As Usual, More Questions than Answers about what the Rules of the Shell Game Are
The City of Geneva’s annual budget document is not an audited financial report. The budget is a planning document. Still, it provides insight into the City’s priorities and planning prowess. The 148-page document contains not a single explanatory footnote, and the puzzling entries are plentiful.
A recent Brenda Shory report in the Kane County Chronicle correctly highlights capital spending as a significant component ($14 million) of the FY 2024 total budget, which is 13% higher ($128mil) than FY2023’s $113mil total. And renowned economists debate where inflation comes from? So, an examination of the Capital Projects Funds is in order. “The budget plan proposes more than $14 million in capital projects.” 
As seen in FIGURE 1, Geneva’s Tax Increment Finance districts’ budgets and actual revenues are mystifying. Take TIF #2, for example. The revenues for FY years 2021, 2022, and 2023 are $258K, $251K, and $266K  are pretty much in line. The 2022 budget called for $992K in TIF2 revenue. The superficial explanation for this is simple if you understand that the East State Street [Capital] Improvement Project has been slated to begin “next year” every year for almost a decade. Of course, the start did not happen again. And about $1.5MIL in Federal CMAQ grant money is sloshing around in the TIF #2 slush bucket. That money appears and disappears like a rabbit in a hat.
Where was the extra $750K that was budgeted stashed? TIF #2 expires this year, yet $882K is budgeted for $852K in 2024 and forecast for $746K in 2025. So the two TIFs combined had a $2,419,650 revenue “miss” for FY2022.
Before leaving page one of the budget, another question is, where is the revenue from SSA #34? This is the Special Service Area for Emma’s Landing. Remember the non-factual “Fact Sheet” the City of Geneva promulgated, which stated that the property tax on Emma’s Landing would be paid:
“Question: Do affordable housing developments pay real estate taxes? If so, are affordable housing developments assessed at the same rate as market-rate developments? Answer: Affordable and market-rate developments are taxed at the same rate as determined by the Geneva Township Assessor.”  LIHTC projects like Emma’s Landing are taxed under an income-based algorithm that results in the actual tax rate of about 1/3rd of the normal” “EAV” assessed valuation algorithm rate. Emma’s Landing passes two-thirds of its EAV along to the rest of the township taxpayers. Of course, zero rates are 100% lower than your property tax rate (see Figure 3).
Another example is the Dunkin site at the corner of Crissey and Route 38. The Dunkin owner paid $715,000 for the two PIN number property in 2019. In 2018 the two parcels together were assessed at a value of $336049+$103, 411, or $439,460. In 2021 the assessed fair market value was $390,343+97,717, or $488,060, after spending at least $150,000 on remodeling, equipping, repaving, lights, etc. The $850,000 investment was assessed at less than $500,000. The tax bill went from $10,532 to $10,972.60 on the parcel with the building. About 20% of the tax money went into the TIF #3 slush fund bucket. The property was sold for unpaid taxes and then redeemed. This is a mess of Burnsian proportions and will only worsen. Here is a copy of the latest tax bill for one of the Dunkin parcels:
“It’s interesting to look at photographs of Emma after Joseph’s death (there are none before). As she ages, one of her eyes becomes more and more droopy. Some have speculated that she had a stroke, but we have no record of that. I think she dealt with post-traumatic stress, and it was manifesting physically.”
The discussion here is not an attempt to use smoke and mirrors for the purpose of deception. First of all, no smoke obscures any images here! However, the mirror issue is a problem. In fact, A.S. Wolcott’s earliest American-made Daguerreotype camera employed a mirror instead of a lens. See: Laser-cut Wolcott camera (guyjbrown.com), but all early Daguerrean cameras, whether designed with a mirror or a lens, produced a mirror image of the subject on an exposed silvered copper plate. An image of Emma Hale Smith that is widely accepted as authentic is a carte-de-visite said to depict Emma and her last-born child David Hyrum Smith Emma Hale Smith – Biography (josephsmithpapers.org). But is that CDV a copy of a Daguerreotype?
Here are some difficulties. The image of Emma cradling a child in the Joseph Smith Papers Collection is cropped from a carte-de-visite purportedly made by copying a Daguerreotype made in ca1845 (David Hyrum Smith was born November 17, 1844). That uncropped but trimmed CDV shows a faint oval around the subjects suggesting it could have been in an oval brass surround typical of a Daguerreotype case. Daguerreotype images are chemically very stable but are highly susceptible to scratches, few of which are seen on the CDV in question. The trimming at the bottom of the CDV may have been done to fit in a frame with oval matting. A CDV of a Daguerreotype reproduces the original mirroring. However, CDV prints are made from a negative, and negatives can be easily flipped over to create a mirror image. A Daguerreotype, of course, is simultaneously a positive and a negative.
Two similar dual images are below. The first depicts the mirror image of the CDV on the left, and on the right depicts a cropped image from the original Daguerreotype 1368 in the Library of Congress proposed by the author to depict Emma Hale Smith in 1844 with her husband Joseph (see final image below).
Three features are noteworthy when comparing the paired image directly below: 1) The woman in the left image appears much older than the woman in the right image; 2) Both images show the hair parted slightly off center; 3) Both images demonstrate the same asymmetry of the eyes. The author (RBN) suggests that the child in the left image is Don Alvin Smith (May 17, 1871- September 9, 1904), the son of Alexander Hale Smith, who himself once was a partner in a photographic studio. Don Alvin Smith was the grandson of Joseph and Emma Hale Smith. The author postulates that the CDV image was captured from life in ca1871 by Emma and Joseph Smith’s son Alexander Hale Smith in Nauvoo. See: Romig, Ronald E. Alexander: Joseph & Emma Smith’s Far West Son. United States: John Whitmer Books, 2009. p22. Two versions of the CDV exist – were there more?
However, further below, you will see a triple image of Emma Smith that best fits together the eyes of the three. This suggests that the CDV is a “flipped” image, so it may have been taken originally as a Daguerreotype! But the negative of the CDV may have been flipped, which seems more likely. Daguerreotype images are increasingly rare after the mid-1850s. Among Alexander Smith’s many varied pursuits was photography.
The Geneva City Council has audio tape destruction on its secret closed session agenda for November 7, 2022. Exactly which tapes are not specified. For example, the tapes of the closed sessions of February 2020 were up for destruction last March, but mysteriously that agenda item vanished without a trace.
The February 2020 audios contained discussions by the Council about its “comfort” with gifting of the Emma’s Landing parcel to the Burton Foundation. For reasons that remain shrouded, the gift was never bestowed even though the Illinois Housing Development Authority thought it was. This resulted in the Geneva project receiving bonus points that likely resulted in Geneva outscoring at least half of the competition. Geneva was one of the 22 winners out of 40 applicants.
The scant public details of all these shenanigans are described elsewhere on this site. Much of the secret activity of the Geneva Council occurred during the fog of war that accompanied the chaos of Covid. The Governor suspended the Open Meetings Act while advising that non-urgent matters be tabled. The Geneva City Council picked up the pace on Emma’s Landing and issued “Fact Sheets” that contained many pure canards.
All the tapes and documents related in any way to the now nearly complete Emma’s Landing Low Income Housing Tax Credit Project must be completely divulged. Any destruction of evidence while so many unresolved questions remain shall be viewed by history as an admission of guilt.
The two men depicted below are proposed by RBN to be Hyrum Smith (left) and Joseph Smith, Jr., (right). The portraits are from the Library of Congress Francis Henry Grice Daguerreotype Collection and are cropped from the originals and then horizontally flipped. The LOC Daguerreotype Collection introductory page is here: Daguerreotypes – About this Collection – Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (Library of Congress) (loc.gov). The banner atop this LOC introductory page depicts Reverend Augustus Conant and his wife Betsy Kelsy Conant as captured by F. Grice. Below is a link to their story and an explanation of their roles in formulating RBN’s proposed identities of the many men and women depicted by Francis Grice in this blog.
Pseudoscience and the Reification Fallacy in Minneapolis
America was a collective eyewitness to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on the evening of May 25th, 2020. Next to a confession, eyewitness testimony is considered to be the most robust class of evidence in criminal courts.
Should we all look again at the tragedy? Philosophy, Medicine, Law, and Theology cannot all be mastered by any single person. Goethe’s Dr. Herman Faust did so, but only as a fictional character. In Faust, Part 1 it was the comedian, not the scholarly physician, who observed… “then one while this, and one while that, is stirred up; each one sees what he carries in his heart.“
The Short-Term Solution to PM2.5 Particle Pollution is Dilution
The City of Geneva received several years ago a $1+ Million Federal CMAQ Grant to help fund the East State Street rebuild that has been in the planning stage for about two decades. Every year Geneva announces that “next year” is when the project will start. The goal of the grant is to improve diesel fuel efficiency and to dilute diesel emissions as semi-trailer trucks traverse the east side. Route 38 is an Illinois State Designated Class 2 Truck Route. Hundreds of thousands of square feet of warehouses are popping up just to the east. Some of these have been approved by the City of Geneva. Others are in the Geneva system for approval. The PM2.5 pollution problem will increase.
In the 1926 case of Ambler Realty v. Village of Euclid, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the legal basis of zoning. The Court recognized that public health protection is the basis of zoning authority, i.e., municipal zoning police power. Am J Prev Med 2005;28(2S2): doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2004.10.028 (activelivingresearch.org)
Geneva’s East State Street Corridor is primarily residential. The parcels that abut the right of way are zoned mostly for mixed uses, but people live in these one-lot deep ribbon zones, such as B3E. Residential zoning is directly adjacent.
What has the City of Geneva done to protect East Side corridor residents? The answer is that the City has repeatedly and consistently made the wrong decisions. The Burns Dunkin at the top of the east side hill is Exhibit A.
No place exists within the City of Geneva that is more ill-suited for high intensity use during peak traffic hours than the corner of Crissey and East State. The mayor snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he broke the 5-5 tie that would have doomed the project. Fortunately, the ineptness of the applicant and the mayor’s handpicked staff has now delayed the opening for about five years. No one thought to get an IDOT permit that was required before the construction could legally begin. Or did both parties simply hope that would get away with the “mistake”? Mayoral addiction to TIF spending was the root of the problem.
Harry Chapin’s proverbial “thirty thousand pounds of bananas” were terrifying going down the hill into Scranton, PA, in 1974. Stopping the bananas halfway up the east side hill in 2023 and then having to begin the climb anew in first gear is even more terrifying.
Then another high-intensity use (written into the zoning ordinance for the benefit of one applicant) that generates congestion and PM2.5 pollution was spot-zoned for the Geneva Pharmacy so that TIF money could be again squandered. That business folded in less than a year.
When the first principle (dilution) of short-term mitigation of PM2.5 exposure demands more setback from the source, not less, the City granted a variance for Malone funeral home’s new parking lot that reduced the required ROW setback from thirty feet to eight feet. Then the Special Use Ordinance 2021-13 required mandate for asphalt was switched to concrete without the Municipal Code required City Council approval. Due to the localized thermal inversion created by the high albedo (colder/heat reflecting) cement, the PM2.5 particles will be trapped and transmitted to nearby homes and yards. The low albedo (warmer/heat absorbing) black asphalt would have had the opposite effect of diluting and dispersing the PM2.5 particles away from the ground.
Recently the Geneva City Council approved a plan to gift $1.5 million in TIF funds to the Mayor of Naperville to build a retail outlet/high-density multistory affordable residential building with the only access/egress being Crissey directly across a substandard width street from the Dunkin exit. This, too, will require spot zoning and setback variances to move the future residents even closer to the PM2.5 source just outside their open windows. And it will add even more congestion at Crissey and E. State. Absurdly, the City will give away more money to exacerbate air pollution exposure than it received from the Feds to mitigate that same air pollution.
Other examples of bonehead aldermanic and mayoral decisions largely driven by Tax Increment Financing Addiction Syndrome (TIFAS) could be raised.
Longer term, the promise of electric vehicles could reduce PM2.5 particle pollution. But young children are particularly vulnerable, as are older people and those with chronic illnesses. For now, the City of Geneva needs to stop trying to injure those whose health and welfare it has sworn to protect through its zoning police power.
The Geneva Public Library District (GLPD) placed a referendum on the ballot in April of 2017 asking voters to approve a new $21.8 million bond issue to build a new library on the site of the old Sixth Street School. The referendum passed by 96 votes with a 32.5% voter turnout of 7705. No one asked for a recount.
The purchase of the Sixth Street School had its share of drama. The Library Board initially said it would hold a referendum on the purchase. Then the board had enough spare change lying around to offer the County $1.5 million plus $300,000 for demolition. The price “drifted” up to $1.8million and the demolition cost to $450,000 because of asbestos and an underground storage tank (both problems were known to be present for at least a decade). https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20150327/news/150329040/
The cost of the new 57,000-square-foot library was substantially north of the $21.8 million in bond receipts (not to mention the interest on the bonds). The GPLD wants to “transfer” the old library at 127 James Street to the City of Geneva for $450,000. The City of Geneva has not proffered a budget for remodeling and maintaining the new 30,000-square-foot space. Apparently, the $450K will come from spare change the City has found lying around.
But is the transfer ethical or even legal? Three Illinois statutes seem important: one authorizes transfers between municipalities but does not mention payments, another Act creates the statutory basis for the existence of Library Districts such as the Geneva Public Library District, and a third act sets out the general rules for the sale of publicly owned real estate.
The Act that authorizes Public Library Districts in Illinois ((75 ILCS 16/) Public Library District Act of 1991) contains these definitions for the purposes of the Act:
“District” means a public library district established under this Act and includes a proposed public library district.
“Library” means a public library, including one privately endowed or tax-supported or one established under this Act. “Municipality” means a city, village, or incorporated town.
The Act that authorizes local government property transfers (50 ILCS 605/) Local Government Property Transfer Act contains this definition:
The term “municipality” whether used by itself or in conjunction with other words, as in (a) or (b) above, shall mean and include any municipal corporation or political subdivision organized and existing under the laws of the State of Illinois and including, but without limitation, any city, village, or incorporated town, whether organized under a special charter or under the General Act, or whether operating under the commission or managerial form of government, county, school districts, trustees of schools, boards of education, 2 or more school districts operating a cooperative or joint educational program pursuant to Section 10-22.31 of the School Code, sanitary district or sanitary district trustees, forest preserve district or forest preserve district commissioner, park district or park commissioners, airport authority and township.
Notice that the Library statute does not define a Library District as a “municipality” and for “purposes of the act” the act narrowly defines “municipality.” By its plain language, the Library Act does not give Library Districts municipality standing to participate in transactions permitted by the Government Property Transfer Act. The Transfer Act contains a very lengthy list of eligible “municipalities,” including Park Districts. But the list does not contain “Library Districts.” The Loophole-Louey at City Hall employed by Mayor Burns will point to the phrase “but without limitation” as their loophole. But the City Code requires that when two provisions apply to a given matter, the more restrictive provision “shall [defined in the code as “must”] govern.”
A couple of other library districts in Illinois have taken a bite out of the property transfer apple. Has anyone challenged their action? Does the applicable city code in those cases contain the “most restrictive shall govern” clause?
A two-party political system is ugly and difficult to watch, very much like professional wrestling. Geneva’s Burns’ single-party system is even less attractive and much more expensive to watch than the WWE. And, just like the WWE, the fix is in. What about a referendum? Or, at the very least, a public auction of the old library and let Mr. Fritz send the new owner a property tax bill?
Rules for a Public Auction of the 127 James Street Old Library
The Transfer Act is silent on the price of the parcel being transferred, so it will be asserted, perhaps correctly, that the City is not required to pay anything. If so, how did the $450K come into play? I do not recall the GPLD divulging during the referendum campaign that the gifting (or selling for a nominal sum) the old library was part of the plan. Who negotiated the $450K, and on what authority? By voting for the library referendum, Geneva taxpayers may have forfeited the property tax income from the old library. And the “yes” voters may have unknowingly granted the City a blank annual check to remodel and carry the expenses of a “new” City Hall that is three times bigger than the current City Hall. The Library Board (unwittingly) snuck in a perpetual tax liability as a reward for (narrowly) passing its $21.8 million request.
(65 ILCS 5/11-76-4.1)(from Ch. 24, par. 11-76-4.1) Sec. 11-76-4.1. Sale of surplus real estate. The corporate authorities of a municipality by resolution may authorize the sale or public auction of surplus public real estate. The value of the real estate shall be determined by a written MAI certified appraisal or by a written certified appraisal of a State certified or licensed real estate appraiser. The appraisal shall be available for public inspection. The resolution may direct the sale to be conducted by the staff of the municipality; by listing with local licensed real estate agencies, in which case the terms of the agent's compensation shall be included in the resolution; or by public auction. The resolution shall be published at the first opportunity following its passage in a newspaper published in the municipality or, if none, then in a newspaper published in the county where the municipality is located. The resolution shall also contain pertinent information concerning the size, use, and zoning of the real estate and the terms of sale. The corporate authorities may accept any contract proposal determined by them to be in the best interest of the municipality by a vote of two-thirds of the corporate authorities then holding office, but in no event at a price less than 80% of the appraised value. (Source: P.A. 88-355; 89-78, eff. 6-30-95.)
Does the GPLD have a valid appraisal of $562,000 for the 127 James Street property? This is the lowest appraisal that would make a sale of price $450,000 comport with the above statute. Proper notice is mandatory, and a 2/3’s yes vote of the Library Board is required (5 yes votes). Has an appraisal been done? Where is the required resolution? How would a “yes” vote be fair and ethical to those library district taxpayers who do not live in the City of Geneva?
The Last (August 2019) Certified MAI Appraisal of the 127 James Street Old Library Property was $1,500,000
In 2018, The City of Geneva had No Interest in the Old Library
Slow down! Thursday night, the Library Board is to vote to “sell” the old library to the City of Geneva for $450K. This will put the City of Geneva taxpayers on the hook for renovations and expenses and potentially take $1.5 million off the tax rolls. The 2018 Burns letter claims “no further interest” in the building, but a secret last-minute deal is about to be cut. Why is the Library Board donating $1 mil to Geneva City Council? This is madness that begs for a more complete and transparent public vetting. A public auction of the property or a referendum are both paths to open, honest government. The current path is the Geneva Way – ambush the taxpayers.
The City of Geneva will buy the old Library for half its advertised value, but don’t get excited. The Geneva Public Library (GPLD) taxpayers are the sellers.
Ambuscade: a high-sounding political tactic that is employed by elected bushwhackers. Example: “The Geneva City Council will stage an ambuscade on Monday evening.” See also: Charette.
Geneva’s population in 2020 (21,393) was slightly down from 2010 (21,495) per the U.S. census. The Geneva City Council is poised to add half an acre of land and over 30,000 square feet of building for city government tax-exempt use. https://www.geneva.il.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Agenda/_01232023-2079 This will come in the form of a purchase of the Geneva Library District’s abandoned property at 127 James Street.
The price is set at $450,000, going from the City of Geneva’s taxpayers’ pockets into the Geneva Library District’s taxpayers’ pockets. The asking “retail” price for the old Library is $925,000. https://www.cbre.com/resources/fileassets/US-SMPL-78947/ba029964/80f7262f-9cea-4c2e-812d-6465b62e2a4a.pdf As always, winners and losers will be created when politicians act. Library District taxpayers who do not live in the City of Geneva will be modest winners because the money that goes into their pocket does not come out of their other pocket. For City of Geneva taxpayers, there will be off-setting effects since they also live in the Library District.
But what if the property is actually worth ~$900,000? Answer: everyone loses.
Over a decade ago, the City agreed with the Library that it could purchase the 127 James Street building after the Library moved to the Cetron Building. Icons for Sale: https://patch.com/illinois/geneva/icons-for-sale-future-of-city-hall-is-anyones-guess The Cetron deal never happened. But at that time, the City estimated that its requirements could be met with 20,000 square feet. The current City Hall was said then (2011) to be 10,000 square feet. It has not changed. (The City’s Finance Department is domiciled with the Police Department across the street from City Hall at 15 S. First Street.)
The new GPLD library is 57,000 square feet, about twice the size of the James Street building. One cannot help but notice a complete set of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (32 volumes in the last print version of 2013) is 4.75 gigabytes. Two hundred complete sets will easily fit on a 1TB thumb drive ($30.00 on Amazon now). The moral of this might be that if you need to know how extensive a library you need, don’t ask a librarian.
If the City of Geneva purchases the 127 James Street Library, the City will have 40,000 square feet. With the same population over a decade ago, the City estimated its need at 20,000 square feet. Geneva had ten alderpersons then and ten alderpersons now. In 2021 the City of Geneva had 121 employees. Eight years ago, the City had 128 employees. City of Geneva Salaries – Illinois – 2021 (govsalaries.com)
Why does the City of Geneva need 40,000 square feet of buildings? Why should 30,000 square feet in the heart of downtown with a $925,000 asking price be taken off the tax rolls? Why does the proposed transaction show up on Friday, January 20, 2023, with the vote to come in a Special (unscheduled) session on Monday, January 23, 2023?
Why doesn’t the $450,000 go towards cleaning up the old MRI site at 4E State?
PS: As part of its series on “concepts in government,” the next GPLD board meeting will start with a brief presentation on “Fiduciary Responsibility.”
The Mill Race Inn site is a brownfield, but no one wants to talk about it. Jabberwocky rules Geneva by stuff and nonsense.
Attendees of the City of Geneva Historic Preservation Commission meeting on Wednesday evening, January 18, 2023, were enlightened about a limited set of the controversies surrounding the ca1846 old rubblestone core of the Mill Race Inn, also known as the Alexander-Rystrom Blacksmith Shop.
The meeting started at 7 pm playing to a full house. The agenda had four items, with the public hearing over the Mill Race stone ruins at the top. Chairman Zellner, a dedicated volunteer to the cause of preservation, dutifully, if not eloquently, read the proforma ground rules. This recital took thirty minutes off the clock. Then we were told the hearing would end at 8:30. The “ground rule” that caused me to sigh (inaudibly, I hope) was Code, Section 10-6-10.A9: “the merit of any proposed replacement construction or improvement shall not be a standard of review for a demolition request.” The assembly gathered to weigh the destruction of a formally landmarked historical structure against an unknown. This felt akin to having the sheriff show up at my door to inform me that I had to decide whether to move out of my house by Tuesday next. However, any thought of where I would end up if I chose to leave is strictly prohibited and must not enter my mind.
Then, the congregation was informed that the HPC had already determined the question of landmarking based on historical significance affirmatively. So, tonight was not the night to drag history into the discussion. Here, verbatim, is the agenda item as it appears on the City’s website: “Demolition of a Historic Landmark and De- De-designation of the Property.” My first reaction when I read this was, “huh?” Was this a move to re-designate the entire site as a landmark (which should happen, IMHO)? Or was this a Freudian typo? First, demolish and then de-designate? Then I remembered my Alice:
‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first—verdict afterwards.’
‘Stuff and nonsense!’ said Alice loudly. ‘The idea of having the sentence first!’
‘Hold your tongue!’ said the Queen, turning purple.
‘I won’t!’ said Alice.
Off with her head!’ the Queen shouted at the top of her voice. Nobody moved.
‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice, (she had grown to her full size by this time.) ‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’
Mr. Patzelt, the Shodeen representative, spent most of the remaining allotted time shredding the Geneva professional staff’s work into confetti. (OK, I admit it, this brought a smile, if not a grin, to my face.) In summary, the meeting was somewhere between a hog-calling contest and a Masonic ritual.
Based on the complete lack of information about the development plan, I had planned to speak in favor of preserving the ruins. After all, the Sandborn Map of 1891 “designated” the structure with only the word “ruins.” Yet the “ruins” became Geneva’s most identifying structure for most of the following century. Anyone who ever dined in the Stone Room knows of what I speak. January 2011 was our last meal there. The Grecian chicken was superb (matched in Geneva only by Munchie P’s.) The first time I ate in the Stone Room was in 1953.
Plus, one of the contexts that determine historical significance is what happened at the site. In this case, the ruins mark the spot where a small gap between Big Woods and Little Woods coincides with an island refuge in the river and a natural limestone ford at the head of the island. Our national mammal, the American Bison, discovered that ford as early as 400,000 years ago, give or take. 15 Facts About Our National Mammal: The American Bison | U.S. Department of the Interior (doi.gov) The ford was the river crossing of an interstate highway, a buffalo trace, that took the buffalo “over the river and through the woods” on their way from the tall grass prairies of Illinois to the salt licks of Kentucky and back. As the American Bison went, so did America’s indigenous peoples.
Daniel Shaw Haight knew the Geneva site in Sandusky Precinct was valuable for precisely the same reasons that the Alexander brothers did. Haight sold out to Herrington because he found nearby an even more promising river and ford with hydropower. He founded Rockford. He and his legendary oxen built the first structures both here and there.
The MRI saga will air another episode on about the Ides of March. Stay tuned; maybe the band from Berwyn will play then.
Reports on social media that the CVS pharmacy at State Street and Bricher Road (1500 Lincoln Hwy. Saint Charles) is closing on February 1, 2023, have not yet been confirmed by a press release. CVS announced in 2021 a plan to close about 10% of its stores over the following three years, so the reports are ominous. CVS Closing Hundreds Of Stores: Will IL Locations Survive? | Chicago, IL Patch
For background on the Geneva pharmacy situation, please see:
“Geneva Pharmacy” at 501 E. State St. in Geneva failed in less than a year despite a $100K gift of Geneva taxpayer TIF money, plus the usual “Geneva Way” rewards of spot zoning, etc. The cash was not subject to a claw-back provision. Stand-alone pharmacies do not generate much local sales tax revenue, as prescription medicines are not subject to local sales tax. Companies like CVS derive most of their revenue and about two-thirds of their profits from prescription medicines. CVS has partnered with Target to house its prescription services. St. Charles, for example, is listed as having two CVS stores and Batavia and Geneva one each. Soon, if the reports are true about the west side CVS closure, only Geneva will have a non-Target housed CVS.
This may be a classic example of the adage “It’s better to be lucky than smart” when it comes to the Geneva City Council’s decision to provide taxpayer-funded subsidized competition for its CVS. Geneva’s east side CVS may capture some store traffic because of the closure of the west side store.
The old stone structure at the eastern foot of the State Street bridge that was the core of the Mill Race Inn restaurant had many uses going back to the 1840s.
The present-day rubble stone ruins of the Mill Race Inn have a legacy that includes carriage painting on its roof, which has left lead pollution of unknown quantity and persistence. The site is a brownfield: a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination. Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brownfield. Accessed 9 Jan. 2023.”
Unfortunately, “micro-brownfields” exist scattered throughout most municipalities. For example, small rubbish “pits” were prevalent in Geneva. Industrial areas often disposed of coal bottom ash and cinders on-site and used it for fill.
The MRI ruins have some historical significance, but the surrounding context now is far different than 180 years ago. Last spring, the City Council severed the ruins from the rest of the historic site once known as Thompson’s Woods, a place immortalized in the poem of that name by Forrest Crissey. This was a lethal wound. Without context, the structure’s future value became permanently impaired. The first blow to the ruin’s historical context was struck in 1854!
The 1854-1883-1920-1961-2022 Geneva railroad “bridge” was (and is), in reality, half-bridge and half-dam. Bridgehunter.com | UP – Fox River Bridge (Geneva) (1920) The eastern Fox River channel was dammed in 1854 by the east bank bridge buttress, which cut off the lower third of the original Herrington’s Island. The eastern channel of the river below the RR bridge to the south was thus turned into a backwater slough, which was landfilled for about 100 years as a dump (mostly with mercury-rich coal bottom ash and cinders). Well into the 1950s, the municipal waste stream was binary: rubbish and garbage, the former being dry waste not readily decomposable. Garbage dumping was not permitted in the City of Geneva dump-in-the-slough. Geneva was heated and lit with coal, making coal bottom ash and cinders a large percentage of its “rubbish.” Later the slough was used as a shooting range, adding lead to the mercury contamination. The eastern channel was diverted back into the Fox River above the east bank buttress, but it has silted in, which changed the course of the river by erosion of the west bank.
An attempt in the early 1960s was made to “re-balance” the two channels around the remaining portion of Herrington’s Island by re-opening the old mill race (which had been filled mostly with coal bottom ash and cinders) using a large pipe and a ditch that ran from above the Geneva dam to just below the State Street Bridge and into the east channel. This worked to keep the east channel from becoming a stagnant water source of foul odor. But the State of Illinois ordered the ditch closed in 1964, and the odors returned – the river is much cleaner now than it was in the last century. Geneva Attorney (and folk hero to many) Roy Lasswell, (1924-1987), retained by the east side homeowners disgusted by the stench, blocked the bulldozer with his Volvo station wagon in 1964 to prevent the destruction of the balancing bypass of the dam. He was arrested.* See the Geneva Republican February 27, 1964, p1. https://box2.nmtvault.com/Geneva/jsp/RcWebImageViewer.jsp?doc_id=9351816b-0b6a-40e9-9d50-bf1f22f4eedf/gn000000/20221210/00000217
Earlier and gradually, the width of State Street was increased, and the grade was altered by cutting into the east side hill and raising the grade leading up to the bridge. As a result, the rubblestone ruins site lost much visibility and historical context. Its vernacular industrial architecture was often altered since its original construction. And the building was often vacant for extended periods. Structural integrity was cut to shreds by added fenestrations. The 1872 Kane County Atlas map of Geneva depicts that modern Crissey Avenue was then named Batavia St., and Bennett Street/Route 25 did not exist. The ruins were on the northwest edge of Thompson’s Woods, with George Thompson’s apiary the most well-known enterprise, and his honey much sought after.
Geneva has become obsessed with preserving the ruins, while the 1.8-acre riverfront site itself is the prize that should be coveted. Geneva is ignoring the brownfield status of the entire site. What is urgently needed is an environmental survey like that done at Shodeen’s proposed 1 Washington Place in Batavia. (After five years of planning and two failed TIF Districts, Shodeen pulled out of that project precipitously a year ago.) The City of Batavia owned the property and spent more than $500K on environmental remediation, including lead and mercury.
The uses on or near the MRI brownfield site were, just like in Batavia, sources of both mercury and lead plus petrochemicals and asbestos. One must not forget that the massive Bennett Mill mysteriously burned to the ground in 1971 (3129) GHM Minute: Bennett Mill: Geneva, IL – YouTube. The structure was brick, but lead paint was used widely on the interior and exterior. A “lead ash halo” was created, and the post-fire ash and rubble were simply plowed into the foundation, and never excavated. Arson is a dark recurring thread in Geneva’s historical fabric. The Howell Foundry on the west bank moved to St. Charles after a fire believed to have been set by an arsonist. A former Geneva village president’s barn suffered the same fate.
Other brownfield uses included lead paint spraying, a cinderblock factory (cinders=coal bottom ash rich = mercury), an automotive dealership with a garage (asbestos and lead), an auto radiator repair shop (lead), two gasoline stations (lead and petrochemicals), and, of course, fill was used that was often coal fly ash (mercury). The Bennett Mill ran on coal/steam much longer than on hydropower.
Fly ash (airborne) and bottom ash (falls to the bottom of the boiler) are considered environmental hazards worldwide since they generally contain organic pollutants, and probable toxic metals like Se, As, B, V, Al, Pb, Hg, Cr, and radionuclides Uranium, Thorium.
Unfortunately, many of these uses were “grandfathered” out of modern environmental requirements such as Leaking Underground Storage Tank regulations (pre-1974 uses are exempt). Environmental lead has a dissipation half-life of about 600 years. Under Illinois’s TACO, leaking storage tank rules, problem sites are often “papered over” and not remediated. Both East and West State Street are riddled with old gas stations that have not been mitigated. No one knows how many underground tanks remain. Don’s Gas-For-Less at State and East Side Drive Aldi is an exception that cost the city several 100K$ in TIF funds. Airborne lead now is the major route for childhood ingestion in the U.S.
Ironically, Geneva went from coal (mercury) to leaded gas (lead) to diesel (sub-2.5-micron particles) along Route 38 (State). Route 38 is a State designated truck route! Geneva put a Dunkin’ at the top of the hill on a LUST (leaking tanks)/TACO (Tiered Approach to Corrective Objectives) site where residential uses are prohibited by IEPA, as recorded on the deed! But minimum wage kids can work 12-hour shifts on the site. Geneva’s aldermen approved a drive-thru at the top of the hill (the vote was 5-5, with Mayor Burns breaking the tie with his yes vote creating the “Burns Dunkin'”) that will stop the diesel trucks coming up the hill. A stopped 40,000-pound load needs a lot of diesel fuel to get back up to 30 mph, especially up a hill. This is after Geneva received $1 mil in Federal CMAQ (congestion mitigation/air quality) grants to improve diesel efficiency and air quality along East State Street!
Another consideration, albeit a bit tangential, is that the Geneva dam will likely be removed in the not-far-distant future. Please see Back to When the River Made Pearls, not Stenches – Rod’s Ramblings and Ruminations (genevanotes.com). The advantages and disadvantages of dam removal are discussed by the “Friends of the Fox” here: Frequently Asked Dam Questions | Friends of the Fox River. Removing the dams will make the Fox River friendlier to canoeists, kayakers, and fishermen. “Clamming” (and pearls) might even come back. The City of Geneva and the Geneva Park District should seriously consider how the increasing demand for access to the river will be met. If the river becomes a rafting, canoeing, kayaking “highway,” an enter/exit/rest-stop in the heart of downtown Geneva could also be an economic/tourist booster.
I do not oppose the redevelopment of the old MRI site. However, I am for doing it right. Lead, mercury, asbestos, petrochemicals, etc., pose a potential risk to current and future residents. Disturbing the site, a brownfield based on its prior uses could put contaminated dust in the air for current Geneva children to inhale. This is not covered by the current permitting process, which does not mandate heavy metal testing, For example. examine how Batavia handled a nearly identical scenario on its old industrial site on the east bank of the Fox. As the property owner, the City did a thorough independent environmental assessment beyond what was “covered” by the permitting process. Batavia found contaminants (including lead and mercury) and mitigated the site with IEPA guidance.
Notice that even though the developer (Shodeen) walked away at the very last moment, the Batavia site is now green and neat and kept that way. Unfortunately, Batavia lost a historic church but did not leave the foundation as a gaping, water-filled hole. Geneva’s similar site is a disgrace and an embarrassment to its citizens. See, for example, Kane County Chronicle, 2019/02/25: “Batavia aldermen ok lead cleanup plan: While aldermen have been sharply divided on the redevelopment project itself, they closed ranks to approve the cleanup plan, saying they essentially had no choice.”
The Geneva aldermen refuse to remove their blinders lest they catch a glimpse of the potentially serious problems they have repeatedly and irresponsibly chosen to ignore.
* Attorney Roy Selleck Lasswell, an east sider, lived at 860 N Bennett Street near Division in Geneva just south of the St. Charles line. He was a graduate of the Northwestern School of Law and served in the U.S. Navy as an LTJG in WW II. I had the privilege of knowing his wife, Carol, a court reporter. Roy’s father, Tull C. Lasswell, was also an attorney. In 1962-3 Mr. Lasswell was the Geneva City Attorney. He expressed pride in the Geneva Plan Commission. In the mid-70’s the Lasswell’s moved to Batavia.
Many sins can be forgiven, but not the Unrepented.
Geneva’s East State Street Corridor has fared dreadfully during the long reign of an overly incumbent mayor. The wrecking ball has been his favorite tool, and deceit remains his favorite political tactic. His posse has been his hand-picked inbred administrative staff. The City Council, stricken with chronic Stockholm Syndrome, have been his minions. The result has been the “Geneva Way” of deception, concealment, prevarication, secret meeting tape destruction, and fraud. Somewhere between Archduke Albert, the Pious, and Boss Kevin Burns, the Perpetual, was a sweet spot in duration for reigns. But that moment was long ago.
To the City Council of Geneva,
“As we act, let us not become the evil we deplore.” Nathan D. Baxter
My family continues to be subjected to daily nuisances, health threats, and financial exploitation from the unauthorized demolitions and unlawful constructions at 314 and 316 E State Street, Geneva.
First, valid applications for demolition permits, special uses, variances, and site plans for 314 E. State Street were never submitted to the City of Geneva. A proper public hearing was never convened. Unauthorized demolition of the historic building at 314 E. State Street occurred. Route 38Properties, L.L.C. owns this 314 E State parcel. This owner was never identified at any time in any required notice, during any public hearing, or any City Council proceedings. The property rights of this unidentified L.L.C. far exceed those of any Geneva citizen (the politically well-connected habitually excepted). Think Emma’s Landing with its fistful of shady interlocking (to the extent of actual marital bonds in one glaring case) developer/builder/ownership L.L.C.s.
Second, the parcel at 316 East State was first unlawfully used as a parking lot twenty years ago after the unauthorized demolition of another historic structure (a small early settlement period Greek Revival-styled home). The parking lot was unlawfully constructed under a “remodel” building permit in 2002. In 2022 the 316 E. State configuration was altered, and the asphalt surface was replaced with concrete. All this without any site plan or building permit that depicts or authorizes this construction.
For many months, the City of Geneva has gas-lighted and ghosted citizens by consistently failing to respond to questions about the unlawful activities described above. The City has chosen to ignore Illinois Law and specific and general City of Geneva Ordinances. The City has conspired with private beneficiaries (Malone and Route 38 Properties, L.L.C.) to create off-the-books “wink and nod” unlawful “exceptions, deviations, reliefs, and conditions.” Examples include public R.O.W. encroachments, absent setbacks, paved parkways, code-violating parking isles, islands that are too few and smaller than the required 148 square feet, obstructions in A.D.A. stalls, and others. The City went to the unprecedented extent of officially granting permission to violate special use standards.
I understand that a conspiracy is, in a broad legal sense, an agreement to commit an unlawful act. In British and some American courts, lawful acts that finish in an unlawful manner are also included (In British parlance, a ‘conspiracy to injure’; in American, a ‘true conspiracy’). Some states require an overt act. (Common law rule does not.) A common understanding among the citizenry is that “you can’t fight city hall.” A corollary is that citizens’ rights depend on the integrity of their rulers.
For example, where is the Geneva Ordinance 2021-13 mandated fence along the western boundary? Under whose authority and why was noise-amplifying, light-reflecting cement substituted for the noise-abating, light-absorbing asphalt required in the site plan codified into law by Geneva Ordinance 2021-13? Who authorized the Geneva administrative staff to gas-light and ghost citizens injured by officially sanctioned conspiratorial misconduct?
The Malone Funeral Home has been a slow-walking infamy for two decades. The expansion in 2001-2002 onto an adjacent lot (purchased in 2000) with only a “remodel” building permit was illegal. A Special Use Ordinance passed after a valid Public Hearing was required but “over-looked” under the current mayor-for-life administration. In 2012 the 324 E. State property was found to have failed 8 of 9 Special Use standards, so the Special Use was denied. (Failure to meet just one standard causes the application to fail.) That same parcel was found to meet all nine standards in 2021 when nothing had changed in the intervening years.
The 2021 special use process was flawed from the start. The applicant was unlawfully “coached” by City Staff in secret for months, as demonstrated by the FOIA/OMA Public Action Council’s binding opinion. The initial public meeting notice was fraudulent and untimely (the hearing followed the notice by many months – months lead time for applicants, days for opponents). Where is a retroactive Special Use authorized in Illinois’ Constitution or Statutes? After an illegal expansion, when does “pre-existing non-conforming” become “illegal non-conforming” in Geneva? Immediately, if the law were followed. Never, if you “know” the mayor. The City of Geneva granted the first retroactive special use ever bestowed in Illinois, but with deceit as its only authority.
I hope the City of Geneva has enough remaining decency to disband its Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Task Force. The City must walk that walk itself before disingenuously inviting others to talk that talk under the auspices of its false flag.
Once again, I ask that the use of the above-cited unlawful parking lot be immediately and indefinitely halted.
Rodney B. Nelson, M.D., F.A.C.P., former Major U.S.A.F. 23 Kane Street Geneva Illinois
CLOSED SESSION ON PENDING LITIGATION PURSUANT TO ILCS 120/2(C)(11)
Committee of the Whole Agenda item 6, December 19, 2022
“‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the town, not a voter was focused on what soon will come down.”
With Apologies to Clement Clarke Moore.
This Monday night, the Geneva City Council will vote unanimously to enter a secret session. They will discuss “pending litigation.” Or will they?
Geneva’s cited exception to the Open Meetings Act refers to “pending litigation.” Pending Litigation means a proceeding in a court of law whose activity is in progress but not yet completed. At least, this is the meaning understood by many of us. But the OMA exception contains other words. In America, in 2022, any statement that can be construed by anyone as criticism can be stretched into “threatened litigation.” Almost without exception, a duly filed lawsuit immediately becomes a public document. An open, honest governmental unit can certainly go into closed session to discuss a pending lawsuit with its attorneys. But why would transparency not require citing the actual filed pending complaint?
We know the City has pending legal action over its disapproval of the Oscar Swan cell tower. Is this the subject matter for Monday night? An interested citizen likely will never know.
Here is A Parable of Emma’s Landing. On February 25, 2020, the City of Geneva improperly informed its most favored developer (other applicants existed, such as MVAH), the Burton Foundation, that the Geneva City Council had approved Emma’s Landing in secret the night before and had also agreed to donate the City-owned land. The Burton Foundation forwarded this City of Geneva’s email “approval and donation” document to the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Citing the Geneva faux largess, IHDA awarded Emma’s Landing application bonus points based on the communication. A hefty sum of money was at stake, and only half the contestants advanced to the next round. A recording of February 24, 2020, clandestine nocturnal City Council Emma’s Landing discussion existed. The OMA exemption invoked does not exist. This recording may have been an audio tape, but in 2020 it was more likely in digital form.
Burton Foundation won the competition through the City of Geneva treachery. On October 31, 2022, a Geneva citizen, citing the Freedom of Information Act, requested a copy of the recording of the February 24, 2020, secret meeting. Recordings are required under Illinois law. On November 7, 2022, the City Council, in secret session, voted unanimously to destroy the tape and release the printed minutes of the meeting (which have not yet been found on the city website). As seen in the email threads below, The City of Geneva played a “hide the peanut” shell game with the requester, who never found the peanut.
The requester has been “deemed” a frequent FOIA pest by the City of Geneva, which put in place a one-month (“21 business days”) embargo on his requests for information. The Illinois FOIA law allows this designation but never requires it. Who (and under what authority) imposed this restrictive status on the requester’s civil rights has not been divulged by the City.
Document 1 Below: A “Special” Meeting sets up an ambush since it is not on the schedule. This meeting invoked an OMA exception that contains this: “purchase, lease or sale.” No OMA exception contains this phrase.
Document 4: The City’s ambush tactics worked, and the peanut shell game was rigged from the start. Please scroll to the highlights. Note that once again, the City cited a non-existent OMA exception. At the bottom, you will find the November 12, 2022, FOIA second request for the audio recording. Democracy dies in darkness.
Twice within two weeks, a concerned citizen requested FOIA access to an audio recording of an improperly convened secret session. The decisions unlawfully made were unlawfully communicated to Burton Foundation by an unauthorized City employee. First, the recording was not released, and then the recording was destroyed a week later. A forensic search of all the City Hall laptops could “un-erase” the recording. Nothing can remove the soil and tarnish from the character of the mayor and his handpicked staff. The City Council is legally the responsible entity that “owns” all this deception.
For illustration, here is one example of how Geneva enforces its health, safety, and welfare provisions contained in its Municipal Code in the case of the Malone applications for simultaneous special uses and variations.
This is one of the standards that must be met “3. Character of the Area: The applicant must show that the variation requested will not be materiallydetrimental to the public welfare or materially injurious to the enjoyment, use or development ofproperty or improvements permitted in the vicinity; will not materially impair an adequate supply of light and air to properties and improvements in the vicinity; will not substantially increase congestion in the public streets due to traffic or parking or increase the danger of flood or fire; will not unduly tax public utilities and facilities in the area; or will not endanger the public health, safety or welfare.”
a. Setback Variation – The character of the surrounding neighborhood would not be significantlyimpacted by the approval of the proposed variation nor will endanger the public health, safety or welfare. The variation would allow the parking lot to encroach closer to the E. State Street right-of-way, but would not cause any line-of-sight issues for traffic along the corridor. The on-site parking lot for the existing commercial building located at 314 E. State Street that is proposed to be removed as part of the proposed parking lot expansion currently has a parking lot street yard setback of 0 ft. For comparison purposes, there are other commercial establishments within the vicinity of the Malone Funeral Home along E. State Street with varying street yard setbacks for parking improvements. The on-site parking lot serving the Munchie P’s commercial center has a parking lot street yard setback of 25 ft. The parking lot serving the future Geneva Pharmacy and Gen Ho has a parking lot street yard setback of 12 ft. Additionally, the reduction in the setback would allow for additional on-site parking for thefuneral home, which is intended to reduce the demand for parking on Nebraska Street andcould improve traffic and reduce congestion. [emphasis added]
Above is the Malone response. The section in italics is almost pure whataboutery; the bold section addresses an alleged benefit but does not address endangering human beings. The above paragraph convinced the P&Z Vigilantes and City Council that the standard was met. Notice the response skips addressing this phrase entirely “…[nor will be] materially injurious to the enjoyment, use or development ofproperty or improvements permitted in the vicinity.” HOWCould tearing down two continuous overlapping 20′ to 30′ tall structures directly between your house and Route 38 NOT increase the noise nuisance materially at your house? The P&Z vigilantes and the obsequious Council mayoral minions skipped over this mandatory finding requirement completely and dutifully granted the variance.
But the standard can only be met by explaining how it is met. Stating what is “intended” and what “could” happen is akin to the old proverb: “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. If horse turds were biscuits, they’d eat ’til they died.” I kicked the slats out of my crib the first time I heard this.
The “whataboutisms” in the first part are akin to telling the officer when you roll down your window that you were just trying to keep up with the traffic and that everyone at the party was drinking the same punch. The zoning police in Geneva would not only buy your excuse, but they would also take out their wallet and give you a roll of cash.
I live in this neighborhood. I have to joke about it to hold back the tears. This standard might have been met if the plan included fixing the horrors of Nebraska. But other violations are plentiful, some even more egregious. I hope the vigilantes and the council get a bountiful supply of biscuits for Christmas.