The Western Report: Year-old Galena City Council—business as usual

One year has passed since the current Galena City Council was seated. Last April, the mayor and three aldermen were elected, with a fourth alderman appointed to fulfill the two remaining years of aldermatic term vacated by Mayor Tom Brusch upon his election. Considering Galena has six aldermen, this has been a relatively new City Council.

So how are they doing? How was their first year? Did they fulfill any of their campaign promises? Did they accomplish anything?

To me the answers to those four questions would be: Not very well, not very good, no and no.

The last year has been marked with ordinances that were passed in haste and then changed or dropped, no new proposals for increasing city revenues and no follow-through by the campaign of the mayor to enhance the “Quality of Life” of Galena residents.

Instead, this has been a council that has adopted the position of business as usual for Galena residents. They have been focused on preserving the history of Galena and have been more concerned with the well-being of tourists than of the people who live here.

Now, no one, including me, would argue against the importance of tourism to Galena and the fact that it should be promoted and kept in the forefront. It should not, however, be subsidized at the expense of the residents.

Right now, tourism is subsidized at our expense. Not only do Galena taxpayers have to pay higher water bills because of the super-sized waste treatment plant that had to be built to accommodate 60,000 visitors, instead of just Galena’s population of 3,700, but we also have to pay for extra police and city staff to handle the crowds.

However, of the 6.75 percent sales tax, we do get to keep 1 percent.

While one could argue that the taxpayers do get a benefit of the dollars the tourists spend in Galena, the fact is the City of Galena only gets a very small percentage of the sales tax from the tourists. And most tourists are spending for big-ticket items—they are buying meals and drinks and souvenirs. By and large, residents are paying the sales tax here.

Even the taxes from hotel rooms sold in town do not end up in City funds. Instead, the 11 percent room tax is split with 6 percent going directly to the state and the other 5 percent going to the JoDaviess Convention and Visitors Bureau. That has to be spent on promoting tourism (except 10 percent of the 5 percent that the county gets to keep for administration or other purposes).

So let’s hope someone on the council will wake up and really try to improve the “Quality of Life” in Galena. Let’s hope someone will turn away from the old thinking and consider other ways to bring revenue to town.

Hey, mayor! Just let us get some money from tourism (possibly through home rule), and we will improve our “Quality of Life” ourselves.

John Huschik is a free-lance writer from Galena and covers the Jo Daviess County political scene.

From the May 17-23, 2006, issue

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