Letters to the Editor

Mark Eckert picks the winners, and Belleville loses

Dallas Cook formally announces bid for mayor of Belleville

City Clerk Dallas Cook formally announced his intent to run for mayor of Belleville on Saturday morning.
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City Clerk Dallas Cook formally announced his intent to run for mayor of Belleville on Saturday morning.

Milton Friedman, a famed economist, noble peace prize winner, advisor to Ronald Regan and Margaret Thatcher stated in his book “Capitalism and Freedom”: “Government has three primary functions. It should provide for military defense of the nation. It should enforce contracts between individuals. It should protect citizens from crimes against themselves or their property. When government — in pursuit of good intentions tries to rearrange the economy, legislate morality, or help special interests, the cost comes in inefficiency, lack of motivation, and loss of freedom. Government should be a referee, not an active player.”

During his tenure, Mayor Eckert has violated every principle set out in Friedman’s theory concerning the free market and the role of government in a capitalistic society. Mayor Eckert’s government has failed to provide adequate policing, which has resulted in a rise in crime, the depreciation of Belleville’s housing prices and infrastructure. Instead of focusing on the primary duties of government (i.e. ensuring a safe society) Mayor Eckert has instead decided to engage in government sponsored socio-economic construction, which has had two effects: a significant cost to taxpayers and hurting local businesses.

Mayor Eckert has decided the role of the government is to act as a lending agency for local businesses of his choosing. During his tenure, he has decided to implement TIF programs for existing businesses. This is a contradiction to the fundamental purpose of TIF programs, which are meant to revitalize blighted areas. The city has existing ordinances that require businesses to keep their property updated; therefore, said properties should never become blighted. Why is the city not enforcing their own ordinances?

Candidates seeking mayor and other Belleville, IL, city offices were in line Monday morning to file as candidates. The city election is April 4. Incumbent Mayor Mark Eckert filed his candidate petitions and is being challenged for mayor by current

Eckert’s Farm and Restaurant is not in a blighted area and prior to the infusion of TIF money had a successful business. Via TIF money, Auffenberg was enticed to stay in Belleville by receiving monthly checks. The Edge movie theater, another existing business, has received TIF money for an expansion of their bar and mega-entertainment complex. 4204 has expanded their restaurant and beer making establishment thanks to TIF. Proponents may say, “we are helping local businesses, what is the downside?” The answer is obvious. Any business that is not hand picked by Mayor Eckert is disadvantaged. Fischer’s, a Belleville institution, has been forced out of business because of competition from business unfairly advantaged by TIF programs (Belleville Crossing, The Edge, 4204, Ace Hardware and Hofbräuhaus, that is, if they can get investors other than the taxpayers to complete the project).

Mayor Eckert should cease acting as a lending agency and should immediately stop giving away taxpayers money. As Friedman said, the government should merely be a referee in the game of economics, it should not be picking winners and losers.

In closing, let’s focus on crime and potholes. Crime is a major issue in the city. Example of burglaries: 2014-338 (arrests in 10 percent of cases); 2015-393 up 18 percent (arrests in 15 percent of cases); 2016-471 up 20 percent (arrests in 10 percent of cases). Crime is what drives residents and businesses out of town. Our streets have not been maintained in decades. TIF dollars should be used to repair potholes and resurface streets.

Belleville City Clerk Dallas Cook was removed from the city's electoral board Thursday. He said in a video interview, "Today was a circus at best. At worst it's Mark Eckert's corruption, and I would go with the worst." In response, Eckert said, "D