Editorial: Would you buy this business? Taxpayers might

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted5/11/2017 9:37 AM
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  • Lake Villa Township officials are in the process of attempting to buy the Antioch Golf Club.

      Lake Villa Township officials are in the process of attempting to buy the Antioch Golf Club. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

As business deals go, buying Antioch Golf Club looks like a gamble.

The golf course runs $200,000 in the red every year, according to an article by Jake Griffin in Wednesday's Daily Herald.

Its struggles mirror a trend: 22 of 36 publicly owned suburban golf courses lost money in 2015, a Daily Herald analysis showed. More than 800 courses have closed nationwide in the last decade, according to Bloomberg News.

Real estate developers have expressed interest in the land, Dan Venturi said, but he's excited by the challenge of making the club profitable again as a golf course.

Sure, go for it, we'd say -- if Venturi were spending his own money.

But Venturi is Lake Villa Township's supervisor, and he wants to spend $750,000 from the township's reserves to buy the golf course, most of which lies outside the township's boundaries.

That's a bad deal for taxpayers.

And it's the kind of business we think townships should stay out of. The notion of using reserve funds to buy a golf course plays right into the hands of smaller-government proponents who would abolish township government entirely for duplicating what others can do.

If townships are to remain viable, they do best to stick to that form of government's laudable duties, including relief for the poor and programs and transportation for seniors, which often are lifelines.

Venturi's proposal would largely be a lifeline for the owners of the homes along the fairways.

It would take the golf course off the tax rolls and forego the expanded tax base that would result from development of the land for homes or businesses.

One argument against townships is that they often conduct business with little public scrutiny as residents focus their involvement elsewhere. But townships are also the one form of government where residents can have a direct impact.

They can go to a meeting and vote themselves. The big question is whether they will avail themselves of the opportunity to learn about an issue and make their feelings known.

Registered voters who show up at 7 p.m. Monday, May 22, at Caboose Park in Lake Villa get to decide whether the township uses tax dollars to buy the Antioch Golf Club.

We urge residents to attend, and to vote against letting the township take a big gamble with their money

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