East Dubuque residents will decide three issues March 17 that will affect our city for decades to come.
Since 1970, East Dubuque’s population has declined by over 800 people or 33%. A wise old mayor once told me that if a town isn’t growing it’s dying. Based on population, our town is dying. How do we change our direction?
The first ballot question involves a bond referendum to improve our elementary school facilities. The cost figures out to $3.65 per week. Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in education always pays the highest return.” I urge you to vote yes for our children.
The second ballot issue is a proposed city tax increase. We are asking for an annual increase of $98.01 to improve our police and fire protection as well as parks and streets. We are upgrading our wastewater plant now and planning for a new water tower and improvements to our aging water mains. We fixed a lot of streets last year and have more to fix. We are working to replace our fire and police stations. The ask is less than $2 per week. Vote yes to continue the improvements we have started and to move our town forward.
The last question asks whether the city should adopt a 2 a.m. closing time for bars. What do we want our town to be known for? What do we tell new residents our priority is? We had a murder occur downtown last year. Recently, I we had a motorist with an alcoholic content of 2.4% drive into a police car and injure our police officer. That motorist was arriving in at 2:38 a.m. and hadn’t had a drink in East Dubuque.
In Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago and Carroll counties there are a total of 902 liquor licenses. Of those, five are open after 2 a.m., all in Jo Daviess County, four of them in East Dubuque. Are we smarter than all those towns? Have we discovered an economic model that other towns haven’t? Or, is it possible that other towns don’t want an economic model that generates accidental deaths and murders?
The four bars that are open until 3:30 a.m. contribute a little less than $80,000 per year in sales tax, video gaming taxes and other fees. A pamphlet put out by opponents mentions $650,000 in revenues for the city budget. Most people would call that statement a whopper! The brochure also mentions that the bar activity is the only reason people visit our town. I hope that isn’t true but if it is, that might be the reason they only visit East Dubuque and don’t live here.
Another statement involves taxes. The standard accusation to throw at the voters is that your taxes will increase significantly if you close the bars 90 minutes earlier. This one merits the response of “cow manure.” This is simply not true. I would gladly lose the bar revenue from 90 minutes of sales rather than have another benefit for the children of a dead mother.
The common theme of these three questions is sacrifice. Are you willing to sacrifice $3.65 per week for the education of our children? Are you willing to sacrifice $2 per week to rebuild our community? And are four bar owners willing to sacrifice 90 minutes of revenue to save the soul of East Dubuque?
We have been doing the same thing for over 50 years. It is easy to see the results. A declining population, aging infrastructure, zero growth in assessed valuations. Our town needs more people. We need new construction. We need growth. It’s time to change and try a new direction.