Chicago Bears deal in Arlington Heights could be hampered by group’s ‘anti-corporate welfare’ petition

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A petition circulating in Arlington Heights could hamper the village’s ability to provide financial incentives to the Chicago Bears in their proposed move to the village, as well as any business that wishes to establish itself there.

An organization called Americans for Prosperity, which Illinois president Brian Costin described as libertarian, is leading the campaign for an ordinance that would prohibit the village from offering any kind of financial incentive to “any business or corporation to operate in the village.” to operate. “

Americans for Prosperity was founded by David and Charles Koch, a pair of billionaire brothers who became some of the most influential conservatives in the nation. The group has been active on the national political scene, advocating lower taxes and smaller government, as well as dismantling union power, according to a Harvard University research project.

An “anti-corporate welfare ordinance,” as the group calls it, calls for taxpayers’ money not to be used in such ways and to “end economically destructive and corrupt policies.”

Costin said Americans for Prosperity is circulating the petition to control corporate distributions from public agencies in general, though the situation in Bears is a compelling example.

He said his organization was not really opposed to setting up the team in the village.

“We’re not against the stadium being there if they play by the rules that are the same as any other Arlington Heights company,” he said.

According to its website, Americans for Prosperity advocates for “long-term solutions to the nation’s biggest problems” and “engages friends and neighbors on important issues and encourages them to take an active role in promoting a free and open society.”

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The group says its petition is about ensuring equal treatment for businesses and the proper use of taxpayers’ money. Village leaders denounce the effort as the latest example of outsiders telling Arlington Heights leaders how the village should function.

The Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity is located in Rolling Meadows, a town not far from Arlington International Racecourse, where the Bears could potentially move out of Chicago’s Soldier Field.

More than 300 people have signed the petition so far, Costin said.

The Arlington Heights Municipal Code states that if 1% of the village’s registered voters sign a petition, the petitioner, such as Americans for Prosperity, can submit a proposed ordinance to the village council for consideration.

According to the Cook County clerk, Arlington Heights has 54,586 registered voters. That means that the petition needs at least 546 signatures.

If village administrators consider and reject the ordinance proposal, the code allows the petitioner to collect signatures from 12% of the registered voting population, which currently amounts to 6,550 signatures needed.

If the petitioner meets that benchmark, their proposed regulation would go straight to the polls as a binding referendum. If voters approve, the ordinance would go into effect.

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However, if the village attorney notifies the board that the proposal violates constitutional provisions or other laws, the village government can still reject the proposal, according to the village code.

Mayor Tom Hayes has said using tax dollars is a “last resort” as a means of closing a deal with the football team.

The use of village tax dollars can take various forms, including setting up a district to finance tax increases, where property taxes are frozen at a certain level to spend additional revenue after redevelopment on improving the area.

Hayes said he is “certain” that Bears’ planned deal, in which the Bears signed a $197.2 million purchase agreement for Arlington International Racecourse in September 2021, “is at least part of this effort. continues.”

He is strongly opposed to what Americans for Prosperity is trying to bring out.

“We don’t think it’s something that’s in the best interest of the village,” he said. “If something like that is introduced, all those companies will go elsewhere, and what are our inhabitants of those?”

Hayes added that he would “do everything in my power to see (such an ordinance) stop.”

Arlington Heights village manager Randy Recklaus told Pioneer Press that the ordinance TUSEN is requesting, which does not specifically mention the Bears of Arlington International Racecourse, would seriously affect the village’s economic prospects.

“The village routinely enters into public-private partnerships to see economic development and this would take all that off the table,” he said. “It would literally cripple our ability to participate in economic development.”

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When asked if there was any reason to make a government-funded investment in the development of the racecourse for the Bears, Recklaus said, “It’s just too premature to talk about anything for that project right now.”

But he said he would “anticipate that this (the Americans for Prosperity effort) will be something that many in business would probably be alarmed at.”

He added that even if the petition gathered enough signatures and became law through a referendum, the village government could still change it after it was passed.

sen. Ann Gillespie of the state, D-Arlington Heights, said that while she is against using government funds to bring the bears to the village, the ordinance proposed by Americans for prosperity is too broad.

“I think there are legitimate uses for public support for businesses,” she said.

For example, Gillespie said she would support the use of public funds to boost development that has seen developers commit to building affordable housing in the area for 30 years.

Whatever happens in the discussions between Arlington Heights, the Bears and Chicago, Gillespie said she believes the state is unlikely to get involved.

“It’s between two communities within the state, Chicago (and) the village of Arlington Heights,” she said. “I see no role for the state to arbitrate in those kinds of situations.”

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