Democracy is a fragile notion, yet the etymology of the word is straightforward: “Democracy, literally, rule by the people. The term is derived from the Greek dēmokratia, which was coined from dēmos (“people”) and kratos (“rule”) in the middle of the 5th century BCE to denote the political systems then existing in some Greek city-states, notably Athens.” democracy | Definition, History, Meaning, Types, Examples, & Facts | Britannica
“Rule by the People” can mean many things. In the United States, a “republic” according to Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution and to the sworn Pledge of Allegiance often mouthed by our elected officials, the people’s rule is based upon and tempered by the Constitution and the Rule of Law.
The two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, loosely and erratically, both hew to the same small “r” republican doctrines but often come to seemingly diametrically opposed platforms. A republican form of government is distinguished from a direct democracy, which the Founding Fathers had no intentions of entering. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, “Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
The “great issues” of today capture the most attention, but the small hyper-local issues often almost completely escape notice. In Illinois, the 7000 local governments too often use their near anonymity to make decisions based on what they can get away with while ignoring their written rules. Geneva is a classic example. But the Geneva City Council has gone one step further. The Council simply ignores evidence and rules it does not like, and lies about the facts.
In these posts, I have focused on four specific Geneva instances involving gimmicks, chicanery, and fraud: Emma’s Landing, Malone Funeral Home, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Mill Race Inn. Abuse and violation of the Open Meetings Act have been rampant. “Fact Sheets” containing outright lies have been issued on Emma’s Landing. Malone Funeral Home was expanded illegally twenty years ago and thus lost its “pre-existing, non-conforming” status granted under the 1995 Zoning Ordinance. A Malone’s Funeral Home application in 2012 for a Special Use was denied, but, (in Roe v Wade fashion) approved in 2021 while never mentioning the prior illegal expansion. Malone Funeral Home was not eligible to even apply for a Special Use in 2021 under the Zoning Ordinance. Director of Development Untch testified to the “error” (made by both Plan Commission and City Council) at a formal hearing a decade ago. Dunkin fraudulently “skipped” the Illinois statutory requirement for an IDOT permit and Geneva “winked” and looked the other way. Then the City Council granted a Special Use while “allowing” prohibited encroachments in the ROWs of both Crissey and State Streets in clear violation of Standard 8 of the Special Use Ordinance. The Geneva Code requires all nine standards to be met. The City Council winked and nodded as usual. Genevans footed the entire $300,000 consultant fee for the failed Mill Race Inn “Charette,” and irregularities in the accounting for this expenditure exist. The total bill came due when the developer, who was to pay half, was double-crossed by the City.
Perhaps the most illustrative example of the mayor’s “Geneva Way” came with the Plan Commission actions in the Malone Special Use application a decade ago. The Ordinance requires that all nine Special Use standards “shall” (defined in the Ordinance itself as meaning “must”) be met for a Special Use to be approved. The staff’s “findings of fact” found the application failed to meet over half of the nine. A motion was made to accept the findings of fact and it passed unanimously. Then two of the commissioners voted to approve the Special Use! I vowed never again to attend such a sham proceeding. The “deal” is done under the “Geneva Way” by the time the public first learns of a proposal.
For Malone Funeral Home (featured in the Mayor’s election literature) a Variance was granted simultaneously with the Special Use even though the Geneva Code says that when two rules can apply, the more restrictive provision “shall” prevail. Illiteracy or arrogance can be the only explanation for the Council and Plan Commission actions.
This is a shameful record of the “What can we get away with?” group of “professional” hired minions of the current Mayor and his mostly self-appointed city council, boards, commissions, etc. Checks and balances do not exist. Questions are not answered under Geneva’s McKittrick/Dawkins Doctrine. Aldermen’s questions are anonymous and the hard ones are never answered. The City has no Inspector General. Municipalities in Illinois have lost hundreds of millions of dollars through corruption in spite of hiring big-name auditing firms. No one knows the extent of this because no one is watching.
Individual natural rights are at the heart of our form of government. “Majority rule” has its rightful place, but it is blunted in our republic by checks and balances, and the rule of law. Under the current failed administration, Geneva, as Genevan Walter Stackman once heroically proved, [STACKMAN v. CITY OF GENEVA | FindLaw] became a place where you can have just as much justice as you can afford. In Walter Stackman’s case, his property rights cost him $70,000.
Wake up Geneva. Start asking the hard questions.