PEKIN — Tazewell County Board member Jay Hall was absent from Wednesday’s meeting, but if comments from fellow board members and the public mean anything, out of sight does not mean out of mind.
Hall is currently under fire for an alleged post on his Facebook page in which he described 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg as looking like she suffers from “Mongoloidism … Down syndrome (sic).” Thunberg suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.
“The type of language Mr. Hall used is bigoted,” said Seth Friedrich of Pekin, who teaches children with special needs for Pekin School District 108. “It is offensive in its own right to people with special needs as well as their family members, friends, advocates and supporters.”
Friedrich added he was not certain what the solution might be to the controversy currently surrounding Hall. However, he added, Hall’s resignation from the county board, a formal apology for his remarks, a donation to one of Thunberg’s favorite charities, or Hall’s resignation as president of the Pekin Post of the American Business Clubs (AMBUCS) are options. AMBUCS is a national not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to people with disabilities.
County Board member Brandon Hovey called for Hall's resignation.
“This was an appalling statement,” said Hovey. “As public servants, we need to give our constituents unconditional positive regard. (Hall’s) comment, regardless of the context in which it was made, has grievous ramifications.”
Turning to the agenda, the board approved a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sold within municipalities within the county. The tax would climb to 3.75 percent in the unincorporated areas.
“If we don’t pass this ordinance tonight, we’ll miss out on any tax revenue until we can get it passed,” said Board Chairman David Zimmerman. “There is a three-month lag with the (Illinois) Department of Revenue.”
One commonly-discussed advantage of allowing recreational sales within the county has been that it'll generate tax revenue. However, board member Timothy Neuhauser cautioned tax revenues from recreational pot sales may prove disappointingly low.
“There have been a lot of, in my opinion, pretty high revenue figures that have been thrown around as to what potentially we could receive if one of these local dispensaries is licensed to sell adult-use cannabis,” said Neuhauser. “I’ve heard (figures) from between $200,000 and $500,000 in tax revenue that would come to Tazewell County at that 3 percent rate. That means that store would have to do about $7 million worth of gross sales (in a year). And that’s just not going to happen.”