Guest Column: Contributions and influence

Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen, was asked whether campaign contributions and loans from developers could or would influence his and the County Board’s decisions on developers’ projects and aspirations. His reply was that this would be totally unacceptable. We wholeheartedly agree. This, in fact, is totally unacceptable, and we urge the voters to share their views Nov. 7. We taxpayers wouldn’t feel any obligations to a $29,000 gift, either. The Nicolosi company just received a $350,000 contract to draw up a 2030 land use plan for Winnebago County. That is a 1,211 percent Return On Investment (ROI) for the above contribution. Watch out, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer. Their 2030 plan will only include you for increased taxes to pay for their dreams. This type of funding could be labeled “trough feeding.” This is a very interesting phenomenon taking place in Winnebago County. This doesn’t refer to farm animals. The trough is filled with our tax dollars, and feeding animals are the Winnebago County Board and the developers. The feeding spree can be viewed at

I found it very disturbing to learn that the law firm (Nicolosi and Associates), which owns several companies specializing in development and building, was hired by our County to create a new County land use plan. This same law firm represents Rockton, Hononegah High School, Roscoe, Roscoe Township, Caledonia, Rochelle and Machesney Park.

There have been articles in local newspapers pointing out the conflicts created by their dual role of legal counsel and developer. The main question raised was how they could sit in closed session deciding TIF districts, purchasing land in those areas for development, then going ahead with the creation of those districts. How will the highly-paid contract to create the new County land use plan be any different? Isn’t this a conflict of major proportions?

It seems as though the relationship between developer and politician is stronger than taxpayer and politician. Where is the opposition from the County Board representatives from the rural areas of our county? Why are the state legislators from these districts not voicing their disapproval? Maybe the reason is that they don’t disagree with the change from rural to subdivision landscape we’re moving towards. Maybe we could make the relationship of large cash contributions to campaign coffers from developers dictating public policy. A rush to judgment? If you examine the last few years of applications to the County of rezoning from individuals versus developers, you will find a vast difference in the number of zoning changes allowed. The developers get what they want the majority of the time. Guess how often the individual gets the zoning variance?

When Scott Christiansen addressed the crowd at the Winnebago County Fair livestock auction, he conveniently left out any information about this Board’s massive push to turn agricultural land into homes and heavy industry. Somehow I don’t think the audience would be too receptive to this political version of “trough feeding.”

Richard Ott is a resident of Rockton and a neighbor of the proposed Puri/Cannell PCD.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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