Before we get started, please permit this classic liberal to stipulate that, while the City of Geneva would certainly benefit from the diversity an affordable housing project would bestow, a beneficial end can never justify a nefarious means! Just like it is with any other municipal endeavor, statutory processes and procedures must be followed before that first silver shovel hits the dirt.
And following those rules is particularly important when the discussion involves something as controversial as low-income housing. But as he’s demonstrated so often in the past, Mayor Kevin Burns is making it clear that the rules don’t apply to him.
What the Mayor wants to do is cram 45 townhomes into the small eight-acre parcel behind the old Chronicle building bordered by Kaneville Road, Lewis Road, Caldwell Lane, the UP tracks, and Kaneville Court. Yikes!
Under the guise of coronavirus restrictions, the Burns cancelled all May city council meetings even though many other municipalities have successfully adopted the digital alternative. Then he used that unnecessary downtime to quietly lobby the six alderman required to move this project forward.
His plan was to push this through when the shelter-in-place restrictions ease on Monday, June first, and the City Council reconvenes. With public participation at a pandemic minimum, the development would almost certainly be approved six to four.
The Mayor’s most fervent wish was that word wouldn’t get out until it was a fait accompli, but as evidenced by the flurry of potentially affected residents who reached out to me, that plan went over about as well as the President attempting to field simple coronavirus questions.
With that hope dashed, now he’s praying that Genevans are so preoccupied with, or terrified by, the pandemic, they wouldn’t notice or care that the public hearing requirements are being ignored.
But that scheme didn’t work, either, because the fine folks in the nearby Sterling Manner subdivision have made it clear they want their collective voices heard. And that is their right!
Then there’s this!
Given my seeming-eternal coverage of all manner of municipalities, this seasoned journalist is somewhat convinced that a development like this requires at least a two-thirds vote. But because I’m clearly off his Christmas card list, the Mayor failed to respond to my request for clarification.
So, the FOIA has been issued.
But as perilous as those procedural breaches are, they pale in comparison to the inherent issues with this affordable housing project itself. Can you say, “Doomed to fail?” I knew you could!
Every last not-doomed-to-repeat-history urban planner will tell you that stacking that many lower-income folks in a naturally segregated small space means an inexorable spiral into the kind of municipal nightmare from which you never quite wake up.
Naperville’s similar townhome initiative can only be described as an abject morass that’s been a consistent drain on city resources.
And just like the legendary Chicago alderman Paddy Bauler once warned, Geneva ain’t ready for reform – or at least an affordable housing project of this scope! Considering the city is 95 percent white with a median household income of $105,000, wouldn’t it be far more prudent to start with a small-scale project that’s integrated into an established residential area so folks can get used to the idea?
Isn’t politics always the art of the possible?
Particularly if you involve local churches, the more modest semi-public housing scenarios are the ones that tend to succeed.
To make matters much worse, like Naperville, these rental-only townhomes will surely attract Section Eight residents who have no investment in the community and almost always turn out to be a disaster of varying proportion. I’ve had a slew of friends and readers hit me with Section Eight horror stories over the years, and trust me, they’d curl your toenails.
But before you start referring to me as a closet Klansman, the Section Eight demographics break down like this: 49 percent Caucasian, 33 percent black, and 13 percent Hispanic. So, it’s actually a matter of income and not race.
The truth is, Section Eight is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the American public. Not only has it failed the folks it purports to serve, but it attracts scammers, and history has proven you can’t pluck an economically disadvantaged family from a distressed urban neighborhood and plunk them down in the middle of Geneva.
The inevitable culture shock leads to an insoluble friction that only makes everyone’s lives that much more miserable. If you don’t believe me, talk to any former Aurora Jericho Circle resident.
It’s like expecting me to somehow succeed as the next Cubs centerfielder. I’ve played the game, I understand the game, and I’m in pretty good shape for a 61-year-old man, but I’m not nearly prepared to face an Aroldis Chapman fastball.
Put more simply, this affordable housing project is cursed on so many levels, I can’t believe the City Council is even considering it. There are so many better options.
On Friday, we’ll discuss the Mayor’s motives for pulling this procedural fast one, the worthy but misled enterprise behind it, and how, even if the vote goes through, the fat lady’s only warming up!