A couple of items to update you on as the year comes to a close. First is the Prairie headline on the budget, and the second is the special meeting we held on Thursday to put a referendum on the ballot.
The Prairie headline was: “UNBALANCED BUDGET. As revenues decline Village forced to tap into nearly $10 million of surplus to cover expenses.” The headline is extremely misleading. It is factually true that we are spending about $10 million dollars more than we have projected in revenue for 2018. However, we were not forced to spend the surplus, we chose to. We had a surplus because we exited the 9750 project, reducing the Village debt by a little over $50 million. The result is the reserve required to keep on hand was decreased. The Board chose to use this money to fund capital projects (roads, parks, technology infrastructure, etc.) that have been deferred for many years. Additionally, our operating expenses were cut by over 2% to match the declining revenue projections and balance the operating budget.
On Thursday, we held a special meeting to put a referendum on the ballot for gaming. I am generally against putting referendums on the ballot for several reasons, including: They undermine representative democracy by undermining the role and importance of elected representatives, they are sometimes used by elected officials to avoid taking an unpopular position on a controversial issue, they are a tactical device used by politicians, they rarely adequately reflect the complexity of the issues being decided and they tend to not be about the issue in question and more about politics.
All of these issues are at play in this case — we are in this position because the Village Clerk decided to put politics first and undermine the deliberative process of Orland Park’s legislative body as he:
- Put a surprise item on the agenda November 6th. (Confusingly it was an ordinance that already exists.)
- Left the dais to speak “as a citizen” at that board meeting, which was a first for all of the Trustees, our attorneys and me.
- Started a referendum drive to put a question on the ballot. A question that asks for an opinion on an ordinance that already exists.
- Has yet to officially inform the Village Manager, the Mayor, or the Trustees about the filing of the referendum for which his supporters collected signatures. Former clerk, Trustee Dodge and former deputy clerk, Joe LaMargo have both indicated that this is unheard of.
It is this kind of political maneuvering that we have come to expect from Springfield and Washington that has no place here in Orland Park.
My observation on referendums here in Illinois is that they rarely are put on the ballot in the interest of the people, but instead are political tools to try to drive behavior and stir emotion over divisive issues.
However, since there was a referendum filed, the question became how do we acknowledge the efforts of well-meaning signature collectors who are passionate about this issue while at the same time recognize that the ballot question does not represent what we are deliberating and acknowledge that some citizens who signed the referendum were misinformed.
Since it is advisory, we could ignore it. Alternatively, we could put a proper referendum on the ballot, which:
- does not ignore the position of those that signed this referendum and were properly informed and feel strongly about their position
- ensures that all voters are given an accurate referendum to vote on
- will give us better feedback from the electorate — though the result is unlikely to represent a majority of voters
For these reasons, I voted to put a clearer referendum on the ballot, the verbiage of which follows: “Should the Village of Orland Park approve and license video gaming within the Village for those establishments, limited in number by the Village, Holding Class A liquor licenses (Restaurants and restaurants with bars) and having conducted business for at least 18 consecutive months with signage conforming to the Village code.
The vote for this was 5 to 1. Trustee Calandriello voted against putting this referendum on the ballot and Trustee Carroll was absent.
I still hold the position referendums should be saved for massive bond issues and more importantly for form of government changes and or issues that directly impact the Village Board members (for example term limits).
The Village Board was working together on this in a slow and steady manner before the Clerk’s actions forced us to accelerate the process significantly. The Village Board was elected to put politics aside and deliberate these issues and do what we believe is in the best interest of the people and I commend ALL of the trustees for doing exactly that on this issue.
Thank you for your feedback throughout the last 7 months and I look forward to keeping you updated next year. I will also be reaching out for feedback on important issues in the future, so if you a see a questionnaire from me, please let me know what you think.
Happy New Year to all!