Your voice does matter


Photo by Jennifer Glasscock
RESIDENTS STAND TOGETHER — It was evident to see during the Sept. 8 Braidwood City Council meeting just how much residents supported the agreement that would bring the Coal City business Ultimate Rides to town. When asked who supported the agreement, essentially everyone in the room stood up together. To the far front left is Alex Bulanda, co-founder of Ultimate Rides.

Jennifer Glasscock
Staff writer

Last week, the Braidwood City Council held a meeting that was everything but normal.
It was the type of meeting that all who witnessed — whether in person or via Facebook Live — won’t soon forget. I know it’s already become the most memorable Council meeting I’ve attended.
For those who missed it, you can go onto the city’s website to find a link to its YouTube page where you can listen to this meeting and previous City Council meetings.
If you don’t want to do that, let me recap: The main issue on the table was in regards to approving the city’s purchase of 2.6 acres of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) land on South Hickory Street — and the redevelopment agreement that would bring a Coal City car dealership, Ultimate Rides, to Braidwood to build a new facility on that land.
In another article published this week in the Braidwood Journal, you can read up on more details about the agreement, but it means that soon a new location for Ultimate Rides will be constructed within eyesight of Interstate 55 where about 30,000 cars go by every day.
This facility, along with the new Beaver Creek Golf Carts location being constructed down the street, is evidence that growth is happening in Braidwood.
But, this agreement almost didn’t pass. In fact, if it wasn’t for members of the public putting the pressure on elected officials, it probably wouldn’t have.
Normally, members of the public are given the opportunity to speak during public comment, which takes place at the start of each meeting. There is a three-minute limit to the public comment for each person, but this can be waived by the mayor.
However, Braidwood residents certainly didn’t limit themselves to public comment during the City Council meeting last week.
In addition to the seven members of the public who spoke at the start of the meeting, throughout the three-hour meeting residents didn’t hesitate to speak up, call out commissioners by name and demand they vote in favor of what the people of Braidwood wanted.
At one point, one woman even stood up and waved around dollar bills to prove a point: as a taxpayer she would be willing to help fund the project.
Taxpayers rallied together, raising their hands and standing up at different points during the meeting to show that they were united in their desire to bring the business to town.
A member of the public also livestreamed the meeting on Facebook via his phone. Because of that, at least two people who were watching the meeting virtually decided to come to City Hall to witness it in person, and, more importantly, vocalized their support of the agreement.
One man said he even left his couch while the White Sox were tied in the ninth inning. Now that’s commitment.
Whether you think order was abandoned or not, or that people were out of line, one thing for sure was that the pressure put on the officials by members of the public was likely what made the difference between an already prosperous business coming to Braidwood and that very business abandoning it investment in the community and moving on to a neighboring city.
And it’s clear to see why people were so determined to secure Ultimate Ride’s place in Braidwood — and the tax dollars it will bring.
City administrator Tony Altiery said during the meeting that the city’s sales tax revenue has been falling for the past four years. This pattern can be seen by simply taking a look at the numbers released quarterly by the Illinois Department of Revenue through its Standard Industrial Code report database.
According to the database, since the calendar year 2017, the amount of sales tax brought in for the municipality has been dropping, with the city bringing in $447,586, dropping slightly to $443,582 the next year; by 2019, the city brought in just $421,897 in sales taxes.
Altiery projected the amount of sales taxes the car dealership could generate could be between $70,000 to $150,000 per year. That’s not mentioning the property taxes that the city would benefit from the 7,200 square foot proposed complex.
The point is, the business would give a much needed boost in tax dollars for the city. Because it’s in the TIF III District, the money raised in property tax dollars generated by the improved property must go right back into the TIF fund to help further improve other TIF land.
More improvements means attracting more businesses and that means more growth.
Many people want to see change, but few will get up and do something about it.
As demonstrated by the residents of Braidwood last week, if you want improvement in your community then let your voice be heard. In the end your city may become a better place.