Almost Getting Arrested, and Other Happenings at the Village Board Meeting
Following my contentious public comment at last night’s Village of Round Lake Regular Board Meeting, my friend Kate thought she might need to scrape together bail money and locate the keys to Bob the van. If the Mayor and Village Attorney could have ordered me to be removed from the room, I’m sure they would have. On the down side, probably not a good look to star in a viral TikTok when some mom gets dragged out of your Village Board Meeting for trying to finish up her public comments.
When I last spoke to Village officials, I had prepared a 2 page speech, which I read using my trademark teacher voice and sarcastic mother-of-teenagers tone. In writing my 2 page speech for last night, I had prepared myself in much the same way.
However, upon entering the Round Lake High School Auditorium, we were greeted with a copy of an ordinance regarding public comment, and once the meeting started, the Village Attorney made sure to highlight the rules. When the public speaking portion began, he cut speakers off around 3 minutes, though he did allow them to finish their thoughts by 30 seconds at least. There was no actual timer set. Not that it mattered, both he and the mayor were disinterested in any of the comments, that is, until it came to reprimanding me as “disrespectful.”
Perhaps it was my passive-aggressive pettiness. Maybe it was the fact that I did my own research, as the Village suggested. I had two paragraphs left when the Village Attorney began cutting me off, and I stated I was almost done. But he continued to raise his voice, and, like the “I Have Been On This Earth Too Long To Play That Game” mom, I raised my voice right back--to both him and the Mayor, who had also, bless his heart, felt the need to remind me of my expired time. I don’t like being snapped at, in public, so you’ll excuse me if I snap right back. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes bitch.
You see, when someone speaks to me as if I’m a child, or threatens to end everyone else’s right to speak because they cannot fathom listening to me finish my prepared speech, my inner asshole shows up. And for that, I apologize, as it is undignified and I am capable of better. Confrontation is not my forte, I shrink from it like cotton on a high heat cycle.
Yet I have the feeling that the mayor and the attorney thrive on confrontation. Their tone, their facial expressions, the disdain from which they sought to pass judgment on me made clear that their position, the metaphorical one of power, not the physical one seated grumpily on stage, behind white plastic folding tables, demanded respect.
Should I automatically give such respect because they have lived here longer, are older than me, or because 400 people voted for one of them in an uncontested election, and the other went to law school? I physically showed them my printed speech and pointed to my place. Common courtesy, even though I was over my allotted time, would be to allow me to finish and be seated. If it is respect you desire, then show some toward those you govern.
My inability to adhere to the rules made me unworthy of further comment, so much so that I had to make my closing remarks as I walked back to my seat. My teacher's voice allows me to be heard in a gymnasium of 800 people without a microphone, so being heard in the intimate setting of the auditorium was undeniable.
I wasn’t going to go off on a 20 minute tangent, and this meeting had about 50 people in attendance, not the 130 from last time. So while I appreciate the meaning and intent behind the rules, those rules were likely more necessary during the public hearing on August 15. I understand the limits set forth and the need for them, but I also understand how to “read the room”, which is obviously beyond the scope of possibility for our elected and/or appointed officials.
THE BOARD MEETING
So what the hell did I say? Well, there will be audio from the September 6 meeting on the Village website at some point, and you can hear for yourself. I’m the fourth speaker I believe.
The comments began with a lovely husband and wife team, before moving on to my friend Susan, a member of the Manitou Creek Watershed Alliance. CHDS and its Wilson Road location are in their jurisdiction. Susan delivered factual comments regarding the FOIA request of the violations Mr. Powell has racked up over the years. But remember--you can’t believe everything you read on social media, except if what you read is from the Lake County Health Department and a certified copy was sent to the Village. Then you can ignore that and do more business with the guy.
If you want to see the FOIA documents, and do your own research, you can go to www.120mudhill.org. There's an entire tab dedicated to CHDS with links to the FOIA request Susan made, as well as each of the Lake County Health Department documents provided.
THE COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
I’ve never understood the difference between the actual Board Meeting and the COTW, but then I also don’t go searching for the difference between the Costco brand of microwave popcorn my son prefers and the Act II box I picked up at Sam’s Club, which is being ignored. I truly don’t care as long as both of them get eaten.
During the second meeting, another gentleman wanted to know how many fines, work stop orders, and violations the Village had ever issued to CHDS at Wilson Road. His guess is zero, and my guess is he’s correct. He went on to say that the Village values its relationship with Mr. Powell more than Baxter, or it would have forced CHDS to clean itself up years ago. This is a statement one would find hard to disagree with at this point.
There was an outstanding public comment, which I found impressive. It was from a gentleman with professional experience in marketing. When reading the website update regarding the Ski Hill, he found it condescending when told “not to believe everything you read and to do your own research.”
He took that comment and turned it back on the Village Board itself, essentially asking them “Where is your research?” Where is the data showing a need for a Ski Hill in Round Lake? If this is something the community truly wants, put it on a referendum in April 2023, and let the population of Round Lake decide. If a standing ovation could have been given, trust it would have been done in that moment.
Further, he asked the board, what does Round Lake know that the owners and operators of Wilmot do not? Wilmot is owned and operated by Vail Resorts--a professional, multi-million dollar company with 40 resorts in 4 countries, and all the resources, investment, and existing infrastructure already in place, yet they aren’t pursuing a year-round ski plan with Snowflex. So what makes Mr. Powell so much better at the ski resort business than Vail?
The answer? Nothing. Because this isn’t about skiing. It never has been and it never will be. If this were about skiing, Mr. Powell would go further west and find a property with a slope created by nature, in a location already dotted with tourist attractions. This is about money. It’s about the $130 million Dan Powell will earn over 10 years as trucks dump their loads.
THE VILLAGE DREAM
So what’s the plan here? What is the end game, if not a Ski Hill? We know it’s about money. There’s always money. It’s about the $1.5 million the Village will earn over 10 years, which is laughable compared to what Dan Powell will make. Sort of makes you feel like a hooker who’s seen better days at this point. I’d gather my 6 inch stilettos and go home, but my bunions are protesting.
If you haven’t checked out the Village website lately, you should click on the Economic Development tab and look into the Downtown TIF District, which was approved in January 2021 and is valid for the next 23 years. Since I was told we weren’t allowed to comment on the Ski Hill, I did my own research and commented on this gem instead.
There’s a redevelopment proposal that goes along with the realignment of Cedar Lake Road. If you haven’t heard, Lake County has come in and said Cedar Lake Road will be connected through Round Lake. Not if…when. And when it happens, it will alter the way the town looks, feels, and functions. The railroad crossing, which exists today, will no longer exist in the future, and a new intersection and crossing will be constructed.
Is that bad? Not necessarily. Bringing businesses, restaurants, and making the town a nice place to walk around is a lovely idea. But it’s not cheap. At the August 1 board meeting, the Village agreed to pay Teska Associates $39,660 for their streetscape design ideas. That’s just the architects sitting down with the board and the people who will make up the committee to come up with the drawings. That’s not the actual cost to make it look like Downtown Libertyville or Evanston or Wilmette.
You can see the board packet here beginning on page 20, which includes Teska’s past projects in other towns, and actual fees and costs associated with using them in this design process. Strangely enough, at the end of last night’s meeting, another proposal from a different architect was given to the board, complete with drawings, options, and cost estimates--this one on the feasibility and logistics of moving all Village Offices and administrative services from the Village Hall to the Townline Road Facility.
Wait. What’s that, you ask? A proposal before the board that included proof of successful past experience and an actual cost or cost estimate? Surely that’s not how actual project proposals are meant to work. Or maybe that’s how they work for everyone who isn’t a friend of the current or past mayor.
When it comes to sprucing up Downtown Round Lake, there’s more information in the Redevelopment Plan and Project document, which is subject to review and may be revised prior to its adoption. Right now it has a September 2020 date, and I do not know if or when it would be adopted. But a cost estimate on page 20 shows a $38 million price tag. On the next page, the first sentence tells you where that money is coming from:
I’m sorry---who’s a taxpayer? Ahhhh yes. That’s me, and you, and your neighbor, and the mostly residential masses living where all the dirt is being dumped. I also stated that while I haven’t read through the entire 74 page plan, I wondered if the 145 inhabited residential units identified within the Project Area knew that the Village could not certify that fewer than 10 of them would be displaced over the next 23 years. I’d want more details if I were one of them.
It’s nice to focus on your downtown. You want your own little Naperville, go for it. But not at the expense of those of us living in the houses that provide you with the property taxes you are using to fund it. When you look at those towns you so envy--the Libertyvilles, Wilmettes, and Evanstons with their central business districts, upscale restaurants and retail--how many of them have dirt dumps welcoming their residents to the parts of town where most of their populations live? How many of them have zero grocery stores within their town boundaries? How many of them do more business with someone who hasn’t proven himself trustworthy?
My point in doing my own research and calling out the Village for its condescending tone was to see the bigger picture. I feel like we're in Oz and are being told not to look behind the curtain. Never mind what we're planning downtown. Don't worry about the Ski Hill, everything will be fine. The Great and Powerful Village Knows All.
On September 19, the Village will provide their version of the data, their spin on all the facts, their answers to all our questions--whether those answers are truthful or not remains to be seen. Whether they provide those answers and immediately vote on the annexation also remains to be seen.
ONE FINAL NOTE
Speaking of the annexation vote, there is another challenge to those pushing to see this deal die. As previously stated, there are 6 Trustee members. Three of them must vote no to stop the annexation, and the Ski Hill, from moving forward.
Over the weekend, Trustee Patrick Duby resigned his seat on the Village Board. He wrote a lengthy post on the Facebook Page, so please take the time to read it. Mr. Duby works at a job that involves travel to various sites. He is currently on his way to upstate New York, where he will be for the next 4 months, making it impossible for him to serve on the board. While his previous site in Wisconsin, although difficult, allowed him to continue his commitment to the Village, this next location will not.
My final comment to the board related to the empty seat, which will fall upon the mayor to name a replacement. At the start of last night’s meeting, Mayor Kraly stated he would name a replacement at the September 19 meeting. I cautioned him from appointing someone and then having that person vote on the Ski Hill at the same meeting, though I barely got the words out, as I was being reprimanded for being disrespectful while walking back to my seat.
I do remember saying there are many politics at play here, and it would be unfortunate if citizens got an incorrect impression of our elected and/or appointed officials. In yesterday’s Daily Herald article, Mayor Kraly stated that “People will only hear what they want to hear.”
My final point, the words I was trying to speak, but which were cut off by the mayor and Village Attorney, were “People will only believe what they want to believe, regardless of the actual facts.” At this point, I believe it is fair to say that the Mayor, and other Village officials who have worked many hours on the Ski Hill proposal, will push for its approval at the next meeting on Monday, September 19 at 7:00 pm at the Round Lake High School Auditorium. There are 5 Village Trustees, and 1, to be chosen and seated by the Mayor that night, who may get the chance to do so depending on what is posted on the agenda.
While the Village has stated it will address our questions and concerns at the September 19 meeting, it could also vote to approve the annexation at that time. Please mark your calendar for September 19 at 7:00 pm. We will need a MASSIVE TURNOUT of Round Lake residents and concerned citizens from throughout the surrounding area.
Please help spread the word. Share this story, share the website www.120mudhill.org, join the Facebook Page, email Village Trustees, and plan to attend on September 19. Bring the neighbors, the kids, and the Karens. And your own 3 minute timer.