Jeff Ward: The Municipal Mindset Stikes Again—Right Here on Geneva Patch!
I'll say it again! It's not your money!
Mike, Mike, Mike! (County board member Donahue, that is.) Did you really write that the Kane County’s portion of our property tax bill amounted to no more than what might called a “bad tip”? Don’t you realize, like Pavlov’s dogs, opinion columnists start salivating uncontrollably whenever someone like you says something like that?
I'm really not trying to pick on Mr. Donahue (this time), because I’ve already challenged his interesting insights on chickens. My firm belief was he and his development committee cohorts should’ve taken the bull by the horns—I mean the chicken by the beak—in an escalating rooster fracas pitting two unincorporated South Elgin neighbors against each other.
You also have to give our east-of-Randall-Road Geneva board rep credit for regularly putting his thoughts out there on Patch—while using his real name! Donahue responds to folks who post questions and, unlike the Tribune’s John Kass, he actually can string two sentences together without making my head explode.
And third, I believe he was subtly chiding County Board Chairman Karen McConnaughay for her penchant for political pandering without getting crossed off her Christmas-card list, as I have.
As much as I appreciate Mr. Donahue’s journalistic efforts and encourage him to persevere, when I read, “Even if we eliminated Kane County government altogether, we’d still have to pay 95.2% of our property tax bill … ” I immediately thought “Whoomp! There it is!” The municipal mindset strikes again!
And this particular application of that local government ethos was as perfect an example as I’ve seen in quite some time.
The typical opening gambit consists of the elected official stating the small amount they’re taking off the top really isn’t really all that much. And sure enough, in his second paragraph Donahue said, ”… but Kane County’s share of your tax bill is less than 5 percent.”
It’s the same tactic Geneva Alderman Bob Piper employed when he dismissed a 5 percent water rate hike by stacking a candy bar on top of a bottle of water saying that’s all the increase amounted to.
The next step is the counterattack. That’s where the alderman, county commissioner or school board member indignantly rattles off the plethora of services taxpayers receive in return for yet another property tax increase on a home that’s lost half its value.
Donahue nailed this one! His list of county benefits included the various offices of the state’s attorney, sheriff, court services, coroner, emergency management, development, recorder, regional office of education, KDOT, county clerk, assessor and treasurer.
In essence, what Donahue was trying to say is, “Look at the bang you’re getting for your meager KC tax dollar!” But it’s really a form of misdirection—you don’t have to talk about cuts—and it’s almost always a disingenuous argument.
The bang for that buck isn’t the result of anything the County Board is or isn’t doing, it’s a function of spreading the tax burden over a half-a-million people, most of whom you don’t even have to serve. Every county citizen pays for county services whether they live in an unincorporated area or not.
For example, though Genevans are served by the GPD, we still pay our share of the sheriff’s budget.
And speaking of misdirection, once the elected official realizes his argument has rightfully fallen on deaf ears, they always fall back on a sentence that sounds something like this: “We’re not nearly as bad as (fill in the blank.)”
This, the third and final phase in the deployment of the municipal mindset, always makes me want to run down Randall road naked and screaming during rush hour.
Like clockwork, Donahue concluded his column with, “I’m going to send you the phone numbers for all those people who charge the other 95.2 percent on your tax bill.”
Now, I love Geneva Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg, but when, in response to my protests of Geneva’s recent $50 property tax hike, she whispered that the School Board was even worse. I barely managed to keep my clothes on.
Yes! Ms. Vogelsberg is correct! The schools do suck up most of our property-tax dollars, but as you may have noticed, I’m not letting them off the hook, either!
And how does the fact that you’re not as bad as another taxing body ever absolve you from thoroughly re-examining your own status quo? How does that absolve the County Board from, once again, raising property taxes by any amount when so many Kane County citizens are losing their homes?
Mike! I know you’re new, but the chairman didn’t raise those taxes all by herself! I don’t care if the county levy is .0000000001 percent. You’re not entitled to our money!
I repeat, my goal isn’t to specifically pick on Mike Donahue, because he’s not nearly the only one infected by this insidious disease. I also believe he sees the politics in the chairman’s tax-break pandering.
No! My goal, dear reader, is to arm you with the knowledge of exactly how the municipal mindset works because only then can we strike back against the empire by turning our local elected officials, one by one, away from the dark side.
May the force be with you.