Waukegan mayor sets agenda: Casino, water quality, cops
By Dan Moran firstname.lastname@example.org May 14, 2013 4:34AM
Updated: July 13, 2013 2:23AM
Mayor Wayne Motley’s list of what he called “real things that are going to happen” includes modest touches like bike cops patrolling neighborhoods and meatier projects like $7 million in city-wide infrastructure improvements.
But his remarks during the 28th Annual Lunch with the Mayor on Monday, May 13, also shed a bit more light on the big-ticket item on the city’s 2013 agenda: bringing a casino to Fountain Square.
“For those of you who don’t know, we are actively pursuing a casino license in Waukegan,” Motley told a crowd of about 200 business leaders and civic figures at the Genesee Theatre. “We met with a potential developer two weeks ago. We are discussing the possibilities (and) looking for the opportunity to have them come back to our community and give us the framework for an agreement.
“I’m very excited because that casino can do nothing but help our community. That’s a huge shot in the arm for us,” added Motley, saying that he is “committed wholeheartedly to adding more officers” with the extra revenue a casino would provide.
Motley also reported that he has assembled a team of city staff to work on the gaming front, which is expected to play out in the Illinois House over the next three weeks. The Senate passed a bill earlier this month that named Waukegan, Park City or North Chicago as the possible sites for a Lake County casino.
While any gaming-expansion plan that emerges from the General Assembly would still need a signature from Gov. Pat Quinn, Motley focused the bulk of his remarks on concepts that he said can be controlled locally.
“I am not going to tell you about things we hope will happen or over-promise you things that we cannot deliver,” Motley said. “I will talk to you about things we are going to do (and) real things that are going to happen. This will not be lip service with no substance behind it.”
Among the programs and proposals detailed during Motley’s 20-minute address:
— Bike patrols near malls, markets and business areas would be part of a renewed focus on community-based policing.
Without naming a specific number, Motley said that “over the next few months, more police officers will be added to our roster by cutting legal costs and redundant services.”
— The $7 million infrastructure improvements would be spread out over three years and paid for via what Motley called “conservative financing methods.”
Similarly, Motley said $7 million would be spent on upgrades to the city’s water pant “so that we can continue to provide quality drinking water to our customers and allow for expansion of our capacity to ultimately add customers for this vital service.”
— Ten vacant buildings described by Motley as “chronically nuisance properties” have been eyed for demolition, and he added that $500,000 has been budgeted to cover the razings. While not identifying the parcels, Motley added that “we will be sure to let you know when the first wrecking ball will swing, because we want you to be there to see it.”
— Three new Tax Increment Financing districts are being planned for the lakefront and downtown to provide an incentive for developers, and city staff has been directed to draw up revised plans to guide development in those areas.
— The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s study of the Washington Street commercial corridor is set for a public review of first-phase concepts on June 20. The non-profit agency is offering design help to make the corridor become more economically competitive, and Motley said his administration “will help them find this vision.”
Waukegan Main Street president Jamie O’Meara, listing the city as “one of our many partners” in attracting and retaining businesses, said she hopes to see more progress centered around what she called “a tactical application of the arts.”
“It’s hard to believe that people still think that there’s nothing happening and nothing to do in downtown Waukegan,” O’Meara said. She added that the public/private investment in the Karcher Artspace renovation on Washington Street is “an absolute game-changer” when it comes to downtown redevelopment.
Again looking to strike a tone of realism, Motley asked the gathering for help in redeveloping the city rather than turning back the clock.
“Waukegan will not be the Waukegan it was when I was growing up,” he said, “but I can guarantee you, I promise you this — Waukegan will be back. I will work diligently to make this happen. ... This is the place I love, and if you love it and want to love here, please join me.”