, Batavia was forced to dip into their reserves to mitigate those exorbitant rates.
As you might imagine, for the last nine years, Burns and Schielke have been begging any Springfield politician willing to listen to bail them out to no avail. That means Genevans still owe Prairie state $100 million while Batavians are gonna have to come up with even more cash.
But just when you thought this beyond bad deal couldn’t possibly get any worse, it just did!
With progressives currently holding all the General Assembly cards, there is a move afoot to ban all Illinois coal plants. And if they manage to push that bill through, not only will Geneva and Batavia have continue to pay Prairie State, but they’ll have to purchase that missing power from another source, which will send our electric bills straight through the roof.
Of course, when Burns and Schielke first heard about the potential coal plant prohibition, they thought they were finally off the hook. But that euphoria was short-lived when Governor Pointless told the Tribune that “The rest of Illinois will not pay for bad financial bets made by a handful of communities.”
And that leads up directly to another vast irony. Burns, a self-avowed born-gain progressive, now finds himself in the untenable position of having to lobby to keep a coal plant open! We in the political world call that “being caught between Scylla and Charybdis.”
You see, Burns was once a demonstrable Republican, but with his malignant narcissistic tendencies costing him the support of most long-time Genevans, with nowhere left to turn, he started pandering to those ultra-woke sycophants who’ve moved west to escape the violence and fiscal insolvency that define the City That Doesn’t Work.
That’s why Burns has been utterly silent on the subject. He knows his progressive posse won’t stand for the kind of political expediency that would requires a continued coal-based assault on the Illinois environment.
While that’s certainly an amusing thought, what baffles me is, despite this and similar ongoing fiscal farces, Burns and Scheilke are two of the longest serving mayors in Illinois history. It would seem that Geneva and Batavia voters are more than willing to bend over and say “Thank you, sir! May I have another!”
That goes for Geneva Alderman Craig Maladra who wholeheartedly supported this scam, too. Alan Wolf was also on the Batavia City Council at the time, and though I’m not sure how he voted, I’d put good money “yes.”
So, as is almost always the case, the voters, and particularly those who don’t vote, get exactly what they deserve, and higher electric rates are clearly one of those “perks.” And as long as the voters keep rewarding these folks for their blitheringly bad fiscal decisions, they’ll just keep on making them!