Wayne's Words: Joliet needs headquarters, not big boxes, if it wants to win

Wayne Horne | 10/23/2014, 3:44 p.m.
The tax payoff is not with more commercial development but with big corporate offices, and that's more of what the ...


Wayne Horne

The City of Joliet has a planning department and so does Will County. Planning is an essential part of local governments.

This column often profiles local government plans that are being considered, plans that should be considered, and plans that should never have been considered and completed. The state of Illinois has more units of government than any of the other fifty states. Consequently, there are many plans being made at any given moment that may conflict with other plans.

There is an organization in the northern part of Illinois known as the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. CMAP, as it is called, is the official regional planning organization for the counties of Cook, Dupage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will.

The organization was created in 2005 to plan for an anticipated increase of 2 million people in the region that contains 284 different communities. Included in those communities are school districts, park districts, townships, forest preserve districts, etc.

You get the picture. All of these different entities are vying for a limited amount of resources and attention to what each considers an essential element of their community’s’ development. It comes as no surprise that not all of the participants see the other groups’ point of view when it comes to development.

The objective of CMAP is a planning model of promise. The comprehensive regional plan document includes elements of regional mobility, efficient governance, human capital, and livable communities. Of course not all the parties in CMAP agree on specific projects that have an area wide impact. For instance, the plan for the Illiana Tollway is embraced in Will County, but is opposed by Cook and Dupage counties.

One of the more interesting parts of the plan is tax policy. It comes under the heading of “efficient governance.” According to the plan document, Illinois governments rely on sales tax and property taxes more than other states. This leads to increased competition among communities for retail outlets like big box stores and auto dealerships.

The “winner” in the pursuit of sales tax generators usually sees an increase in sales tax revenue. Retail outlets may generate more local revenue but result in lower paying jobs when compared to jobs created by office complexes and industrial employment, according to the document.

Put another way, having the corporate headquarters of the big box store trumps locating the big box store in the community when it comes to jobs. The residual effect of better jobs in an area often leads to higher real estate values which generate increased property tax revenue. Retail stores and restaurants usually follow where people live, thus generating sales tax revenue. It appears that changing the focus from seeking retail jobs to office or industrial jobs that are higher paying is a “win-win” situation for all concerned. Are you listening at city hall?

One last thing…the election on Tuesday, November 4 is little more than a week away. On the national level the focus has been on the Senate races because of the possibility the Democrats could lose control to the Republicans. Will County has a similar situation with the county board. Why? Currently the county board is split evenly, 13-13, between Republicans and Democrats with County Executive Larry Walsh Sr., a Democrat, breaking any ties.

County Board Districts 2, 5, 9, and 11 races are on the ballot. Each District elects 2 members. District 11 is uncontested with Republicans Suzanne Hart and Chuck Maher the only choices. The District 2 race pits two Republicans from Frankfort, incumbent Jim Moustis and Cory Singer against Democrat Donald Keane. Keane was appointed to the ballot last June.

Districts 5 and 9 are probably the most contested. District 9 has two Democrats, incumbent Walter G. Adamic and Lauren Staley-Ferry, running against Republican Annette Parker. District 9 currently has Democrats in both seats. District 5 Republicans incumbent Darren E. Bennefield and Gretchen Fritz are up against Democrats Shelia Raddatz and incumbent Reed Bible. A Republican win in District 5 or 9 will put the Republicans in control. A Democrat win in District 5 puts the Democrats in control. It’s also possible nothing will change and it will remain a 13-13 tie. Stay tuned…

Contact Wayne at whorne@thetimesweekly.com