Illinois city runs out of other people's money

Elected officials in the City of Harvey, Illinois are going to be missing their paychecks, as the decades of over-spending and over-taxing finally come home for the politicians responsible for the crisis.

Zack Keske of the Chicago Tribune reports:

Elected officials in Harvey learned Thursday they would not be getting paid this pay cycle due to the city's "financial constraints," according to an email obtained by the Daily Southtown.

City [c]omptroller Louis B. Williams notified officials early Thursday afternoon that the city could not pay them this pay period but hoped to process payments as early as within a week.

"Due to the financial constraints the City is experiencing, we are unable to pay elected officials for this current pay period 01/05/18," reads the email, which Williams sent to the mayor, aldermen, the treasurer, the clerk, the deputy clerk[,] and a mayoral aide.  "Regarding your paychecks, we will keep you all updated, as we are hoping to process them sometime next week if funding is available.  Thank you for your patience and understanding at this time."

The brief communication prompted email responses from multiple aldermen, who claimed they had been left in the dark about the city's financial state and requested that a meeting be called to discuss the matter, emails provided by one of the aldermen show.

Downtown Harvey, Illinois (photo credit: David Wilson1949).

Harvey, Illinois is, to be frank, a basket case of mismanagement.  Half a year ago, the Chicago Tribune editorial board wrote:

To live in Harvey is to live in a perpetual state of municipal dysfunction.  The city's mismanagement spans decades.  Police pensions went unpaid for years.  Rape kits languished on a shelf when they should have been sent to a lab for analysis – a lag time, prosecutors say, in which some of the suspects in those cases raped again.  In 2015, when the city's police desperately needed squad cars, Mayor Eric Kellogg's administration used $51,000 in federal grant money to get the mayor an SUV.

The city has a long history of switching money around from intended (and legal) uses to cover shortfalls elsewhere.  The Trib editorial, focused on water system failures, noted:

Water fund revenue was used to cover budget deficits and meet the payroll of non-water department workers.  The misspending of water revenue also included payments to Kay Jewelers, a Kohl's department store[,] and a college savings account.  Harvey officials say they discovered those fraudulent payments and made sure the money was paid back.  "It is undisputed that Harvey's water fund finances are in disarray," [Judge] Pantle wrote in her ruling, "and are being unlawfully raided by Harvey's government to pay for non[-]water-related expenses."

Apparently, there are no more accounts to be looted to pay the pols.  Or, in Margaret Thatcher's words, "eventually, you run out of other people's money."

How long will it be until demands for a federal bailout are heard?  Illinois has too many problems of its own to start bailing out its municipalities.  Keep in mind that Harvey's population is over three quarters black, according to the 2010 census.

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