A libertarian political advocacy group submitted a petition to the Arlington Heights Village Council on Tuesday that could block the village from offering taxpayer-funded financial incentives to the Chicago Bears football team – which is seeking to buy the Arlington Park International Racetrack for $197 million – as well as any other business that might open in the area.
Brian Costin, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity Illinois, led the petitioning effort and said the organization submitted 663 signatures to the board at its meeting Tuesday night.
The petition, which comes from a section of the Arlington Heights municipal code that allows for resident-generated referenda, calls on the village council to consider an ordinance that would prevent the village from extending any type of financial assistance to any corporation. seeking to open in the village.
Village officials say such an ordinance would be disastrous for the village, while organizers from Americans for Prosperity, backed by the Koch brothers, call it an “anti-corporate welfare ordinance.”
Presenting the signatures to the Village Council during the public comment portion of the meeting, Costin noted that Americans for Prosperity recently conducted a poll which found that 72% of respondents supported the Bears moving to the Village, but that 68% objected to public use. money to get them to Arlington Heights.
“We’ve seen stadium bills and corporate welfare plans turn sour for Illinois taxpayers,” Costin said, citing examples in the towns of Bridgeview and Hoffman Estates.
Arlington Heights officials said passing such a measure would put the village at a financial disadvantage relative to its neighbors.
Mayor Tom Hayes was absent from the board meeting last night, telling Pioneer Press in an email that he was in Canada ‘on a non-refundable vacation’ he booked a year ago. But Hayes has previously expressed disapproval of the order the API is pushing.
“We don’t think it’s something that’s in the best interest of the village,” Hayes previously said. “If something like this is passed, then all these businesses are going elsewhere, and how will that benefit our residents?”
Hayes previously told Pioneer Press that he would do “everything in my power to have (such an order) stopped.”
Village superintendent Randy Recklaus was present at the meeting on Tuesday evening and lambasted the idea of the ordinance.
“It’s a very extreme proposition,” Recklaus said. “It would literally cripple the village’s ability to engage in any economic development across our community.”
Recklaus added that large parts of the village, such as its downtown, have been redeveloped through public financial incentives such as tax increase funding districts.
In fact, the village council considered an application related to the TIF district at Tuesday’s meeting for the Southpoint Mall at 600 East Rand Road. The developer requested money from TIF to help construct two commercial buildings: one for a Chipotle restaurant and the other for an AT&T retail store.
Resident Martin Bauer told Arlington Heights administrators he was opposed to the use of public funds for bear-related construction.
Bauer said he was not with Americans for Prosperity, but said he might get involved with this or a similar group if the village continues to move forward with the project.
“No public money is needed to develop this particular site,” he said of the racecourse’s former ownership. “We are not talking about an industrial wasteland. We’re not talking about a horror that sat vacant for decades.
Bauer said Hayes and some members of the village council became “wide-eyed” about bringing the football team to the village.
“He indicated he would do anything to make sure the Bears come to Arlington Heights,” Bauer said of Hayes.
Recklaus responded to Bauer’s comment, in the absence of the mayor.
“I don’t remember Mayor Hayes ever saying he would do anything to get the Bears here,” Recklaus said.
The petition needed 546 signatures, or 1% of the village’s voting population, to be submitted to the village council as a potential ordinance. If the council then rejects this proposed ordinance, the petition organizers can try to get 12% of the village’s voters to sign and force a referendum on the ballot in a future election.