June 19, 2019
A special meeting of the McHenry Township Board was held last night to vote on ending the Senior Express bus service. This service provides for the elderly and disabled, who require wheelchair and special assistance with transportation in the area.
Three trustees, Bob Anderson, Mike Rakestraw, and Steve Verr, were eager to end the service, citing a pledge to cut taxes for the township.
At issue was the $189,729.00 annual expense to the township which costs individual property owners less than $8. Trustees argued that the Senior Express bus was a duplicative service that competes with PACE in the area and could be eliminated. However, residents packed the hall and spoke for over 90 minutes hoping to explain why the specialized service offered a valuable resource that PACE could not accommodate, namely the added mobility assistance and far shorter ride times.
One driver spoke of a resident who ran out of medically necessary oxygen on a PACE bus route as that service consolidates rides and passengers can be in transit for two hours or more. Administrators of the other transportation services, including several senior care facility managers, explained repeatedly that there was no duplication of service and that the assumptions trustees were making were incorrect.
Our Revolution McHenry County Chair and Wonder Lake resident, Mike Tauler, spoke at the meeting during public comments:
“We have seen all of these people that came before us today and not one person has said, ‘Yes, yes let’s do this’. Those that need this service most aren’t going to be able to be here in this audience tonight, are they?
So, I stand before you as a thirty-five-year-old, relatively healthy male, to speak on their behalf. Judging by this board and most of your political leanings, I am going to take a wild guess and think that most of you, when it came to talking about the ACA (Affordable Care Act), were on the side where you were afraid of the ‘death panels’. YOU have become that death panel, if you vote to get rid of this.
“You have an obligation, not just to the township, but to the Constitution. ‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare…’”
“We here, in this country, have what’s called a Social Contract Theory, that we all work together, that we all strive together, and that by working together and helping your neighbor, you are helping yourself and we all rise together…Every single one of these people and their stories today…if your hearts are not moved by that, you have a stone cold heart…”
- Full Township video replay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFkDrlmVpB4
- Related: Senior Bus Service Annual Report
The Financial Case
Among the handouts at the meeting was a full printed accounting of the stops made to local areas businesses patronized by the seniors and disabled residents during the last year. Each stop represents at least one taxpayer patronizing a local business that also pays into the property tax system.
None of the Trustees calculated the added revenue for local businesses added through the more than 12,000 stops made by the bus service on behalf of residents, revenue that is now at risk when the service is suspended in November 2019. None of the three trustees presented or spoke of a cost benefit analysis as a part of their decision process.
The Trustees indicated they had not even reviewed the service contracts with PACE and the county’s McRide service prior to the meeting. Trustee Veer objected saying he had not been given a copy of the agreement after asking Supervisor Craig Adams, although the contract is on file with both the county and the township as a matter of public record.
Veer admitted his due diligence was limited to a single phone call to the senior services administrator whom he said informed him that the senior center could manage to take up the loss in services. The administrator objected loudly from the back of the room, shouting that was not the case nor did they offer ride services.
Veer himself objected to the reported costs, but offered no data or evidence to the contrary.
The township attorney advised the trustees that immediate service stoppage, as the resolution proposed, could put the township at risk of a lawsuit for failure to notify county, state and federal partners with advance notice. He suggested that the trustees wait until the contract expired in November 2019 after explaining, at length, what service contract obligations and severance meant for the township. As a result, the proposed motion was amended to cancel services in November instead of the original July date.
A History of Double-talk
The stated mission of the McHenry Township board is, “…to improve the quality of life in their community.” There was little evidence of that during the meeting. Many residents were asked to leave after angry outbursts while others showed themselves out as they shouted objections to the trustees’ various comments.
Trustee Veers answered objections from voters that he was not listening by saying, “…You say we have a representational form of government, and we do. That was settled in the election.”
Trustees Anderson and Rakestraw were elected to office while Trustee Veer was appointed after a vacancy on the board. Verr’s interview was not conducted in public, but he himself requested a special closed-door interview in executive session away from public view.
Trustee Anderson championed a voter referendum to consolidate townships in 2018 and led the “Citizens for Consolidation” to forward that cause. He and other notable county officials were elected on this tax fighter pledge, including Joe Tirio who won the County Clerk seat and Algonquin Highway Supervisor, Andrew Gasser, who has been embroiled in legal trouble since day one in office, racking up more than $700,000 in legal fees for taxpayers in Algonquin Township.
Anderson’s township consolidation attempt by referendum in 2018 failed by a 2:1 margin. It wasn’t the first attempt for Anderson.
The Northwest Herald reported, “In 1994, Anderson spearheaded a referendum to eliminate the county’s townships the only way state law allowed – by switching from a county board to a three-member panel of county commissioners’.
By a 3-1 margin, voters defeated Anderson’s referendum to abolish townships in the November 1994 election. In both instances, Anderson was accused of offering no real data or researched to support his assertion of a tax reduction.
Anderson tried again to petition for a ballot referendum in 1997, going so far as to take the matter to court in a civil case: ANDERSON v. McHENRY TOWNSHIP.
Voters at the meeting last night were bewildered and speculated that cutting the bus for disabled residents and seniors was in retaliation of Anderson’s failed referendums.
“The people… It almost brings tears to your eyes because you want to fight for them.”Then 2016 trustee candidate Bob Anderson, Illinois Policy Institute
The Illinois Policy Institute featured Bob Anderson as a “tax fighter,” promoting his run for trustee in 2016 and highlighted his campaign in an online video. In the promotional piece, Anderson appears emotional when asked what is most important to him about his community.
“The people,” he says. “It almost brings tears to your eyes because you want to fight for them.”
Anderson talks about his love of neighbors as a driving force behind his tax crusade, while behind him is his lake front home in Wonder Lake with a view of his costly second story addition that sparked his personal crusade against property taxes. Upon completion of the expansive edition, Anderson’s property was reassessed and his property taxes were raised accordingly.
Once elected, the Illinois Policy Institute celebrate Anderson’s victory with a special post and quoted Anderson as saying, “Today is a victory for the people. It’s truly a victory for the people. We got elected on two subjects: a tax revolt and reforming township government throughout Illinois. We’ll be looking forward to township consolidation and elimination.
“I’ll have critics. But I knew that there was a big change coming of people looking into all these units of government. I knew that from talking to people”.
The people of McHenry Township spoke last night loudly, themselves fighting back tears, as they begged Anderson and his cohorts not to end the Senior Express service. Anderson, Veer, and Rakestraw clearly were not listening.
McHenry Township Board Vote to Abolish the Senior Express Bus: