Daily Herald opinion: The Bears stadium debate is weakened by the interference of outsiders

  • Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes expressed frustration Monday in an outside group's efforts to block negotiations for a possible Bears stadium development.

      Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes expressed frustration Monday in an outside group's efforts to block negotiations for a possible Bears stadium development. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 9/21/2022 5:37 AM
This editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Herald Editorial Board

Here is a partial list of organizations whose representatives spoke up this week on behalf of Arlington Heights officials' negotiations with the Chicago Bears regarding the possibility the NFL franchise could move to the village: Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, Arlington Heights' local League of Women Voters chapter, Arlington Heights housing task force advocates, owners of Arlington Heights downtown businesses Hey Nonny and Scratchboard Kitchen.

Here is the one organization that presented petitions to the village seeking to block negotiations with the Bears: Americans for Prosperity -- Illinois, its drive led by Co-Director Brian Costin of Buffalo Grove.

 

Americans For Prosperity submitted petitions containing 677 signatures for a referendum that would require the village board to consider a referendum seeking to prohibit the village from offering financial incentives to business developments, though only 544 signatures were found to be valid, 13 fewer than needed to force a board vote.

Perhaps there are circumstances in which an out-of-town policy group is an appropriate agency to speak on behalf of Arlington Heights residents.

Perhaps.

But it's easy to understand Arlington Heights Village President Tom Hayes' frustration in response to this specific effort.

"It is particularly upsetting to me," Hayes said during Monday's village board meeting, "when people from other towns come to our town and tell us how we should be doing things here in Arlington Heights."

Especially galling for Hayes, and likely anyone involved in day-to-day government in Arlington Heights, are accusations from the outside group "of cronyism, making deals with political insiders and, most recently and most upsetting, negotiating a special deal behind closed doors to force taxpayers to subsidize the Chicago Bears' football stadium."

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Ultimately, the Americans For Prosperity drive seems to have no more promising objective than to call attention to its larger philosophical opposition to all TIFs and corporate incentives. Even if the group produces the 13 additional valid signatures it needs to replace those declared invalid on its petitions, the entire Arlington Heights Village Board has indicated it is not inclined to put its referendum on an upcoming ballot.

Interestingly, the management procedures for TIFs and so-called corporate welfare are ripe for reform, but the choice of Arlington Heights for the battleground could hardly be less fitting. The village's highly successful TIF-supported downtown area is the envy of many suburbs, and the prospect of a Bears move to the village could be transformative for local taxpayers and for the quality of life not only in Arlington Heights, but throughout the region.

Nor is Americans For Prosperity the first public-policy agency to seek to impose its values on a local community. The Downers Grove Public Library's recent highly publicized controversy and a separate case in Lake in the Hills involving the statewide Awake Illinois organization are yet more examples of a local community's controversy becoming compounded and complicated by the influence of an outside group with its own broad policy agenda.

Because of threats of violence stemming from Awake's drives -- many of them, for the record, also from out-of-towners, one as far away as Utah -- the plans in Lake in the Hills and Downers Grove were shut down. Americans For Prosperity's effort seems likely at best to offer nothing more than an annoying speed bump in the path of negotiations with the Bears.

But whether their immediate ends are achieved or not, such efforts offer faint evidence that local affairs are improved by the interference of outside influences.

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