Editorials

Political laser tag in Belleville misses; tax breaks look like a hit

The Bistro Lounge inside The EDGE in Belleville. The entertainment complex is planning a $3.36-million expansion.
The Bistro Lounge inside The EDGE in Belleville. The entertainment complex is planning a $3.36-million expansion. znizami@bnd.com

Let’s make a deal: I’ll hand over $3.36 million up front, then another $30,000 per year. You give me $201,000, or maybe less, but you don’t really give me the money — I just don’t pay you that money atop the $3.36 million and the $30,000 a year.

Do we have a deal?

Belleville City Council members overwhelmingly said “yes” to the owners of The EDGE entertainment complex. City Clerk Dallas Cook, who wants to be mayor, said he would have said “no” if he had a vote on the matter.

“Government shouldn’t have any involvement,” Cook said.

Government should not be a pawn to the big retailers likely to come in anyway. Government should not compete with neighboring communities in bidding wars for retailers. Government should not play favorites and encourage newbies who put the old reliable merchants out of business. Government should not cover the entire municipality with tax increment financing districts that rob property taxes from schools and others so the city has greater financial flexibility, aka a slush fund.

But never say never to a government role in economic development or in the business life of a community. Nurturing The EDGE took a $5,000-a-year property taxpayer up to $51,000 a year currently, and another $30,000 is coming. Belleville’s lucky to have Keith Schell and Mary Dahm-Schell, who could just as easily have invested a few million along an interstate in another town.

Sounds like the kind of deal that is painless to taxpayers and will yield dividends. Also sounds like a Tom Brady political football: deflated.

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