Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Marohn: The Real Reason Your City Has No Money

If you haven't tuned into the writing of Charles Marohn over on StrongTowns.org, you should drop what you are doing and head over there to get immersed.  If nothing else, he'll make your mind race and turn some of the things you think you knew about government, financing and taxpaying citizens on it's end.  The first place to start on your journey there is this piece:  The Real Reason Your City Has No Money.  We were turned onto Mr. Marohn by a FotB (Friend of the Blog) recently.   And we've had his stuff open in our Chrome Tabs ever since.

In this first piece, he examines the ordinary city of Lafayette, Lousiana.  And uses the 'predicament' - as he calls it - to shine a light on one of the current dynamics playing out across America: what to do about infrastructure and infrastructure investment.

The median house in Lafayette costs roughly $150,000. A family living in this house would currently pay about $1,500 per year in taxes to the local government of which 10%, approximately $150, goes to maintenance of infrastructure (more is paid to the schools and regional government). A fraction of that $150 – it varies by year – is spent on actual pavement. 
To maintain just the roads and drainage systems that have already been built, the family in that median house would need to have their taxes increase by $3,300 per year. That assumes no new roads are built and existing roadways are not widened or substantively improved. That is $3,300 in additional local taxes just to tread water. 
That does not include underground utilities – sewer and water – or major facilities such as treatment plants, water towers and public buildings. Using ratios we’ve experienced from other communities, it is likely that the total infrastructure revenue gap for that median home is closer to $8,000 per year. 
The median household income in Lafayette is $41,000. With the wealth that has been created by all this infrastructure investment, a median family living in the median house would need to have their city taxes go from $1,500 per year to $9,200 per year. To just take care of what they now have, one out of every five dollars this family makes would need to go to fixing roads, ditches and pipes. That will never happen. 
Thus, Lafayette has a predicament. Infrastructure was supposed to serve them. Now they serve it.

He goes on to lay blame for the insolvency of municipalities large and small on the programs and incentives that were put in place and championed by the federal and state government to induce growth through infrastructure spending.

Got your attention, yet?

He closes with this provocative positioning while tying together new President Donald Trump's promise for increased infrastructure spending.
So what do we do now? Well, we're about to create a huge pot of money at the federal level that we can spread around to try and solve this problem. Only, it's not a problem. It's a predicament; it has no solution, only outcomes. 
It's a predicament that nearly every American city, with very few exceptions, finds itself in. Even if there was enough wealth and productivity to fix all of this -- and there isn't anything close to that amount -- we would be fools to spend it so unproductively. 
All this infrastructure is a bad investment. America needs a different model of growth and development.

Tusk: What You Can Do Beyond Marching

Bradley Tusk (remember him???  One-time Deputy Governor here in Illinois) is back in NYC and has made a pretty good name for himself at the intersection of business and government in the Big Apple.  Between his deal and counseling of Uber as well as his totally warranted and on-going criticisms of the way NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, he's causing plenty of people to pay attention to him.   He launched NYDeservesBetter.com - a site that includes polls, a tracker of how bad de Blasio is doing and some creative ideas for improving the city.  All interesting stuff.

This week, he's out with a piece in Inc Magazine entitled:  Don't Like the Way Things Are Going in Washington? 7 Ways to Do Something About It.

Everybody loves a listicle, right?  Here's Tusk's list of ways to rattle some cages:
1.  Harass your legislators,
2.  Keep your other elected officials accountable, too.
3.  Don't forget about the cabinet.
4.  Litigation is an important weapon.
5.  Tweet at Trump.
6.  Not everything you do has to be about Trump.
7.  All politics and all governments matter.
Tusk is a smart guy and a pretty good operator.  So, while this is a bit of a puff piece and both some personal PR and Tusk Enterprises/Ventures/Whatever elese he's doing PR-work, we all can learn a bit from what he has to say.

We especially like the 2nd and 7th ones on the list.  And that's why we're committed to ensuring voters have full information on candidates and phonies.  Especially in these upcoming municipal elections.  A school board or local mayor today could turn into a government monster, with an insatiable appetite for tax increases and empire building tomorrow.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Property Values in DuPage and Across The Suburbs Dropping, Forcing Pressure On Higher Property Taxes

Top 10 Communities that lost the most in home values since 2007 via DuPage Policy Journal

Over at the DuPage Policy Journal, the Local Government Information Services (which publishes dozens of local news outlets across the State of Illinois), is out with an important read for every taxpayer and homeowner in DuPage County.

For those keeping track at home, that means that Bobby McNeily, who is running for Wheaton City Council in the West District, can pass reading this.  Why?  Because he doesn't pay any property taxes.
But the rest of you, if you aren't already, this should make you pay attention:
Homeowner equity in DuPage County is eroding quickly as property taxes soar, driven by surging local government spending and massive municipal debts. Every DuPage County community, including its most-affluent enclaves, saw home values plummet over the past decade. 
...How much will DuPage County homeowners take before homeownership here is no longer affordable? 
Assuming a decline at the same pace as the past eight years, LGIS analysis projected median home values by DuPage community in 2023. 
If trends hold up, a Hinsdale home worth $939,000 in 2007 will be worth $684,988 in 2023. And its homeowner will have paid $242,525 in property taxes for the privilege of having their name on the title for a sixteen year period.
We've pasted the top 10 losers since 2007 that tops out with Willowbrook homeowners losing - on average - almost 50% of their home values.

The results of these depressed home values?  Higher property taxes to feed the beast that is local government and the empire building that is taking place in schools across the collar counties.

When we go to the polling place this year, let's all remember these facts and begin to ask questions about school board members and local elected officials about what cuts they're planning to make to our local governments.

And the biggest questions have to be about the plan on pensions at the municipal level.   If you come across a candidate who is asking questions and talking about pensions and the problems at the local level (teachers, firemen, police, municipal works), you should pay attention.  That's somebody who is working on the tough issues and likely warrants your support.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Maine 207 District Race: One Fatally Flawed Candidate Running Again

Over at West Cook News, they take the local journalist from the Journal & Topics to task for claiming that some are inserting partisan politics into a supposedly 'independent' election process.  It all stems from a few candidates having their nominating petitions challenged recently including a multiple-time loser (at least four-time loser, right?) Aurora Austriaco, who is complaining about someone having the gall to see if she followed the rules.  How dare they?!?!?

We say:  How dare Aurora Austriaco run for school board.  Doesn't she get it?  The voters don't want her.  She's a loser that keeps losing elections.  And, based on all the facts that are out there regarding her history (property taxes, missing meetings, pay-to-play with Blagojevich, being Speaker Mike Madigan's stooge), we're frankly surprised that she's decided to throw her hat in the ring again.

We're certain that the voters of Maine Township need to know the record of Aurora Austriaco and why anybody else on the ballot would make a better school board member than her!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Wheeler: Rod Got Too Many Years

Over on Illinois Review, they point to a post by Illinois Republican State Representative Barbara Wheeler on Facebook regarding Rod Blagojevich's 14 year sentence.  Wheeler - some might be surprised - argues that Rod didn't 'deserve 14 years'.

Screengrab via Illinois Review
With just hours left to go, will President Barack Obama shorten things up for former Governor Rod Blagojevich?  Not likely, right?

But one thing we *are* sure of is that Barbara Wheeler is probably right:  Rod got too many years.   Good on Wheeler for saying it publicly.

Having Guaranteed Customers Is the Problem With Schools

Over at the National Review, they've posted a cheekily-titled piece called: "How Dare Betsy DeVos Give American Families an Educational Choice" where they point out some of the things that fell out of Devos' confirmation hearing yesterday.  But it seems it all boils down to this:
School reform is a complex and multi-faceted issue, but there is at least one relatively clear divide between left and right: With few exceptions, the Left wants to improve and reform American education by doubling down on financial, moral, and intellectual support for public schools with a unionized work force; DeVos and other conservative reformers, by contrast, want to improve and reform education by introducing market competition and giving families as many viable educational options as possible.
Market competition.  That's big.  What businesses do you know that have "Guaranteed Customers"?  Meaning...customers they don't have to market-to or lure into their business?  Besides government.  And besides public schools?

There really aren't any.  And that's why schools are suffering.  They don't have to compete for students.   Maybe they will soon.  And that's a great start.

New Illinois House Republican Leadership for 2017

Just like we covered the leadership changes with the Illinois Senate Republicans yesterday, the House GOP has made some changes, too.

Over on their site, House Republican Leader Jim Durkin has announced his new team and they've posted a nice little grid of the new Leadership team:

  • Chad Hays, Assistant Republican Leader
  • Patti Bellock, Deputy Republican Leader
  • Tom Demmer, Republican Caucus Chairman
  • Mike Unes, Assistant Republican Leader
  • Michael McAuliffe, Assistant Republican Leader
  • David Reis, Assistant Republican Leader
  • Norine Hammond, Assistant Republican Leader
  • Bill Mitchell, Assistant Republican Leader
  • Dan Brady, Deputy Republican Leader

Just 75 Days Until Municipal Elections

This is it, folks.

And, yes we know there's primaries in February in some places (hello, Aurora!).

But for most of us?  Our local government is being formed in just 75 days.

Let's get after it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Susana Mendoza's Priorities As Illinois Comptroller?

Over on Facebook, our newly sworn-in Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza just posted this doozy:

Curious use of the word 'official' in that post isn't it?  Either, she's just simply confused and didn't REALLY mean to say that one of her first 'official' events as the Illinois Comptroller is a fundraiser that she's throwing in her own honor...or....we, the taxpayers should interpret her use of 'official' to be a way of knowing her priorities.  As in....as the official IL Comptroller, she's officially jazzed to be able to raise boats of money for her campaign. 

Which do you think it is?  

New IL Republican Senate Leadership Announced

Over at the Illinois Review, they covered how Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno has rolled out her new(ish) leadership team.  Their post is here.  Great to see some fresh folks taking on new challenges down in Springfield.

Via Illinois Review

Serving as Senate Republican leadership for the 100th General Assembly are:
  • Senator Bill Brady (44th District – Bloomington), Deputy Republican Leader
  • Senator Dave Syverson (35th District – Rockford), Assistant Republican Leader
  • Senator Sue Rezin (38th District – Peru), Assistant Republican Leader
  • Senator Chapin Rose (51st District – Champaign), Assistant Republican Leader
  • Senator Jason Barickman (53rd District – Bloomington), Assistant Republican Leader
  • Senator Pam Althoff (32nd District – McHenry), Senate Republican Caucus Chair
  • Senator Karen McConnaughay (33rd District – St. Charles), Senate Republican Whip
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