The first public comment speaker was Karyn Smith (not Karen) – also a candidate for Normal Town Council. Other than her comments last night I don’t know anything else about her – yet.
By: Diane Benjamin
When Chris Koos began public comment he made clear he would time limit the speakers so they could get on to business at hand. Obviously public comment is an inconvenience. Just hit play below to hear him and the speakers. To the Town’s credit, most of what the citizens said was at least mentioned (mostly disputed) during the meeting. In Bloomington citizens are usually ignored.
FIVE citizens came to the Normal Town council to express their displeasure with the agenda. Mike Matekja also showed up, but only to make sure his union people would be used to build the Trail East. Since not much else is happening with construction in the area, he was drooling at the thought of yet another project not possible without government funding.
Matekja made one funny comment – he claimed no up-front money will be involved with Trail East. Portillos was supposed to be NO up-front too, but the same developer likely needed money for 1 Uptown Circle, so instead of paying him with food and beverage taxes as promised, the Town paid him early. They claimed it was to save interest costs. Soon after the staff cuts began. Koos and company will never admit why he was really paid. Maybe he can start up his Fact or Fiction site again!
The first speaker was a CPA, Karen Smith. Koos couldn’t cut her off fast enough when her time expired. She laid out the fallacy of adding the third building to Trail East and handing out more money to the developer.
Two speakers wanted the Council to wait until ISU students were back in town before approving the new sorority house. City Manager Pam Reece inadvertently made the case for Wards instead of At-Large elections when she stated the Council would have to cancel around 9 meetings a year when ISU isn’t in session if ISU students were needed. Obviously nobody holding office is representing the biggest economic engine Normal has. Pam’s comment is at 27:29.
Stan Nord spoke about changing economic conditions making the need for Trail East questionable when empty buildings exist in Uptown. He stated the rest of the Town has needs too. Marc Tiritilli spoke about the subsidies, historic preservation, the use of TIF money in an area that isn’t blighted. He also mentioned the original Uptown plan did not include the destruction of the three buildings on Beaufort. He claimed the historic nature of Uptown is being needlessly destroyed. He asked who we are as a community? Koos couldn’t get rid of him fast enough either. Later Koos mentioned all their spending on historic preservation. He always mentions the Normal Theater, Town owned.
Koos was so flustered by public comment he wanted a vote to approve the minutes and spending without a motion.
Much of the meeting was reviewing the planned new building. The developer claims to have letters of intent for around 70% of the space. Two 2-bedroom and one 3-bedroom apartment are still unoccupied at 1 Uptown Circle. Trail East adds more luxury apartments. One reader pointed out last night that Portillos came to town with developer subsidies, now the Town is subsidizing Windy City Wieners to complete with them. They plan to have a space in the new building. $4.5 million is pledged by the Town – see 1:20:50. (Media is reporting $8 million!)
It has to be killing Koos and the Council that NO Sales Tax revenue is being generated at 1 Uptown Circle because the first floor is still empty. Koos still claimed the building is a success. Of course it is! Taxpayers are paying $422,986 a year to rent an entire floor! I’m sure they planned on a huge cash influx from the “upscale” restaurant that was supposed to move in long ago. Koos claimed later the developer will be bringing in a new plan for the space. He also said that a month or two ago, still nothing.
RC McBride, the member of the media also governing Normal (Putin would be proud), went off on the public beginning at 1:25:25. His comments need to be seen since he is running for re-election. Koos’s rant follows. Citizens need to hear both of them.
Much was made about “looking ahead”. 20 or 25 years from now everything will be great! (Think Coliseum) Of course, if things go south this Council won’t be around to hold accountable. Matekja is still around to hold responsible for the Coliseum since he voted for it.
Kathleen Lorenz, Mayor Koos, and others pointed out the huge increase in EAV (Equalized Assessed Valuation) because of all the development over the past 20 years. Her comments are shortly after McBride and Koos. Since she is also running for re-election, listen to her comments.
If Uptown had produced overwhelming prosperity, the citizens of Normal would not have experienced constant tax and fee increases over the same time period.
Development would not have taken place without government subsidies. As of 3/31/18 Normal had total debt of $89,823,286, not including pension and post employment liabilities.
The Normal Town Council is gambling and using taxpayers as seed money. The Town Council believes revenues will pay the debt. 1 Uptown Circle proves plans don’t always pan out. The recent staff cuts prove revenue is a problem. The only way to stop this speculative development with your money is to elect different people. Unfortunately, the only one I see wanting to protect taxpayers on the April ballot is Stan Nord.
Hit play for Public Comment: