Once-in-a-while there's such an accomplished Flub that it needs to be written in bold letters. So, to the taxing bodies in Knox County, and your flagrant lack of due diligence concerning the extension of Enterprise Zones in the City of Galesburg, congratulations. September is your lucky month.
Enterprise Zones. Here is a scheme thought up by the Chamber of Commerce one dreary night in 1981. In the midst of a Republican induced recession, business owners were wondering how to make an extra buck or two. One bright-eyed, young, up-and-coming economic development person shouted out in the darkness, ''Hey, let's get some money from the taxpayers.'' And the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1982, the state legislature bought this shill game hook, line, and sinker. The City of Galesburg signed on in 1984. Originally, Enterprise Zones (and TIF districts) were intended to help depressed areas in urban and rural areas. This intention quickly evaporated. Almost immediately, economic development programs across the state began using Enterprise Zones as incentives for businesses to locate to any particular community, pitting community against community in a giveaway program that no one can afford. How did this happen? The state legislature put no parameters on the program, no money for research was written in to see if these things work, practically no paperwork, no accountability, no performance standards, and no state agency was given the authority to monitor the program. Oops!
So the whole thing ran amuck from the very beginning. It has become a welfare program for businesses, looking for the best deals they can find from already depressed, struggling communities.
In Galesburg, here are some of the recipients of this taxpayer sponsored fiasco over the last twenty years: Maytag (the largest benefactor), United Facilities, Target, Sherwin-Williams, Comfort Inn, Lindsay Olds, Sirloin Stockade, Dick Blick. Not exactly struggling companies.
Galesburg and Knox County have forfeited some real money over the last twenty years. In fact, somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million, although no one really knows for sure. Remember, no records. The hope is that we get this money back in assessed taxes after the company finishes its ten year enrollment in this corporate giveaway. Does this actually happen? No one knows.
Enterprise Zones have proven to be a good deal for businesses and a bad deal for the taxpayer. The program creates a ''suicide economy,'' whereby valuable tax dollars used by governmental bodies to help improve the quality of life areas in a community, i.e. schools, parks, streets, overall appearance of the community, is drastically reduced, making it difficult to recruit -- guess what -- businesses. Business owners themselves claim quality of life issues are more important to them when considering a community than monetary incentives. As the taxing bodies struggle to maintain the quality of life, the burden of the lost money is handed over to the taxpayer, again creating a negative environment, one which people move away from. This vicious cycle eventually strangles a town to death.
Welcome to Galesburg, where the taxing bodies continue to support a program destined to kill us. The motto seems to be, ''When all else fails, do nothing.'' And we're good at it. For our continuing lack of insight, this Flub's for us, the taxing bodies of Knox County.