Comment boards allow for open exchange of ideas and opinions. Unfortunately, what is written is all too often unfounded accusations or outright untruths. When those go unanswered, they can shape the reader’s perception and become their reality, which is harmful to everyone. In comments posted on Thursday, March 24, Joe Brunner made several unfounded accusations that I must correct with fact and truth.
Accusation:”… spending over $6 million for just 20 affordable housing units...”
Fact: If he is referring to the Essex Senior housing project, the TIF assistance will come in at under $3 million for over 80 units, nineteen of which are affordable units as determined not on federal poverty levels, but closer to Morton Grove level of poverty, thus making those units available to higher number of Morton Grove seniors.
Accusation: “…doubling your garbage bill.”
Fact: How you pay for your garbage has changed, not the amount. The Village has just renewed the contract for waste hauling in Morton Grove and we were successful in retaining the same service level at the same cost of the last contract.
Before, the fees were embedded in your property tax bill; whereas now the fees are on your water bill. You see the fees now, so it seems higher, but the rate actually remains the same.
Accusation: “…Mayor Staackmann’s hurtful policies.”
Fact: Asking to fill out a simple form stating your name and what you wish to comment on is no intrusion to anyone’s rights. The correct spelling of your name is needed for the official minutes. And the time limit ensures that there will be time for everyone who wants to speak to have that opportunity at the meeting. No one has ever been denied the opportunity to address the village board. Village Board meetings are held to do official business and should be conducted as such with respect for the residents, the Board, and the business at hand.
Accusation: “… loss of Senior services.”
Fact: The service providers have changed, yet services have not been eliminated. The Village replaced a number of in-house services with outside providers. Staff was cut staff in the Family and Senior Services department to reduce expenditures, but senior services continue to be offered at our Civic Center. All senior programs and activities are offered through a partnership with a non-profit senior services organization at no cost to the village. Now, more seniors participate in higher quality programs than ever before. This organization also offers Escorted Transportation services in which volunteer drivers transport seniors to medical and dental appointments, at no cost to the Village. Health screenings and services are still provided by a private, local organization every weekday at the Civic Center, at no cost to the village. Furthermore, the Family and Senior Services department continues to offer senior services such as lending closet, RTA passes, taxi vouchers, handyman services, counseling, referrals, and more.
Over the last two years, the Board has had to make some very hard decisions while maintaining vital services. The Village is financed by revenue from property taxes, fees, fines, and sales tax, all of which are significantly lower due to the severe, global economic downturn. Morton Grove is certainly not isolated on its loss of revenue. Recognizing that the plight of the economy has hit its residents, the current Village Board has opted to reduce expenditures on non-vital services rather than keep raising taxes to maintain vital services.
I firmly believe that the first purpose of government is to protect the life, property, and health of it citizens. With keeping that mission, it has become necessary to cut back on some of the non-vital services that were once provided by our village. It may seem hurtful now but if it ensures the vitality of our Village until these hard financial times subside, it is something we all must endure.
Morton Grove has survived many changes and ordeals, and will continue to survive if we, the residents, work together though these changes. Together we can ensure the future of Morton Grove. After the election, I will be calling for a unity meeting of all candidates in this election and those who are concerned by the current issues facing our Village, schools, library, and park district, so all parties can meet to resolve their differences and begin the work ahead of us.