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updated: 3/20/2011 5:06 PM

Des Plaines 2nd Ward hopefuls talk casino revenues, TIFs

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  • John Robinson

      John Robinson

  • Steve Antonoff

      Steve Antonoff

 
 

Infrastructure improvements and reducing Des Plaines' enormous debt are two uses for future casino revenues, say candidates running for the city's 2nd Ward seat on April 5.

Steve Antonoff is seeking the 2nd Ward seat currently held by Alderman John Robinson. Robinson was initially appointed to the post after former alderman Marty Moylan was elected mayor in 2009.

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Robinson, 64, who owns a home improvement and remodeling company in Des Plaines, is now running for a full 4-year term. He currently serves on the municipal Des Plaines Public Library board, and is a member of the Des Plaines and Mount Prospect chambers of commerce.

Robinson said he believes casino revenues should be used to reduce the city's debt, and to make infrastructure improvements, and fund projects that would alleviate flooding.

The city still carries a $95 million debt load, hampering its ability to issue more debt for long-term capital improvement projects or equipment purchases, officials have said.

"My policy is I'd like to take half of the money we get and buy down our debt and put some money in reserves," Robinson said. "I would consider any monies coming from the casino nonexistent ... don't count on it for day-to-day (operations)."

Antonoff, 44, a member of the Des Plaines Lions and Elks clubs, has never held an elected office, though he has run for alderman twice before. He said he also would use casino revenues to fund improvements to streets, sidewalks and sewers.

"You could do a little bit everywhere," Antonoff said, though he opposed using casino moneys to pay for employee salaries.

Robinson said the city is currently courting developers for some of its failing tax increment financing districts where growth has stagnated since the economy tanked. The districts use property tax money from redevelopment to pay for some of the redevelopment costs.

The candidates agreed there is no need for additional TIF districts at this time.

"No one really wanted Five Corners TIF," Antonoff said.

The 70-acre, largely industrial area near Des Plaines' downtown, bound by River, Rand and Golf roads, was established four years ago by the previous city council a day before an advisory referendum in which voters overwhelmingly rejected it.

There has been no movement on redevelopment, partially because of the challenging makeup of the district, which includes 120 properties belonging to 89 different owners. Some of those property owners have been considering suing the city over the creation of the district.

Robinson said the taxing district should never have been approved.

"I as a voter voted against it," Robinson said.

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