Man, it's been hot. It's been so out my dogs wouldn't go outside. Hot dogs!
The city council has approved applying for an extension of our infamous enterprise zones. This is a scheme that was thought up one dreary night by the Chamber of Commerce and sold lock, stock, and barrel to the Department of Commerce and Community Affairs, better known as the Chamber of Commerce. It was a Flubbing idea in 1984, and continues to be a Flubbing idea today.
I have followed enterprise zones and TIF districts for years, believing them to be nothing more than welfare schemes for big business. Nothing in all the years has altered my opinion.
In an effort to find something positive about these corporate giveaways, I did an extensive search on the internet, which obviously none of the alderman has done. What I found were rah-rah articles from local Chamber and development groups, all claiming the wonders and magnificent accomplishments of TIF districts and enterprise zones, but none of them using any meaningful or reliable data to back their claims. In August, 2001, the local Chamber did their own rah-rah article in The Express Track. Some facts and figures, all misleading and irrelevant. If you believe them, shot yourself. You're hopeless.
The Taxpayers' Federation of Illinois has done the best work on enterprise zones. An excellent summation of TIF and enterprise zones can be found in their publication, ''Illinois: Tax Facts.'' In the July-August, 1999 volume, the following comments can be found concerning enterprise zones:
Kent Redfield, public policy analyst for the University of Illinois, Springfield: ''There were no evaluating or monitoring components or resources to do that (evaluate the effectiveness of enterprise zones) built into the legislation. There was no control, no assessment, and we've given away some serious money over the years.''
John McDonald, professor of economics, University of Illinois-Chicago: ''A lot of locals put them (enterprise zones) into place without any performance standards. There are no penalties if businesses fail to perform. It behooves the local communities to establish some sort of standards.''
JoAnn Brisard, member of the Macon County Board of Review: ''In the end, it's the small businesses and homeowners who are paying for them (enterprise zones).''
Locally, Mike Kroll, reporter for The Zephyr, published an excellent article in 2001 concerning Galesburg's enterprise zones. Mike's article pointed out 54 businesses in Galesburg who have had their taxes abated over the years, for a total of $7.7 million. This obviously points to a tremendous amount of money lost to taxing bodies, particularly school districts. Unfortunately, the school districts seldom say anything. They wouldn't want to face criticism for their lack of confidence in our development strategies.
The Chamber and GREDA make unfounded claims that businesses in the Zones have generated 2,063 jobs, and retained 5,667 jobs, with a total additional investment of $119 million. The logic used here is that these businesses would not have expanded anyway, and would have left town, which is the trap that they hold us hostage in. Now nobody wants to find out whether they would stay or leave if the Zones disappear. Maytag has been the leader in this shill game.
The council must apply to the state to renew the enterprise zones, which are scheduled to end in 2004. This is an issue that the council and mayor need to carefully look at. The strategy has not worked in Galesburg. It has been misused and abused. We have given away the kitchen sink in some kind of illusionary vision that it has helped economic development. Look over the last 20 years; you'll see the answer. The public keeps moving away from all this great economic development that we keep hearing about. I wonder why that is?