Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gary Grasso - You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em

As I’ve already reported, for the past 60 days I have been doing independent research on the four Republican February 2, 2010 primary candidates for DuPage (Illinois) County Board Chairman, State Senators Dan Cronin and Carole Pankau, DuPage County Board member Debra Olson and Burr Ridge, Illinois mayor Gary Grasso.

I usually focus on a candidate’s statement and compare it to his record on any issue since it is the only thing we voters have to use when making our decisions. Differences ring alarm bells. I hate hypocrisy.

The Video Gaming Revenue Stream

"Dan [Cronin] said YES to installing tens of thousands of video gaming terminals throughout Illinois; a scourge that DuPage County and many municipalities resoundingly rejected."
- Gary Grasso

I am personally not against gaming in general. I group together revenues received from gaming as similar to revenues provide by consumption-type taxes. The citizens who voluntarily use the good or service provide the revenues from these types of taxes. If you don’t want to pay the tax, don’t use the good or service. I further am a strong believer of having decisions affecting people be made by government bodies as close to the individual as possible, if the decision is impractical to be made by the individual himself.

Mr. Grasso, and Mrs. Olson are both on record criticizing Sen. Cronin’s yes vote on HB 255. This bill allowed for increased video gaming in Illinois and had overwhelming majority party support in Springfield. The bill was easily going to pass the General Assembly and be signed into law by Gov. Quinn. As we in Helliois® are well aware, decisions made in Springfield are normally not in the interests of the citizens of this State. Sen. Cronin insisted that provisions be added to the bill that allowed decisions about video gambling be made by the localities instead of the corrupticrats in Springfield. Sen. Cronin insisted on these important local control provisions in advance of his vote. Without Sen. Cronin’s efforts, video gaming decisions would be made at the state level.

So we see hypocrisy on two levels. Firstly, Mrs. Olson’s vote against video gaming in DuPage County is entirely appropriate. If her constituents don’t like her vote, they can vote her out of office. Curiously, it was Sen. Cronin’s changes to the video gaming legislation that she and Mr. Grasso so hotly criticize that allowed Mrs. Olson to cast that very vote. Without Sen. Cronin’s efforts, video gambling decisions would have been made in Springfield instead of Wheaton. This wise application of local control, insisted to by Sen. Cronin, headed off the need for cities, counties and other municipalities to litigate a decision made in Springfield if a locality did not want video gaming within its boarders.

Gambling Gary Grasso

According to documents filed with the Illinois Gaming Board, Mr. Grasso is part of a consortium, Calumet Gaming, LLC. Calumet Gaming was dedicated to getting the prized last Illinois casino license, and was in the running until outbid by another company who bid about three times the other bids being offered. Calumet Gaming had interests in the Empress Casinos in Joliet and Hammond, IN.

Grasso, Bass and Williams, P. C., Mr. Grasso’s law firm’s website proudly states, “Finally, we also represent the commercial interests of our corporate clients, in connection with a variety of real estate ventures, gaming projects, and other business transactions.”

Coincidentally Calumet Gaming, the Capital Gaming Group, Grasso, Bass and Williams and the Mayoral office share a common address, 760 Village Center Drive, a mixed-use facility in Burr Ridge. Burr Ridge, a major portion of which resides in Cook County, funded part of the Village Center from municipal funds. A company owned by Pat Harbour, a major Grasso contributor, who recently held a large fundraising event at Harry Carey’s to benefit the mayor, also provided additional funds for the Village Center project.

Mr. Grasso’s and Mrs. Olson’s attacks on Sen. Cronin are hypocritical at best, and in Mr. Grasso’s case a giant conflict of interest at worse. You be the judge.

A Burr under the Saddle

“Mayor Grasso believes government is too large…”
- Grasso campaign literature

Several of Mr. Grasso’s quotes and pieces of campaign literature tout his work as mayor of Burr Ridge. A recent campaign brochure from the Grasso campaign, and approved by Grasso says, “Mayor Grasso wants zero based budgeting…” So we need to roll the videotape and see exactly what Mr. Grasso has DONE in Burr Ridge, it’s not enough to believe what he says.

Arguments can certainly be made Burr Ridge has been improved during his tenure as mayor. At what cost?

We see for starters that Mr. Grasso is more than willing to enter into “public-private” partnerships to build a commercial mixed-use space and a police station in downtown Burr Ridge. In fact, he does so with his major campaign contributors, and supports the Village by renting space for his gambling interests in the same building. Remember, a sizable chunk of Burr Ridge is in Cook County. While no allegation of inappropriate behavior is made here, others may say we see the typical pay-to-play antics we have come to know and love from the Cook County/Chicago machine. I think it’s safe to say that all residents would prefer to not even see the hint of impropriety here in DuPage.

Looking at the budget of Burr Ridge on its city website shows that the village is running a one million dollar deficit this year, and has about two million dollars of deficits projected for the next five years. The budget report indicates a budget surplus in fiscal year 2008-9 was wiped out by lower than expected revenues, and for the seventh year in a row, the sales tax revenues had been overestimated. The Equipment Replacement and Stormwater Management Funds were not funded as previously budgeted. Given the track record of overestimating revenues, what gives anyone any confidence that the outlying years budgets will not be even deeper in debt than the already projected deficits?
In a press release from September 2009, Mr. Grasso states, “… inefficiencies, waste and neglect in government led to unprecedented deficits” Perhaps he was talking about the finances of Burr Ridge instead of Springfield. It appears both were bitten by the same bug.

Inconvenient facts for "Gambling" Gary Grasso.

For my analysis on the DuPage County Board Chairman candidates:


Anonymous said...

I guess I am not too offended by the posturing of candidates during a heated election. I agree hypocrisy is not a lofty and admirable trait, but it is sometimes explained away as "campaigning." That said, I am stunned at Mr. Grasso's campaign tactics against Dan Cronin. Grasso has gone purely negative--indeed his mailers offer nothing about him and his ideas and instead focuses solely on railing against Cronin. I think this reflects very poorly upon Grasso and is the beginning of the end of his elected career. Voters will remember this and will hold Grasso accountable.

Cincinnatus said...

I couldn't agree with you more. Grasso is getting a free ride in this campaign, while Olson only attacks (she has no real record on anything other than criticizing others and has not laid out a positive agenda for the county. Only Cronin has refrained from attacking this opponents, I hope in the next couple of days Cronin contrasts the statements of his opponents with the facts about his record, and theirs.

The Factor said...

In case you haven't noticed...Mr. Lewis has kept Mr. Cronin quiet for a while now. I don't think you will see him talking. He can't hang with Olson on real issues, period. Even in his back yard! Mr. Cronin attended the York Township forum, even sat in front! But did he participate? NOPE. Avoiding getting smoked at home...wish the Bears could do that!

Cincinnatus said...

Cronin's invitation to the Elmhurst League of Women Voters was temporarily lost. He called them in person a day after the RSVP deaadline to apologize and ask to be put on the agenda. The League refused.

Cronin has obviously been available for media, when Mrs. Olson did not show up, as expected, to the Wayne meeting, the reporter at the event was able to reach Cronin. He was at the Wheaton train station Friday morning, you could have talked to him then, as could have anyone.

Short of burning down his campaign headquarters, do you seriously think that he would be in the newspapers now? The MSM is loathed to provide any free media during the final days of the election. I do believe Cronin has attended all of the events he was confirmed to attend, unlike Olson.

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