The First Ward Report – Pompous, drunk and belligerent is no way to go through life, Mayor Burns!

Before we get to his July 1st County Board fireworks, let’s lay some groundwork first.

Given Geneva’s reliance on retail taxes, the recent shutdown has been particularly hard on the city. But the Mayor managed to make it it much worse when, unlike Elgin and a host of Kane County municipalities, he refused to consider the most minor staff furloughs.

You see, the Mayor counts on the entire city workforce to drop what they’re doing campaign for him every four years. That’s why Geneva unions get whatever they want and furloughs were out of the question.

When asked exactly how Geneva planned on making up this serious shortfall, the Mayor would offhandedly proclaim, “We’ll get that $3 million from the County!”


Kane County did, indeed, receive $45 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, but with the needs far outstripping the available cash, some might say the Mayor embraced a particularly pernicious form of baseless optimism.

But much to the dismay of many of the elected officials involved, as President of the Metro West Council of Government, Burns managed to weasel his way onto the seven-person County Board committee tasked with the final fund distribution.

The Mayor is capable of putting on a persuasive and semi-logical front for brief periods of time.

But before those fine folks could counterattack and contest his appointment, I told them it wouldn’t be necessary. Now that Burns was on a very public committee, all they had to do was give enough rope and he’d happily hang himself.

But even I had no idea of just how far he’d go to prove my point.

That fascinating process commenced with the Mayor showing up drunk to the Wednesday 9 a.m. July 1 Coronavirus Task Force meeting. Yes drunk! A number of eyewitnesses described him as wreaking of alcohol,  being “unsteady on his feet,”  being noticeably “off,” his eyes were bloodshot, and his verbal tempo was overly halting for a veteran public speaker.

But why listen to me when his five-minute tirade is forever memorialized on tape. Fast forward to the 29:30 mark in the official County audio minutes and you’re good to go!

Anyone who’s routinely dealt with a high-functioning alcoholic will hear exactly what I did. He wasn’t able to handle the words “Aurora,” “disbursement,” and he frequently paused mid-sentence as if he’d lost his place.

He might’ve actually gotten away with it, too, had he approached the Board with the appropriate humility and respect, just like Kane County Republican Chairman Ken Shepro did immediately before him.

Ken came in with a short presentation, he briefly explained how unincorporated fire protection districts were affected by the pandemic, and the task force thanked him for his due diligence.

But then it was Mayor Burns turn to talk, and he certainly made the “most” of it.

It started with a bad mask joke that was wholly inappropriate at meeting to determine how to mitigate the COVID-19 fiscal fallout. Then he:

  • “Urged” the County Board to “reject” the task force proposal on no specific grounds.
  • Disputed the task force’s municipal census figures.
  • Demanded the implementation of a “multi-phased plan” in which municipalities would get all the relief funds while the County got none.
  • Insisted that $45 million was just the initial “distribution” with expected “rolling disbursements through the end of the year.”

Alrighty then! Let’s just say that the Board was utterly un-amused by his performance as indicated by the dead silence as he left the podium.

To put this “request” in some semblance of real-world perspective, here’s what I want you to do tomorrow morning! March into your employer’s office and insist that he or she turn all their current profits over to you. Make it clear that this is first decree with future profits provided upon further request.

Then be sure to tell the owner that you won’t take “no” for an answer. All I can say is, I’ll look forward to watching Dr. Phil ask you, “How’s that workin’ out for ya?”

When asking for a bail out, the first rule of politics is issuing demands won’t get you very far. The second rule is, if you do make demands, you really oughtta have the political clout to back them up. The third, it’s pointless to ask for money that doesn’t exist.

That $45 million in federal relief funds is the whole enchilada. Where did Burns think the County was going to come up with “rolling disbursements?”

They may not have publicly conveyed their dismay, but they certainly did so privately.  In fact, the Board was so infuriated that a face-saving attempt to seat the Mayor as a non-voting committee member. And that demise came at the hands of Geneva Board Member John Martin, the man who initially asked Burns to serve on the committee.

After he was ignominiously expelled, since the board couldn’t completely disregard Geneva, the board-only committee voted to retain a portion of the relief funds as a reserve, which means Geneva will get even less that the $1.7 million stipulated in the original plan.

And if I was a Metro West mayor, I wouldn’t be asking the Kane County Board for anything anytime soon!

As is always the case after another of his many debacles, Mayor Burns will do his best  spin it into some sort of victory, but this time, there are too many eyewitnesses for him to pull that off.

And you know exactly who he’s gonna come after for that money, right? You may as well start handing your wallets over now taxpayers.

Haven’t you had enough of this guy, Geneva?


4 thoughts on “The First Ward Report – Pompous, drunk and belligerent is no way to go through life, Mayor Burns!

  1. I wasn’t there to see the demeanor and steadiness factors (or get any olfactory evidence), but I am far from convinced by the audio. Having sat through innumerable public meetings, I have to say his talk was pretty middle of the road. Perhaps a sitting mayor should be expected to do better, but I have heard much worse.

    1. Ken,

      If you understood the high-functioning alcoholic dynamic, then you’d think differently. I will admit that it can be subtle.

      But the bottom line is, this column does not run without the eye and nose witnesses to the event.

      Then there are the eyewitness to the GPD letting the Mayor off on 4 to 8 DUI’s. And they are impeccable.


  2. Geneva must not need the money. They want to donate vacant land appraised over $700,000 to a development for low income housing. And I bet waive building permit fee, sewer and water fees park fees and whatever other fee they can think of.
    So if I was the county I would deduct all that money from any monetary grants to the city
    And out of curiosity are there any bars open at 9 am or doesn’t they mayor shop in Geneva?

  3. As a commercial real estate broker and having done senior affordable housing deals, the developer can handle, at a minimum, $3/sf or 130k/AC. This is over the appraised value. Why are we even considering donating the land ?

Leave a Reply