The editors of the Chicago Tribune recount a story that’s, sadly, all too familiar to Chicagoans:
If you wonder why this jobs-hungry city has a reputation as a hard place to do business, read on. Looks to us like developers of a big Ford dealership planned for the North Side got tutored in Chicago-style political muscle.
It’s a familiar story in a city and state where elected officials, in the words of Illinois Chamber of Commerce chief Doug Whitley, treat potential investments as opportunities for “threat, coercion, a union squeeze, a minority holdup, a double-dip, a no-show job, a kickback and a sweetheart deal.”
The proposed $57 million Fox Motors project got off to a promising start. The city Plan Commission unanimously approved it in June. Chicago Ald. Scott Waguespack had done extensive groundwork for the development, which would create dozens of temporary and permanent jobs in his 32nd Ward, contribute millions of dollars in tax revenue to City Hall and replace an obsolete building with an attractive new showcase. Then Waguespack and the Fox folks ran into an unexpected roadblock.
Contrary to the usual practices of the City Council, another alderman held up the project. Daniel Solis of the Southwest Side’s 25th Ward says he wanted to send a message that Ford Motor Co. needs to do more to recruit car dealers of Hispanic heritage. Solis was using his power as chair of the council’s Zoning Committee to block the 32nd Ward project.
Turns out that Solis’ political organization had received at least $6,800 in contributions from a Chicago-area Hispanic businessman who, Solis knew, wanted to get into the car business. The donor, Jose Diaz, also had contributed smaller amounts to other members of the council’s Hispanic Caucus.
and on and on and on. Priorities, obviously, are important the one priority that really matters is getting politicians re-elected.
Once you’ve filtered through all of the levels of government and interest and, frankly, political corruption the only thing left of economic growth that actually produces jobs is the smile.